Energy and Energy Sources

Energy and Energy Sources

Smart grid technology, renewable energy, sensors, VLSI RF circuits.

Power grid infrastructure, Intelligent sensing and Control architecture, Optimization methodology to meet load demand, Control in smart grid.

Renewable energy resources and planning, Intersection of network science theory and power system analysis; Power system operation with widespread deployment of Phasor Measurement Units.


Energy Efficiency and Environmental Systems

Research on Energy Efficiency and Environmental Systems is focused on improving the efficiency of energy systems as well as rational design of indoor environmental systems.

Air Conditioning and Ventilation Systems: research in this area includes measurement, modeling, and control of built environment. Experiments and modeling studies are conducted on the transport of energy, gaseous and particulate matter in indoor environmental systems, ranging from microenvironments to large buildings comprising many sub environmental systems. Reduced order models of the interaction among these environmental scales in order to enable system optimization and control. Improvement of personal micro-environment is another area of active research, involving experiments, simulations, design and control of personal ventilation systems. Research has also demonstrated the combined use of aerodynamically shaped high-rise buildings, wind and pressure modulation to generate conducive naturally ventilated indoor environments.

Green infrastructure: In addition to improving air quality and human comfort, research on green infrastructure also seeks to improve the energy efficiency in built environments. One area of focus is Green Data Center, where the energy efficiency of high density data centers is substantially increased through rational design and control of coupled energy supply and cooling systems.

Efficiency of energy systems: Research in this area is focused on in-depth thermodynamic analysis of energy systems, with the aim of identifying energy losses. This approach has been applied by the DoE funded Syracuse Industrial Assessment Center to enable manufacturing companies to reduce energy costs through cost-free energy audits.


Energy Conversion and Heat Transfer

Research in Energy Conversion and Heat Transfer is focused on improving the efficiency of energy conversion machines, development of novel energy transducers and advancing our understanding and modeling of heat transfer processes, especially at the nano and micro scale for application in micro devices. Combined with this quest for more energy efficient technologies, is the focus on the reduction of energy-related emissions.

Thermal energy conversion: In the area of thermal energy conversion, active research is focused on fundamental and applied combustion research; analysis and design of thermal power generation plants; cogeneration of heat and power as well as thermodynamic analysis of various thermal systems. Combustion research is focused on the experimental characterization and modeling of the combustion properties of a wide range of fuels, both of conventional and renewable sources. Experiments focus on ignition and determination of pollutant formation while modeling and simulations are aimed at the development of combustion models to facilitate computational analysis of combustion in systems such as, internal combustion engines, gas turbines and industrial furnaces.

Solar energy: Another area of research involves the analysis and design of solar energy systems, such as solar water heating systems, solar powered water desalination systems and solar thermal power plants. For built environments, work is also focused on the coupled transport of heat, air moisture and pollutants.

Fluid machines: Research in non-thermal fluid machines focuses on the design and optimization of wind turbines and other turbo machine components, which are crucial to improving the energetic efficiency of the turbo machines.

Fuel Cells: Research at the department focuses on Solid Oxide Fuel Cells (SOFCs) for small scale energy generation. Work includes fabrication, testing and system characterization. The configuration of modules of these high-temperature fuel cells influences the overall efficiency of the systems. At Syracuse, fuel cells in dual and single chamber as well as chamber-less fuel cell set-ups are characterized. Associated with this work is also the development of meso- and micro-combustors/heat exchangers.

Heat Transfer: Research in heat transfer is focused on the characterization of heat transfer in materials for heat exchangers as well as heat transfer in various areas of nano science and nano technology. In the latter, fundamental work includes the use of molecular dynamic simulations to derive transport properties, which are needed for the development of nano mechanical devices.


Aerodynamics and Propulsion

Research in Aerodynamics and Propulsion at the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering includes experimental and theoretical investigations in areas such as high speed jet flows, aero acoustics, turbo machinery, and gas turbine combustion.

Research on high-speed jet flow employs advanced laser diagnostics to understand the Flow Physics at these high Mach numbers, especially with respect to noise generation. The results contribute toward development of active feedback control for noise reduction in systems, such as jet engines. Theoretical work in this area involves the application of tools, such as Proper Orthogonal Decomposition (POD) and the Wavelet Theory of turbulence, to identify characteristic flow structures and the mechanism by which they contribute to noise generation. The work on high-speed jet is expanding to include combustion aero acoustics, where we seek to understand through experiments and wave analysis, the generation and possible control of noise in turbulent flames.

Other areas of research involve the investigation of the flow dynamics of biological systems, such swimming fish, as inspiration for the design of more efficient propulsion system. Research in micro-propulsion explores the use of thermal transpiration as well as thermo acoustics for small scale propulsion.

Computational work in aerodynamics includes the development of tools and techniques for rapid grid generations, modeling of turbofan propulsion systems for full aircraft simulations at high angle-of-attack and crosswind operations, and airfoils with embedded cross flow fans for powered lift and circulation control.


Sustainable Energy Production

Sustainable production, storage and transportation of renewable energy are among the greatest challenges of the 21st century. BMCE department has many stimulating research avenues to offer in this arena. The department has identified environmentally benign conversion of biomass into fuels and chemicals, sustainable feedstocks and separation techniques for biofuel production and protein/metabolic engineering for biofuel applications as strategic growth areas in which search for new faculty is underway. Many opportunities for collaborative research exist as well with the Syracuse Center of Excellence in Environmental and Energy Systems and the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. In addition, faculty research includes developing efficient chemical routes to the production of diesel fuel and robust manufacturing of nanomaterials for efficient harvesting of solar energy. Examples of specific projects are given below.

Biodiesel production

Sustainable biodiesel fuel production will provide a major component to our fuel needs by harnessing feed stocks that do not compete with food sources. These include oils from algae, jatropha seeds, switch grass, animal fats, and animal waste from farms, amongst others. The Tavlarides lab is employing supercritical technology which can be used to extract oils from these sources and are developing a supercritical transesterification (ST) processs technology to convert the oils to biodiesel which includes power co generation. This method avoids many disadvantages of the acid/base catalyzed transesterification methods. ST converts the oil at high temperatures (350-400 oC) and pressures (200-300 bar) at modest residence times (3-10 min) and alcohol to oil molar ratios (6-12). Major advantages of the method are that glycerol decomposition occurs and the byproducts are useful fuel components, and high levels of free fatty acids can be tolerated in the feed. An economic study indicates that the processing costs are ~ half those of the conventional catalytic transesterification methods for a 5 million gallon per year plant capacity. The Tavlarides research group intend to build a pilot plant to demonstrate the process and resolve design issues. Ongoing and future studies include modeling the thermodynamic properties, kinetic studies of the SC reactions, extraction of lipids from algae, reactor design studies, and plant design issues.

Representative publications

Deshpande, A., Anitescu, G., Rice, P. A., Tavlarides, L. L. Supercritical Biodiesel Production and Power Cogeneration: Technical and Economic Feasibilities. Bioresource Technology (2009), 101(6), March , 1834-1843, 2010.

Anitescu, G., Tavlarides L. L. Integrated Multistage Supercritical Technology to Produce High Quality Vegetable Oils and Biofuels. (Syracuse University), Intl. Patent Appl. WO 2008101200 A2 20080821, Sept.18, 2009.

Anitescu, G., Tavlarides L. L. Integrated Multistage Supercritical Technology to Produce High Quality Vegetable Oils and Biofuels. (Syracuse University), Intl. Patent Appl. WO 2008101200 A2 20080821, Sept. 18, 2009.

Marulanda, V. F., Anitescu, G., Tavlarides, L. L. Biodiesel Fuels through a Continuous Flow Process of Chicken Fat Supercritical Transesterification. Energy & Fuels (2009), 24(1),255-260, 2010.

Nanomaterials for Thin Film Photovoltaics

Harnessing Sun’s energy for powering our planet has long been a dream of scientists and engineers. Despite the universal appeal and growing usage of solar energy systems across the globe, notably in developing economies, the efficiency of energy conversion has remained well below desirable levels for commercial installations. This is especially a major concern for new generation photovoltaics, which utilize a thin film (~ 1 micron thick) of the photoactive material. In this case, traditional light trapping techniques such as optical gratings (~ several microns) employed for cells based on bulk photoconductors are not applicable. Metallic nanocomposites offer much promise in efficient and cost-effective solar energy harvesting especially for thin film photocells. The central idea is to exploit the plasmonic interaction between electromagnetic waves and the localized oscillations of the free electron gas density at the nanoparticle-dielectric interface. From a renewable energy perspective, plasmonics principles can be used to tailor the spectral response of a material to fit applications such as broadband solar absorption and photo-bioreactor design. This is accomplished by manipulating the particle size, aspect ratio and volume fraction as well as utilizing hybridization techniques (e.g. core-shell materials, multi-metal composites). Research in this area focuses on two aspects of the problem: (i) the design and optimization of such materials and (ii) robust and economically viable manufacturing routes for such materials.

Representative publications

  1. Garcia, R. Kalyanaraman & R. Sureshkumar, Nonlinear optical properties of multi-metal nanocomposites in a glass matrix, J. Phys. B-Atomic Molecular and Optical Physics, 42, 175401 (2009)

Genetic engineering and biofilm engineering for improved biofuel production

One major challenge in biofuel production by microbial fermentation is the toxicity of the products. Ren lab is interested in improving microbial solvent tolerance through genetic engineering and biofilm engineering. Such systems are ideal for understanding bacterial solvent tolerance and for economical production of regenerative biofuels.

Biofuel Production

  1. Collaborative Research: Rational design of bifunctional catalysts for the conversion of levulinic acid to gamma-valerolactone

    The Catalysis and Biocatalysis Program in the Division of Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental, and Transport Systems at the National Science Foundation supports Professor Andreas Heyden from the University of South Carolina and Professor Jesse Q. Bond from Syracuse University to establish the underlying science that can make feasible the production of the lignocellulosic biomass-derived platform chemical, γ-valerolactone (GVL), on a commercial scale. GVL is a promising and extremely flexible intermediate, from which numerous desirable end-products can be obtained. As such it provides pathways to renewable transportation fuels, polymers, and specialty chemicals. Despite a myriad of applications for GVL, its large scale production is not yet established, owing largely to difficulties associated with the purification of its immediate precursor, levulinic acid (LA), which is readily prepared from many classes of lignocellulosic biomass (agricultural residues, cellulose fines, urban paper waste, etc.) through dilute acid hydrolysis. In the present state of the art, LA must undergo a costly purification scheme prior to conversion to GVL. The research performed in this program intends to streamline this step, thus making the entire strategy more industrially relevant. Using a combined computational and experimental approach, we will obtain fundamental understanding of the reaction mechanism of the mild, heterogeneously catalyzed hydrodeoxygenation (HDO) of LA to GVL over Ru/C and RuRe/C catalysts in both aqueous and dilute sulfuric acid solutions. We aim to understand the specific effects of sulfuric acid on the reaction mechanism and the role of Re in bimetallic catalysts. Further, a microkinetic model will be developed to permit identification of rate and selectivity determining steps as well as practical activity and selectivity descriptors that can be transferred to the design of realistic supported bimetallic catalysts. Successful outcomes will demonstrate that, bimetallic catalysts can offer superior performance in the selective conversion of LA to GVL in the harsh environments characteristic of biomass conversion (e.g., dilute sulfuric acid). Further, we anticipate that results from tightly integrated experimental and computational studies will allow rational design of novel catalysts for HDO of LA under realistic industrial conditions.
  2. Design of an intensified, modular system enabling production of jet fuel from γ-valerolactone.

    The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) is supporting research directed toward streamlining the efficiency of jet fuel production from bio-based intermediates. Our primary focus in this program is the design of stable solid acids catalysts that allow process intensification of decarboxylation and subsequent oligomerization of γ-valerolactone (GVL) and its derivatives. Coke-deposition is problematic during high-temperature decarboxylation of valerolactone, leading to rapid catalyst deactivation and frequent regeneration cycles. By developing an understanding of the relationship between surface acidity and coke formation, we can support the design of targeted materials that deliver stable on-stream operation, minimize downtime, and improve the energy efficiency of jet-fuel production through this strategy.