Carnegie Mellon University

2020 Seed Grants for Energy Research Award Winners

April 22, 2020

Scott Institute Seed Grant Funding to Advance Nine CMU Energy Projects

By Amanda King

Amanda King

Carnegie Mellon University research projects exploring perspectives on energy policy, batteries and storage and smart grid solutions are among the projects being amplified by the Scott Institute for Energy Innovation’s 2020 Seed Grants for Energy Research.

The annual funding program, now in its eighth round, supports the development of new research in areas such as energy sources, production, efficiency and environmental impacts. The program also provides resources for vital equipment repairs. The awards allow Carnegie Mellon professors to jump-start their cutting-edge work, and provide valuable funding to increase readiness for substantial external consideration and funding. 

“This year, Scott Institute Faculty Affiliates from across the university submitted 28 proposals equaling approximately $1.5 million in funding for their innovative research,” said Scott Institute Co-Director Andrew Gellman, who organizes the Seed Grants program. “This is a highly competitive process.” 

The Institute awarded almost half a million dollars to nine faculty-led projects. Specifically, the Institute paired $330,000 with almost $200,000 in additional funding from the EQT Foundation.

The 2020 Seed Funding Winners include the following researchers and projects:

    • Scott Institute Energy Fellow and Arthur Hamerschlag Career Development Professor of Engineering and Public Policy (EPP) Paulina Jaramillo, along with NC State University’s Joseph DeCarolis, aim to bring energy modeling into the 21st century by applying policy-focused academic modeling, maximizing transparency, building a networked community and working towards the common goal of examining U.S. energy futures to inform future energy and climate policy efforts.
    • Scott Institute Energy Fellow and Mechanical Engineering (MechE) Associate Professor B. Reeja Jayan with Shawn Litster (MechE) will use nano-computed tomography and a synchrotron small-angle x-ray scattering technique to investigate the effect of polymer coatings on the mechanical fatigue of battery electrodes. This fatigue in lithium-ion batteries is one of the main reasons for their capacity fading, resulting from the volume expansion and shrinkage of electrode particles during cycling.
    • Tepper School of Business Assistant Professor Maryam Saeedi in collaboration with Ali Shourideh (Economics) will utilize a novel data set on the daily volume of U.S. natural gas transported in the interstate pipelines to develop a mathematical model that will estimate how monopoly regulations and mergers affect decisions on the location of pipelines and storage units. The researchers will use the estimated model to revise guidelines for merger analysis and price regulations in this market.
    • Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Associate Professor Vyas Sekar and Swarun Kumar (ECE) aim to develop algorithmic and systems foundations for enabling general, accurate and energy-efficient analytics for low power wireless sensors. Despite many advances in sensing, computing and wireless technologies, simultaneously achieving energy-efficiency, fidelity and generality has remained an elusive goal. 
    • MechE Associate Professor Sheng Shen and Xu Zhang (ECE) will work on next-generation methane detection to fulfill a broad range of needs in the oil and gas industry, such as protection and security, persistent monitoring, leakage recognition and tracking and early warning. Their team will design and fabricate miniaturized infrared transducers for methane sensing by integrating on-chip light sources and detectors, in order to significantly reduce the response time and cost of current photonic sensing devices.
    • EPP Assistant Research Professor Parth Vaishnav and Co-PI Jeremy Michalek (EPP/MechE) will study the effect of the transition to electrification and automation in ride-hailing services to inform policymakers in shaping how automation is introduced and to maximize social benefits. The team will estimate the additional environmental and health costs associated with each trip, relative to the costs of taking transit. They will also quantify the trade-offs between the benefits and costs of building out more charging infrastructure and having lighter vehicles with smaller batteries.
    • MechE and EPP Assistant Professor Kate Whitefoot will field a survey experiment with consumers looking to purchase a vehicle in order to understand how fuel efficiency and emissions ratings information influences their choice. The preliminary results will allow Whitefoot’s team to establish a full-scale research project in collaboration with automakers and the Environmental Protection Agency to inform the redesign of this information.
    • ECE and CyLab Associate Research Professor Osman Yağan with Carlee Joe-Wong (ECE) are seeking to advance the state-of-the-art in modeling, controlling and optimizing the robustness of the smart grid by exploring two novel research directions. First, they will consider the optimal allocation of support-dependency links to maximize the robustness. They will also examine the situation where nodes can be “healed” during a cascading failure and will develop control strategies that slow down the spread of failures, prevent failures to reach to a certain part of the network and stop the cascade of failures and recover the network’s normal operation. 
    • Materials Science and Engineering Professor Mohammad Islam will utilize funding to have laboratory equipment, like absorption and fluorescence spectrometers repaired. Thirteen faculty members use the equipment to characterize optical properties of novel nanoparticles that are used for electrochemical applications.

Since launching the program in 2013, we have awarded more than $2.8 million in funding to 65 research teams at Carnegie Mellon,” said Scott Institute Executive Director Anna J. Siefken. “This seed support has directly led to Scott Institute Faculty Affiliates receiving $16.5 million in external funding from various agencies, corporations and nonprofits. We consider this a solid return on our investment towards development of transformative energy technologies.”

Learn more about the Scott Institute’s Seed Grants for Energy Research Program