Carnegie Mellon University

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April 14, 2021

Six CMU Researchers Receive Seed Funding to Spur Energy Research

By Liz Rosevear

Liz Rosevear

The Wilton E. Scott Institute for Energy Innovation announces the recipients of our 9th round of Seed Grants for Energy Research, which will over provide $400,000 in support to five CMU faculty projects. These projects explore critical energy research including energy efficiency, electrocatalysis, energy operations models optimization, and air quality management in low and middle-income countries. In 2021, addressing energy equity was added as a new metric for consideration, in alignment with the Scott Institute’s interest in DEI-related endeavors. Additionally, one faculty will receive funding to repair important laboratory equipment.

The Seed program supports faculty research by Scott Institute Faculty Affiliates in energy sources and efficiency, production, environmental impact of energy, policy, and economic issues.

The six projects and faculty members selected for seed grant funding are:

  • Destenie Nock, Assistant Professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering (CEE) and Engineering and Public Policy (EPP) and Scott Institute Energy Fellow with Costa SamarasAssociate Professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering (CEE), Courtesy Appointment, Engineering and Public Policy (EPP), and Scott Institute Energy Fellow, for “Energy Equity in the United States Under Climate Change.” This work will uncover hidden energy poverty by creating a more comprehensive assessment of the energy burden in the U.S.
  • Tzahi Cohen-Karni, Associate Professor at the Departments of Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) and Biomedical Engineering (BME), for “ML Accelerated Inverse Design of High-Performance Low-Cost Electrocatalysts.” Establishing connections between electrocatalyst processing and performance proves challenging under typical material selection-driven approaches. This work proposes a methodology for coupling electrocatalyst synthesis and performance through machine learning (ML) guided material discovery.
  • Daniel Armanios, Assistant Professor in the Department of Engineering and Public Policy (EPP), for “Alleviating Organizational and Communication Barriers to Energy Efficiency Programs for More Equitable Access.” This project proposes a novel mixed-methods approach that integrates organizational and behavioral approaches to improve the efficacy of programs designed to enhance energy equity.
  • Nicola Secomandi, Professor of Operations Management, Tepper School of Business, for “Data-Driven Distributionally-Robust Optimization for Contemporary Merchant Energy Operations Models.” This proposal focuses on merchant energy operations, a strategy that models as real options the operational flexibility embedded in the energy (and commodity) conversion assets that form the backbone of energy infrastructure and markets.
  • Albert Presto, Associate Research Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering (MechE) and a member of CMU's Center for Atmospheric Particle Studies (CAPS), for “Development of a rapid, high volume, and low-cost method for particle source apportionment in low- and middle-income countries.” Air quality planners typically rely on expensive, precise measurements of particulate matter (PM) composition to identify major sources that can then be regulated. This project will enable the development of low-cost PM composition analysis methods will enable source apportionment and, therefore, more informed policymaking.
  • Marc DeGraef, Professor and Co-Director of the J. Earle and Mary Roberts Materials Characterization Laboratory, for equipment repair replacing a PIXcel1D X-Ray Detector on a Panalytical X'Pert PRO MPD powder diffractometer. The Panalytical X’Pert PRO MPD powder diffractometer used for powder and bulk x-ray diffraction measurements is primarily for phase identification and phase quantification.

“Since launching the program in 2013, we have awarded more than $3.2 million in funding to 71 research teams at Carnegie Mellon,” said Scott Institute co-Director Andrew Gellman. “This seed support has directly led to Scott Institute Faculty Affiliates receiving $16.6 million in additional funding from external 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.

*Photos featured above taken before the COVID-19 pandemic