Carnegie Mellon University
February 28, 2013

Press Release: With First Round of Seed Grants, Carnegie Mellon’s Scott Institute To Explore Technology, Policy Issues on Energy Efficiency, Sources

Contacts: Chriss Swaney / 412-268-5776 /
Ken Walters / 412-268-1151/

Scott Institute WordmarkPITTSBURGH—How can smart grid technology and small local power grids be used to produce a more efficient and reliable supply of electricity? How can solar power be made more efficient and cost effective? Can better systems be developed to deliver more reliable electric power in central Africa? And why is China investing so much in wind power?

These are just some of the questions that investigators at Carnegie Mellon University will be exploring under the first round of seed grants that have been announced by the university’s new Wilton E. Scott Institute for Energy Innovation. The institute, made possible by a lead gift from CMU alumni Sherman Scott (E’66), president and founder of Delmar systems, and his wife, university trustee Joyce Bowie Scott (A’65), is focused on improving energy efficiency and developing new, clean, affordable and sustainable energy sources.

A key mission of the Scott Institute, established last fall, is to stimulate new research initiatives and connections across the campus. Featuring faculty from across disciplines, the institute differs from similar organizations with its focus on the nexus of technology and policy, and the implications both will have on energy efficiency and creating new energy sources.

One grant, for example, will provide resources for Ines Azevedo, a CMU professor in engineering and public policy (EPP), and Lee Branstetter, associate professor of economics in the Department of Social and Decision Sciences in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences and the School of Public Policy and Management at the Heinz College, to study the Chinese wind industry. Similarly, a small planning grant will team Nina Baird, an adjunct instructor and her colleagues at the School of Architecture, with Jason Hong, an associate professor at the School of Computer Science’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute, to explore ways in which social media, mobile devices and other computer technology might be used to locate opportunities for energy efficiency.

“When we put out our first call for short proposals, we quickly received 26 innovative ideas from across the campus,” said Scott Institute Director M. Granger Morgan. “The response demonstrates the many opportunities to build new bridges and undertake new innovative projects on our campus,” Morgan said.

According to Andy Gellman, institute co-director, one impressive aspect of the responses received is that they spanned a wide range from developing advanced technologies, to human behavior and improving public policy. “Such broad interdisciplinary interest and strength is probably Carnegie Mellon’s greatest strength in energy research and education,” Gellman said.

The six seed grants and their principals are:

  • High efficiency solar thermo-photovoltaic cells using nanophotonic intermediate absorbers and emitters: Sheng Shen, professor of mechanical engineering, and Gary Fedder, head of the Institute for Complex Engineered Systems (ICES). Additional support for this grant will come from the Department of Mechanical Engineering.
  • Silicon wafers for solar cells by horizontal ribbon growth: Erik Ydstie, professor of chemical engineering and electrical engineering, in partnership with Aditya Khair, assistant professor of chemical engineering. This grant will be supplemented by additional support from the Department of Chemical Engineering.
  • Understanding the causes and consequences of China’s wind power manufacturing surge: EPP’s Ines Azevedo in collaboration with Lee Branstetter of the Department of Social and Decision Sciences at the Dietrich College and the Heinz College’s School of Public Policy and Management. This grant also is supported by EPP and the Heinz College.
  • A collaborative distributed optimization framework for robust energy management in microgrids: Gabriela Hug, professor of electrical and computer engineering (ECE), in collaboration with Soummya Kar, assistant research professor in ECE. Supplemental support for the grant comes from ECE and EPP.  
  • Smart grid technologies for sustainable energy development in Rwanda: Bruce Krogh, ECE professor and head of CMU-Rwanda, in partnership with Marija Ilic, ECE professor, and Hedda Schmidtke, assistant professor in information communications technology at CMU-Rwanda and CMU-Silicon Valley.
  • Small planning grants will go to professors in the School of Architecture and the School of Computer Science to exploit how to make social media more energy efficient.
The Scott Institute will host a public event in 2014, when investigators from the first round of seed grants will report on their work and their plans to build on their results in the future. The objective of the Scott Institute seed grants is to promote development of new research and educational activities related to energy across the Carnegie Mellon campus.