$20 million, multi-institution grant tackles problems of fossil energy

Wednesday, May 11, 2016
by Office of Engineering Communications

Princeton University is part of a partnership of eight universities that has received a six-year, $20 million federal grant to pursue broad approaches to improving the efficiency of production and use of fossil fuels, while minimizing greenhouse gas emissions and harm to the environment. The partnership, called the University Coalition for Fossil Energy Research, is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy's National Energy Technology Lab.

Blue and red flames against a black background

A series of flames demonstrates a transition as fuels are subjected to low-temperature oxidation prior to their introduction to a high-temperature flame. This transition has implications for the properties of the flames, including burning rates and emissions. Such investigations into the fundament science of combustion will contribute to the development of innovative energy conversion processes and transformational technologies at Princeton. (Image courtesy of Bret Windom, Bo Jiang, Sang Hee Won and Yiguang Ju/Art of Science)

The grant, which will be administered by Penn State University, also includes the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Texas A & M University, University of Kentucky, University of Southern California, University of Tulsa, University of Wyoming and Virginia Tech. The member universities will have twice-yearly opportunities to submit proposals for funding under the project, with about $3 million to $4 million distributed each year.

"This grant is designed very broadly to accomplish both the fundamental and applied research needed to make progress in this area," said Yiguang Ju, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, and the principal investigator of the Princeton University team.

The coalition will support multidisciplinary and multi-institutional collaborations, Ju said. Specific areas of research will focus on coal, natural gas and oil and will align with five core areas of expertise:

  • Geological and environmental systems, including research on geomaterials, fluid flow in geologic media, and geospatial and strategic field monitoring;
  • Materials engineering and manufacturing, including research on the design, development, and deployment of advanced functional and structural materials for use in extreme service environments;
  • Energy conversion engineering, including evaluation, integration, control and performance modeling of processes and components for developing innovative energy conversion processes and transformational technologies;
  • Systems engineering and analysis, including analysis and design of advanced energy systems such as power plants, energy markets, and energy-environment interactions;
  • Computational science and engineering, including research involving high-performance computing and data analytics that enable the generation of information and insights through the integration of experimental data and engineering analyses

In addition to Ju, the Princeton team includes Chung Law and Michael Mueller from  mechanical and aerospace engineering;  Sankaran Sundaresan from the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering; and Eric Larson, Robert Williams and Thomas Kreutz from the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment. The team members have complementary expertise relating to low-carbon fossil energy systems, including carbon dioxide capture, high efficiency electric power generation, and co-processing of biomass and fossil fuels into transportation fuels. The expertise also includes understanding of low nitrogen-oxide pollutant emission systems, clean combustion, coal and natural gas derived alternative fuels and high hydrogen content fuels, advanced gas turbines, coal gasification, and high pressure combustion kinetics.

Ju said the Princeton team will encourage all interested faculty members across the campus to form collaborative teams to participate in the coalition's semi-annual competitions. A broad set of expertise is critical for addressing the complexities of the current energy system, he said. "At Princeton, we have close collaborations between science and engineering as well as with the liberal arts and public policy."

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