RIT’s NanoPower Research Labs Receive Nearly $4 Million in New Funding

Combined research efforts will enhance the development of sustainable energy systems




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Rochester Institute of Technology is expanding its research and technology transfer efforts in renewable energy development and sustainability thanks to recent funding awards from the U.S. Departments of Energy and Defense.

RIT’s NanoPower Research Labs received two awards, out of 25 given nationally, from the Department of Energy’s Future Generation Photovoltaic Devices and Processes Program. The first project is a three-year, $1.1 million dollar effort aimed at providing higher efficiency solar cells for the growing concentrator photovoltaic market.

“Through enhancing the commercial opportunities for photovoltaics, we hope to increase the use of solar cells in a wide variety of energy applications,” notes Seth Hubbard, a member of the NanoPower Labs and principal investigator on the photovoltaics project. “This work will build on our previous efforts in efficiency and design to create a higher quality solar cell.”

The second effort is a university-industry collaboration with Wakonda Technologies designed to enhance the integration of III-V materials, so named due to their location on the Periodic Table, onto thin films used in solar cell production. The project, which received an award of $2.1 million over a three-year period, was also selected for a matching grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. The work will build on Wakonda’s efforts to produce more energy efficient and cost-effective solar cells for commercial use.

“Our collaboration with RIT will promote the continued development of alternative energy industries in New York, advancing economic development and improving environmental quality,” adds Les Fritzemeier, CEO of Wakonda.

In addition to the Department of Energy announcement, the NanoPower Labs, in collaboration with Nantero Inc., was also recently named the recipient of a $750,000 grant to conduct research related to the development of the next generation of rechargeable, lithium ion batteries. The work, funded by the U.S. Department of Defense, is intended to improve the capacity and cyclability of rechargeable batteries, while also expanding their use in a number of military applications.

The current research efforts in the NanoPower Research Labs will also ultimately expand RIT’s broader sustainable education and research goals through the newly created Golisano Institute for Sustainability.

“Our efforts will build upon and enhance the sustainable transportation research being undertaken by the Golisano Institute and assist in the development of sustainable energy systems that provide cost effective energy with no negative environmental impacts,” says Ryne Raffaelle, RIT professor of physics and microsystems engineering and director of the NanoPower Labs. “Our research will also provide hands on training for students in the institute’s proposed doctoral program in sustainability, helping to educate our next generation of engineers, designers and policy makers.”

Over the past three years, RIT’s NanoPower Research Labs have received over $5 million in competitive awards for solar energy and battery research and have become internationally recognized for their advancements in nano-materials and sustainable energy technologies.