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RIT is confronting the global challenges of sustainability through interdisciplinary programs that integrate engineering and science with economics and public policy.

Energy Working Group

The Energy Working Group at RIT is committed to promoting research and education in alternative energy development, enhanced efficiency technologies and improved energy policymaking. These efforts will provide significant value to the RIT community, while also reducing global energy use and the Earth's carbon footprint.

President's Climate Commitment

Benchmarking Analysis: Rochester Climate Action Plan

Climate Action Plan

Nancy Becerra-Cordoba, visiting assistant professor of STS/Public Policy

Students: Candice Beck, William Fuqua, Summer Naugle, Jonathan Nelson, William Resch, Alyssa Schreiner

A faculty-student team from the Department of Public Policy sought to assist the City of Rochester in developing a Climate Action Plan that will assist in reducing the city's carbon footprint and improve the quality of life of its residents. The team worked with Rochester's Division of Environmental Quality to benchmark best practices and implementation strategies that will inform the writing of Rochester's CAP. This included a review of Climate Action Plans from targeted cities, a series of interviews with various CAP planners and the creation of a cross-case analysis featuring representative examples from across the country.

Carbon Nanotubes for Lithium Ion Batteries

Brian Landi

Brian Landi, assistant professor of chemical and biomedical engineering and director of the Carbon Nanotube and Advanced Battery Group at the NanoPower Research Labs

Carbon nanotubes are cylindrical carbon molecules that have novel properties, making them potentially useful in many applications in nanotechnology, electronics and material science. Landi is investigating the use of CNT technology to improve the performance and energy efficiency of lithium-ion batteries. CNT-based batteries have the potential to triple energy capacity over traditional technology. The team is developing new methods for CNT synthesis and refinement that will increase battery performance and enhance their use in a host of areas from enhanced microelectronics to electric vehicles and hybrids. Landi has support from a host of U.S. government agencies including the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation.

Climate-change Enhanced Dissolved Organic Matter in Natural and Drinking Water

Todd Pagano

Todd Pagano, associate professor and director of the Laboratory Science Technology program at NTID

Christy Tyler, assistant professor of biological sciences

Watershed export of dissolved organic matter (DOM), particularly phenolic-based compounds, has been on the rise for several decades and is a source of contaminated drinking water. Pagano and Tyler are conducting a qualitative and quantitative analysis of DOM in natural watersheds in the Great Lakes region to assess its impact on water quality and the surrounding ecosystem. Their work includes analyzing DOM's impact on the development of carcinogenic disinfection byproducts, the effect on fresh water systems and the ability of aquatic plants to serve as bioremediation tools for phenolic compounds.

Data Networking in Smart Grid Systems

Data networking chart

Sumita Mishra, assistant professor of networking, security and systems administration

The Smart Grid system that is being proposed to replace the current electric grid will increase the reliability and efficiency of the end-to-end electric supply system and improve overall demand response. However, the addition of distributed intelligence and broadband communication capabilities to the traditional electric grid infrastructure poses many data networking challenges. Mishra seeks to map the anticipated data traffic patterns in the Smart Grid and the different kinds of congestion that could occur in the network. The congestion control and avoidance techniques that could be adapted for solving potential data networking problems associated with the Smart Grid system are analyzed in this project.

Development of a Prototype Natural Gas Fueled HCCI Engine for Hybrid Vehicles

HCCI Engine

James Lee, assistant professor of manufacturing and mechanical engineering technology/packaging science

Robert Garrick, associate professor of manufacturing and mechanical engineering technology/packaging science

Chris Deminco, adjunct professor of mechanical engineering

The team is designing and testing a working prototype Homogeneous Charge Compression Ignition engine, fueled by compressed natural gas. The technology could be used to power the battery charging system in light duty plug-in hybrids and eliminate the need for gasoline-powered engines in these vehicles. The development of this engine will assist in advancing the application of hybrid technology while also reducing the heavy dependence of the U.S. transportation sector on oil imported from foreign countries, and decreasing green house gas emissions. The project is being undertaken in partnership with the California Energy Commission, Kohler Engines and Delphi Corp.

Smart Building Technologies - Sustainability

Robert Garrick

Robert Garrick, associate professor of manufacturing and mechanical engineering technology

Buildings consume 40% of the nation's primary energy and account for 40% of CO2 emissions in the U.S. Garrick's team seeks to reduce the environmental footprint of building operations through the development of alternative energy technologies, enhanced efficiency processes and implementation of enhanced building operations systems. These efforts include analyzing the use of occupancy based building control and operations management systems that utilize sophisticated sensors to better monitor occupancy, energy use and temperature. The current project is investigating opportunities for extended monetary savings through use of these systems while also improving tenant satisfaction.

Diesel Reforming for Solid Oxide Fuel Cell Auxiliary Power Applications

Diesel reformation lab

Thomas Trabold, associate professor in the Golisano Institute for Sustainability

Daniel Smith, senior program manager for the Golisano Institute for Sustainability

Mark Walluk, mechanical engineer for Golisano Institute for Sustainability

Jiefeng Lin, Ph.D. candidate in the Golisano Institute for Sustainability

Trabold and Smith are seeking to optimize a process for diesel reforming, the transformation of diesel liquid into hydrogen-rich gas, an essential process in fuel cells. The researchers are conducting thermodynamic analysis and computer simulations designed to improve the reforming process and increase overall applications for diesel reforming in fuel cell technology. The project is part of a larger effort to develop and commercialize solid oxide fuel cells for use in auxiliary power units for the commercial trucking industry.

Waste-to-Energy Opportunities for New York State Food Processors


Thomas Trabold, associate professor, Golisano Institute for Sustainability

Anahita Willilamson, director of the New York State Pollution Prevention Institute

Rajiv Ramchandra, staff engineer with the New York State Pollution Prevention Institute

Agriculture is big business in New York State and food processing is a significant part of the western New York economy. However, the industry generates a significant amount of organic waste that can impact air and water quality and inhibit optimal land use. The NYSP2I, a statewide initiative funded by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, is analyzing methods for converting organic waste into renewable fuels through various pathways including anaerobic digestion, biodiesel production and fermentation. The research includes testing of various processes and efforts to optimize production to increase commercialization.

Engineered Electrode Porosity Via Direct-Write Material Printing

Denis Cormier

Denis Cormier, Earl W. Brinkman Professor of Industrial and Systems Engineering

Solid Oxide Fuel Cells consist of porous anode and cathode layers separated by a dense electrolyte layer. The size and shape of this layer greatly influences cell performance. Cormier is employing advanced multi-material printing techniques such as aerosol jet printing, where materials are atomized and then applied to a surface, to improve the quality and engineering of the electrode layers produced. The results will assist in enhancing cell performance and further advance commercialization of SOFC technology.

Geospatial Intermodal Freight Transportation Model

James Winebrake

Scott Hawker, associate professor of software engineering and co-director of Lab for Environmental Computing and Decision Making

Karl Korfmacher, director of the environmental science program and affiliate researcher with the Lab for Environmental Computing and Decision Making

James Winebrake, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and co-director of the Lab for Environmental Computing and Decision Making

In an effort to reduce emissions and fuel consumption from freight transportation, the lab has developed the Geospatial Intermodal Freight Transportation Model to assist transportation planners in optimizing freight transport using multiple modes. GIFT models the environmental, energy, and economic impact of freight transportation across truck, rail, and waterway transportation modes and allows decision makers to weigh the environmental and economic impacts of alternate transportation options and infrastructure investment opportunities. The lab has worked with a host of agencies to implement GIFT into transportation planning including the U.S. Department of Transportation, the state of California and the Great Lakes Maritime Research Institute.

High Altitude Wind Energy Harvesting

Mario Gomes, assistant professor, of mechanical engineering

High altitude based wind energy systems are more efficient and produce more power than ground based wind turbines. The further development of this form of wind power could greatly increase the application and use of wind energy technologies. Gomes is developing dynamic simulations of tethered airfoil or kite systems to improve design and ultimate commercialization of these high altitude wind energy generators.

High Heat Dissipation Through Pool Boiling

Dwight Cooke

Dwight Cooke, Master of Science Student in Mechanical Engineering

Satish Kandlikar, James Gleason Professor of Engineering

The high temperatures generated by the operation of integrated circuits, computer processors and other high-powered electronics have a negative impact on system performance, requiring the use of cooling systems to lower basic temperature. However, the capacity for air-cooling through fans has reached its limit, while the required heat dissipation from electronic devices continues to increase. The research team is investigating the use of innovative microfluidic technology to improve cooling in electronic systems. The research has dissipated high heat fluxes with a record heat transfer coefficient of 270kW/m2k, a value never reached in the literature.

Characterization of Liquid Water Coverage in PEM Fuel Cell Gas Channels

Jacqueline Sergi

Jacqueline Sergi, MS Mechanical Engineering
Thermal Analysis, Microfluidics and Fuel Cell Laboratory

Satish Kandlikar, Gleason Professor of Mechanical Engineering
Thermal Analysis, Microfluidics and Fuel Cell Laboratory

Proton exchange membrane fuel cells are a favorable candidate for replacing internal combustion engines in automotive applications due to their high power density, rapid startup and clean operation. Water management has been identified as one of the key research areas for the advancement of PEM fuel cell technology. The research team is analyzing methods to improve cell performance through a comprehensive characterization of liquid water in an operating fuel cell, which can be used towards the optimization of water management as well as data generation for model validation purposes. The results will improve the design and manufacture of PEM technologies and increase their use in the transportation sector.

Household Energy Efficiency and Biomass Fuel Use in Developing Countries

James Myers

James Myers, director of the Center for Multidisciplinary Studies

Brian Bowen, director of graduate programs and research at the RIT-AUK Center for Energy and Natural Resource Development

Over the next twenty years most of the growth in the world's energy consumption will take place in developing countries. To address the issue the Center for Energy and Natural Resource Development seeks to study energy use in the developing world and assess opportunities for alternative energy implementation and efficiency upgrades. As part of this larger mission, Myers and Bowen conducted a study evaluating the state of household energy efficiency in Kosovo and Haiti, which included household surveys on biomass fuel use, energy efficiency, and indoor air quality. The project was conducted in collaboration with the World Health Organization and the Pan American Health Organization.

Iron-Doped Nanoceria: A Novel Combustion Catalyst for Diesel Fuel

Richard Hailstone

Richard Hailstone, associate professor of imaging science

Many new energy technologies are in various stages of development and all are directed at reducing our dependence on fossil fuel technology. However, it will be some time before these technologies can have a significant impact and technologies are needed now to reduce our fossil fuel dependence. Hailstone and his team are investigating the use of iron-doped nanoceria, a nanoparticle additive for diesel fuel, as a means to increase fuel efficiency and reduce emissions in diesel engines. Current research is directed towards understanding the catalytic role of these nanoparticles with the goal of enhancing their use in future diesel technology. Applications to gasoline engines are also being pursued.

Nanostructures and Solar Energy


Seth Hubbard, assistant professor of physics and director of the Photovoltaics and Nanomaterial Technologies Group at the NanoPower Research Labs

While there has been extensive theoretical work that indicates the benefits of nanostructures in enhancing solar cell efficiency, there remains a significant amount of fundamental materials science and development necessary for practical implementation. The research group focuses on developing novel nanomaterial technologies for use in high-efficiency solar cells, including quantum dots, which can greatly enhance the efficiency and commercialization of photovoltaics. This includes a partnership with the manufacturing firm EmcorePhotovoltaics to utilize quantum dot technology in the large-scale manufacture of triple junction solar cells.

Novel Squaraines for Enhanced Near Infra-red-active Organic Photovoltaics

Christopher Collison, associate professor of chemistry and director of the Polymer Photovoltaics Group at the NanoPower Research Laboratory

Organic photovoltaics will provide a low-cost, low intensity way to harness solar energy. However, these types of solar cells suffer from low efficiencies, which have prevented opportunities for widespread use. The Polymer Photovoltaics Group is exploring the addition of new active materials along with their electronic, optical and mechanical properties so as to increase the quality and use of the technology. This includes investigation of squaraine dyes, productive molecular absorbers that can be chemically tuned through synthesis and be processed from solution. The team compares new properties of squaraines with subsequent increases in efficiency and overall performance of the solar cell.

Silicon Photovoltaics – New Frontier of Microelectronic Engineering

Photovoltaics diagram

Santosh Kurinec, Professor, Electrical & Microelectronic Engineering, Kate Gleason College of Engineering

Michael Jackson, Associate Professor, Electrical & Microelectronic Engineering, Kate Gleason College of Engineering

Driven by high oil prices, government incentives, and the desire for sustainable energy sources, the photovoltaics (PV) industry is enjoying unprecedented growth in excess of 30% per year. At the same time, the central challenge for photovoltaics manufacturers is cost reduction. RIT, along with a Rochester based company Kayex, have joined the NSF National Silicon Solar Consortium to engineer the next generation of silicon solar cells by applying high volume manufacturing processes and novel device design concepts. Research areas include development of new processes and investigation of novel materials to realize low cost manufacturing and/or improved cell efficiencies.

Sustainability Research at the Image Permanence Institute

Image permanence display

James Reilly, director of the Image Permanence Institute

Jeremy Linden, preservation environment specialist with the Image Permanence Institute

While HVAC equipment shutdowns and setbacks have long been recognized as a strategic option for achieving energy savings, the particular requirements of preservation environments for library and other collecting institutions make such strategies difficult to enact without careful risk management. The IPI is examining whether energy usage can be significantly reduced in libraries by carefully monitored and risk-managed shutdowns of Air Handling Units during unoccupied hours in selected spaces. It is also evaluating best practices designed to ensure that library, archive and museum collections are not harmed by short-term environmental fluctuations (such as nightly temperature setbacks).

Wide-Area Geographic Data View Displays in Electric Power Systems Control Centers

Wide area diagram

Esa Rantanen, associate professor of psychology

Diego Klabjan, associate professor of industrial engineering and management sciences at Northwestern University

Tom Overbye, professor of electrical and computer engineering at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Electric power system control centers serve a critical role in ensuring the integrity of the nation's electric grid. Wide-area Geographic Data View (GDV) displays enhance the coordination between regional control centers and help in prevention of disruptions (e.g., blackouts) to the supply of electric power. The research seeks to enhance the implementation of GDVs in existing operations and address networking and operations challenges inherent in this process. The team is investigating larger geographic areas and additional information in the displays to enhance operators' situational awareness without cluttering the displays to the point of making the information unusable.