Welcome to the Sustainable Energy Lab (SEL)
SEL is located in the Mechanical Engineering Department at RIT. SEL's focus is to model, test, and design sustainable energy options with a current focus on i) thermoelectric modules and systems for current and future power generation applications, and ii) developing world appropriate technologies. SEL is committed to providing a range of experiential learning opportunities to both undergraduate and graduate students.
Thermoelectrics are solid state devices which can directly convert thermal energy into electrical energy or can pump thermal energy from one location to another directly from electrical energy. Because thermolectrics are modular and scalable, can operate over a range of operating temperatures, and have no moving parts; they are being considered for a range of power generation applications. To date power generation applications have been limited because of the low efficiency of thermoelectric modules created with materials that have, until recently, seen little improvement for half a century. In the past decade, however, there have been tremendous advances in thermoelectric materials, most of which utilize nanostructures. These recent advancements have spawned a renewed interest in using thermoelectrics for power generation applications including small remote sensors utilizing environmentally available temperature gradients, supplemental power generation from vehicle exhausts, micro co-generation, and topping off traditional power production to mention a few.
Currently there is a tremendous amount of effort being invested in the development of advanced thermoelectric materials, but less in module and system modeling and experimental validation. This is where the Sustainable Energy Lab’s (SEL) thermoelectric efforts lie. SEL’s focus is to develop models at the module and system level, to experimentally validate the models, and develop design and optimization tools utilizing the models for future power generation applications. Module testing is vital to extract module parameters that can be used for system level design, measure performance of advanced thermoelectric modules, and validate theoretical models that may be used for module design optimization.
Developing World Technologies
“The majority of the world’s designers focus all their efforts on developing products and services exclusively for the richest 10% of the world’s customers. Nothing less than a revolution in design is needed to reach the other 90%.”
—Dr. Paul Polak, International Development Enterprises
SEL has a commitment to developing or improving technologies for use in the developing world. This has primarily been done through several senior design experiences and undergraduate research opportunities. Research areas have included LED lighting systems, solar water pasteurization, and improved cook stoves.