The CUNY Energy Institute, headquartered at the City College of New York (CCNY), is an interdisciplinary research center that pulls the resources of the CUNY campuses together to develop advanced and sustainable technologies that have low-carbon footprints. The Energy Institute was formed in 2008 to broaden the scope of the existing Clean Fuels Institute (1970) and to aggregate and develop interdisciplinary CUNY programs focusing on national energy needs. Faculty members from various fields collaborate with each other and with other US universities and the Brookhaven National Laboratory. At the CUNY Energy Institute, we research and develop advanced sustainable energy technologies with low-carbon footprints to reduce oil imports, increase efficiency and utilization of domestic energy resources. The Energy Institute endeavors to diversify and strengthen the state and national economies through research, education, and mentorship of the next generation of top-quality energy scientists and engineers. With the advancement of the new technologies in nuclear and the development of a national smart grid, it is more important than ever to support the graduate education of our future engineers and scientists. In this great effort, we are building on CUNY’s record of excellence in fostering diversity in gender, race, ethnicity, and social class.
RESEARCH AGENDA AND MISSION
The CUNY Energy Institute seeks to enable utilization of renewable energy sources by improving the efficiency of electric, electrochemical, and thermal energy storage. The lack of energy storage to support intermittent renewable sources currently presents a major hurdle to their widespread use. Technologies being developed at the Energy Institute are necessary to expand solar and wind capacity. The grid-scale batteries and Metacapacitors ™ we are developing at the Energy Institute can improve the reliability of the national electric grid by providing back-up energy during hours of peak demand. The flexibility and commercial applicability of our energy storage products are their greatest assets. In addition, the scientists working at the CUNY Energy Institute are cleaning up traditional sources of energy to reduce our carbon footprint and reliance on foreign oil. We can improve the production and utilization of domestic gas and heavy oil resources through liquid separation techniques discovered in our labs. As nuclear power provides the vast majority of domestic, carbon-free energy, we are working to enhance the safety and performance of the nation’s 104 commercial reactors through advanced simulation research.
The CUNY Energy Institute has been able to attain significant resources to provide the practical research needed to develop commercial products to advance sustainable energy technologies with low carbon footprints. The Energy Institute’s current research agenda includes developing a low cost rechargeable battery for energy storage, in particular zinc-nickel oxide flow batteries, which cost half as much as nickel-metal hydride batteries and have energy densities that are twice as high. Also research supported by ARPA E, DOE, and NYSERDA has begun on a significantly lower cost battery consisting of zinc manganese dioxide. Currently, a 3 kWh Flow-Assisted Nickel-Zinc Battery has been built and tested at the CUNY Energy Institute and is being scaled up with support from DOE, Con Ed, and NYSERDA to a 200 kWh capacity. The target use for batteries assembled from the 200 KWh module would be transmission and distribution systems capable of deferral and peak shaving. The less expensive flow assisted zinc manganese dioxide are being scaled to 50 kWh modules which will be used to firm the power supplied from intermittent renewable sources such as solar and wind.
The Institute’s Nuclear Program is currently developing computer models that simulate nuclear power plant operations, forming a "virtual reactor" for the predictive simulations of light water reactors. The research is focused on developing a detailed simulation of sub-cooled flow boiling in PWR fuel assembly through numerical models, as well as example verification to safely extend the lifetime of existing U.S. reactor and reducing nuclear waste volume generated by enabling higher fuel burn-ups.
Our research in oil & gas involves identifying the chemical and fluid dynamic conditions under which droplet coalescence efficiency is maximized, which offers proactive solutions to the future of petroleum recovery around the world. This research is particularly relevant given the vast reserves of natural gas that have recently been discovered in the US. Refining the extraction process of natural gas will enable us to develop this important domestic resource and build our energy economy.
The core faculty of the Energy Institute is comprised of 8 CUNY Professors. The Institute’s Director, Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering Dr. Sanjoy Banerjee oversees the research and development of a diverse, yet focused group of leaders in the chemical and mechanical engineering fields. Leading the Energy Institute’s nuclear research is Prof. of Mech Engr Dr. Masahiro Kawaji along with Prof. of Mech Engr Dr. Taehun Lee. Associate Prof. of Chemistry Dr. Stephen O’Brien and Assistant Prof of Chem Engr Dr. Dan Steingart lead the electrical storage research. Prof of Chem Engr Dr. Irven Rinard focuses on systems integration and Distinguished Prof. of Chem Engr Dr. Reuel Shinnar works with thermal energy storage of renewables. Oil and Gas research is being lead by Associate Prof. of Chem Engr Dr. Alex Couzis.
Since the initiation of the Energy Institute in 2008 over $20MM has been awarded from various sources that include ARPA E, Department of Energy, NYSERDA, Con Edison, Mitsubishi and the NRC (amongst others). The Institute now provides full time employment for research associates, post doctoral fellows, and PhD research students. Approximately 20 science and engineering faculty drawn from the various CUNY colleges such as CCNY, Hunter College, Brooklyn College, Queens College, College of Staten Island and Queensborough Community College are affiliated with the Institute and serve as principal investigators into the program’s activities. The Institute’s investigators also collaborate with other US universities (SUNY Stony Brook, SUNY Albany, Columbia and NYU amongst others) and the Brookhaven National Laboratories, Argonne, Los Alamos, Oak Ridge, and Idaho National Labs giving the program a national dimension.