Bioenergy, Geothermal, Hydropower, Solar, Storage, Wind Power

NSF Funds Sustainable Energy Graduate Program

A five-year, $3.1 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) is enabling a team of faculty at the University of Delaware to establish a new graduate program in sustainable energy from solar hydrogen. The award was made through NSF’s Integrative Graduate Education and Research Training (IGERT) program.

Led by Christiana Honsberg, UD associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, the solar hydrogen IGERT program involves 21 faculty from four of UD’s seven colleges. The three key partner organizations are the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, the University of New South Wales and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The program will integrate relevant concepts from science, engineering, economics, and social sciences. “Renewable energy is an inherently multidisciplinary topic, and unfortunately that is what has hampered its implementation,” Honsberg said. “An environmentally and economically sustainable solar hydrogen system requires integration of policy, economics, systems, and components.” Solar hydrogen-hydrogen generated from solar-derived power such as photovoltaics or biomass-is one approach to the critical global need for a sustainable energy system. “It has attracted a great deal of interest because it uniquely addresses multiple aspects of the energy system,” Honsberg said. “For example, hydrogen can be used for transport, electricity or heat generation and energy storage.” Ultimately, the program will fund some 10 doctoral students and six or seven undergraduates each year. Master’s degree students also will be involved but not funded directly by the IGERT program. The IGERT research program will focus on four major areas: photovoltaics and photoelectrochemistry, fuel cells, hydrogen storage, and policy and economics. “Our goal is for our students to be ‘energy experts,’ with a research focus in one area but the background, knowledge, and skills to draw from and interact with colleagues from multiple technical disciplines,” Honsberg said.