Notre Dame’s New Center to Research Renewable Energy

The Notre Dame Energy Center, designed to unite researchers working on new energy technologies to meet the compelling global challenge, was established by the University to play a key role in energy education, literacy, policy, and exploration of the ethical implications associated with energy, according to Joan F. Brennecke, director, Keating-Crawford Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.

In light of the recent agreement by the House of Representatives and Senate on the 2006 Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill, which includes funding for ionic liquids research, a total of $1.5 million has been slated for the research under way at Notre Dame in conjunction with NiSource Energy Technologies Inc., a business unit of NiSource Inc. According to Brennecke, companies such as NiSource and many universities across the country are addressing the topic of energy. “It is such a huge challenge, that we cannot afford to have just one place working on it,” she said. “We need the full force of our scientific and engineering expertise focusing on this issue. At Notre Dame, we are seeking to better understand that how we utilize energy and incorporate it into our daily lives …. What I believe we offer, in addition to world-class research, is the integration of research and teaching with the social, political and moral aspects of energy.” Although the energy center is a new entity, Notre Dame researchers have a proven track record in energy-related research, developing collaborative projects and garnering funding from numerous sources. The initiative, housed in the College of Engineering, will focus on five areas in which University researchers have expertise. Shortened descriptions follow: — Energy efficiency: Exploring the development of fuel cells and fuel cell catalysts (a project funded by the U.S. Army and Indiana) and a project to use heat generated by industrial combustion power cycles to provide cooling are under way. — Safe nuclear waste storage: Notre Dame researchers have pioneered the identification of new compounds of uranium and other radioactive nuclides, which greatly aide in predicting the mobility of these compounds in the environment. — Clean coal utilization: Notre Dame Energy Center researchers are working to develop clean coal technologies. — CO2 separation, storage and usage: Researchers in the College of Engineering have developed a potentially more energy-efficient process to perform gas separations using ionic liquids, which are non-volatile and do not contribute to air pollution. Notre Dame is a pioneer in the use of ionic liquids for gas separations and other energy applications. — Renewable energy resources: The sun sends 165,000 terawatts of energy to Earth. Building on the expertise of faculty in the Notre Dame Radiation Laboratory, the center plans to make research in renewable energy resources a focus.
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