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Research Highlights

President Obama Awards Art Rosenfeld the National Medal of Technology and Innovation

EETD's Art Rosenfeld with President Obama

EETD's Art Rosenfeld with President Obama

EETD's Art Rosenfeld with President Obama

Art Rosenfeld, Scientist Emeritus in the Environmental Energy Technologies Division (EETD) of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), received the National Medal of Technology and Innovation at a ceremony at the White House in February 2013. The medal recognizes those who have made lasting contributions to America's competitiveness and quality of life and helped strengthen the nation's technological workforce. Nominees are selected by a distinguished independent committee representing the private and
public sectors.

With a decades-long career in energy analysis and standards, Rosenfeld is often credited with billions of dollars in energy savings and is viewed by many as "the godfather of energy efficiency." He started his career at the University of California, Berkeley, and at Berkeley Lab in the 1950s as a physicist in the Nobel Prize-winning particle physics group of Luis Alvarez. However, in 1974, he decided to switch his focus to energy and the environment. In 1975 he founded the Center for Building Science at EETD, where a broad range of energy-efficiency concepts, analysis tools, policy ideas, and technologies were developed over the next 20 years.

"Art's long-standing efforts in the field of energy efficiency have truly changed the way we think about energy today," said Berkeley Lab Director Paul Alivisatos. "He epitomizes the spirit of Berkeley Lab with his dedication and innovation. This honor is well-deserved."

"We are thrilled with this award to Art," said EETD Division Director Ashok Gadgil. " It is a wonderful and timely recognition of his towering leadership role in the U.S. and internationally in understanding and capturing energy efficiency as a resource. We are very pleased and proud he helped found this division, and that after his careers at the Department of Energy and the California Energy Commission, he returned here as Distinguished Scientist Emeritus."

For more information

President Obama Honors Nation's Top Scientists and Innovators

Berkeley Lab press release

Art Rosenfeld's website

Art's EETD staff page


 
 

 
 

 
 

Ashok Gadgil Elected to National Academy of Engineering

Environmental Energy Technologies Division Director Ashok Gadgil has been elected a member of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE).

Ashok Gadgil

Ashok Gadgil

Ashok Gadgil

Election to the NAE is among the highest professional distinctions accorded to an engineer. Academy membership honors those who have made outstanding contributions to "Engineering research, practice, or education, including, where appropriate, significant contributions to the engineering literature," and to the "pioneering of new and developing fields of technology, making major advancements in traditional fields of engineering, or developing/implementing innovative approaches to engineering education."

Gadgil was elected for his "engineering solutions to the problems of potable water and energy in underdeveloped nations."

For more information

NAE press release


One Step Closer to Hydrogen Production From Photoelectrochemical Water-Splitting

In the quest to produce an environmentally benign renewable fuel, scientists have explored many techniques to split water molecules to produce hydrogen. Still, the current photovoltaic designs are not yet technically or economically viable. Materials research in this area has been promising, but research on the engineering design of these photoelectrochemical systems has been sparse.

Sophia Haussener

Sophia Haussener

Sophia Haussener

To advance this part of the puzzle, a team including Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) researchers Sophia Haussener and Adam Weber recently conducted design research at the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP) and published their results in Energy and Environmental Sciences. The team used a validated multi-physics numerical model to examine two photochemical water-splitting designs.

The modeling revealed important information about the design impacts of these systems. For example, the use of transparent-conducting-oxide layers on top of the photoactive semiconductor resulted in smaller ohmic loss (voltage drop) across the cell. Ohmic losses were also reduced through smaller electrode lengths, larger electrolyte heights, and thinner separators. In addition, the research team found that electrolyte and product crossover, which limit the system's ability to keep the split hydrogen and oxygen molecules from recombining, was determined by the system's operational condition and pressure differentials over the system's separators. The researchers concluded that controlling the morphology of the separator could potentially reduce this crossover and improve hydrogen yields. Further research is planned.

Other team members were Chengxiang Xiang, Joshua M. Spurgeon, and Nathan S. Lewis (of the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis at the California Institute of Technology) and Shane Ardo (of the Beckman Institute and Kavli Nanoscience Institute).

For more information:

  • Sophia Haussener
  • (510) 486-6590

"Modeling, simulation, and design criteria for photoelectrochemical water-splitting systems," by Sophia Haussener, Chengxiang Xiang, Joshua M. Spurgeon, Shane Ardo, Nathan S. Lewis, and Adam Z. Weber, is available to Energy and Environmental Sciences subscribers.


What's the Cost of a Healthy Home?

California's residential ventilation requirements in Title 24 (the State energy code for buildings) are designed to balance healthy home ventilation with efficient energy use, but some studies suggest that whole-house ventilation systems don't always meet their expected performance in either category. Commissioning, a systematic evaluation of the installed system to identify deficiencies and offer solutions, can help homeowners achieve this balance. However, implementing those solutions is likely to cost money, so how should we determine whether commissioning and the recommended changes are worthwhile?

Will Turner

Will Turner

Will Turner

Using detailed thermal, airflow, and pollutant transport simulation models along with novel costing approaches, Will Turner, Jennifer Logue, and Craig Wray—three Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory researchers—explored this question. In particular, the models quantified the energy and indoor air quality impacts of malfunctioning ventilation systems on occupant health and building energy use. Two existing approaches were used in combination to monetize the impacts: a Time Dependent Valuation (TDV) approach for energy and a Disability Adjusted Life Year (DALY) approach for air quality. This method allowed a direct, apples-to-apples comparison to be made between the health and energy costs associated with correcting ventilation system deficiencies.

The research team determined that health impacts dominate energy impacts—highlighting the importance of ventilating homes to provide good indoor air quality. They recommended that the metric for commissioning ventilation systems should be the net present value of the combined energy and health benefits to the occupant. Put simply, both energy and air quality should be considered together. In order for commissioning ventilation systems to be worthwhile, the value of the combined benefits should outweigh the cost of commissioning (plus any changes made). An interesting offshoot of the research is that this new method can be used to optimize ventilation rates in homes. With a bit more work, it should be possible to set ventilation rates that maximize health benefits to occupants while using as little energy as possible.

For more information:

  • Will Turner
  • (510) 486-2036

The full article, "A Combined Energy and IAQ Assessment of the Potential Value of Commissioning Residential Mechanical Ventilation Systems," by William J.N. Turner, Jennifer M. Logue, and Craig P. Wray is available to Science Direct subscribers.


 
 

New Battery University Program to Train Workforce to Lead Fast-Growing Industry

CalCharge, an energy storage innovation accelerator, and San Jose State University, the number one supplier of graduates to Silicon Valley, are teaming up to launch a "battery university" in the high-tech capital of the world.

Battery university courses—to be offered through SJSU's professional education program—will educate a specialty workforce needed now for the rapidly growing battery industry. Classes are expected to start this summer in partnership with SJSU's engineering college. Leading scientists, entrepreneurs, industry, and policy experts met in February at SJSU to provide feedback on the vision and proposed curriculum.

There are roughly 40 battery-related companies in California working to solve energy storage challenges, which are critical to the electric vehicle sector, the solar sector, the wind sector, consumer electronics, and more.

"California is both a patent and a venture capital leader in the battery sector in the United States, but we cannot rest on our laurels," said Venkat Srinivasan, head of the Energy Storage and Distributed Resources groups at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. "Our sector is developing at such a rapid clip that if we want to maintain our leadership position, we must constantly innovate—and we need the top minds to do so."

More information: The CalCharge website

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