Energy Center

Completed Projects

The Solar Economy Integrated Education Research and Training (SEIGERT) - 2009-2014

PI Rakesh Agrawal, Chemical Engineering

This Solar Economy Integrative Graduate Education and Research Training (SEIGERT) award by the National Science Foundation supported the development of a multidisciplinary, multi-institutional graduate training program of education and research in sustainable Solar Economy at the Purdue University in collaboration with University of Delaware, University of Texas at El Paso, Sandia National Lab, National Renewable Energy Lab, Helmholtz Centre Berlin for Materials and Energy, and several industrial partners. The term 'Solar Economy' refers to a future state of affairs where nearly all the energy needed for electricity, transportation, heat, chemicals and food is based on sustainable supply of sunlight. To enable such a future state, this SEIGERT was primarily rooted in finding interdisciplinary technical solutions to the most important challenges of sun-to-electricity and sun-to-fuel within the context of harmonious coexistence with other uses of solar energy. In order to identify breakthrough technical solutions and gain a thorough insight into the complexity of a solar economy, a large number of interdisciplinary solutions were generated and rapidly assessed for their system-wide impact. The SEIGERT was designed to establish a new vision and program for integrating education and training that reveals the complexity of this system to individuals from the diverse backgrounds necessary to address future key energy challenges. The transition away from fossil fuels to a new Solar Economy necessitates major changes to the U.S. infrastructure and redefines the skill set required by our workforce. The SEIGERT program addresses this need by developing lectures, course modules, training modules, and simulation tools that define a new paradigm for interdisciplinary education and training in renewable energy.

The John Zink Hamworthy Combustion Company Graduate Fellowships - 2011-2014

PI Maureen McCann and Pankaj Sharma, Energy Center, Discovery Park

Headquartered in Tulsa, Oklahoma, John Zink is home to one of the combustion industry’s largest research and development test centers. John Zink’s emissions-control and clean-air systems function in the world’s most demanding industries—from hydrocarbon and chemical processing, to biofuels, automobile manufacturing, food processing, pulp and paper, waste management, and more. Combining practical problem solving with creative innovation, John Zink Company legacy works towards developing a generation of clean products that address the challenges of their clients and an environmentally conscious world. The John Zink Company Graduate Fellowship Fund was supported by the John Zink Company on an annual basis. The fund was designed to support full-time regularly enrolled Purdue graduate students interested in combustion research from the College of Agriculture, College of Engineering, College of Science and College of Technology. The fund provided opportunities for three students each year to work with faculty in combustion research. Nine fellowships were provided to the graduate students and their graduate advisors. Students who were selected agreed to: (1) share their resume a semester in advance of their graduation with the John Zink Company; (2) tour the world class John Zink Company R&D Test Center and manufacturing facilities in Tulsa and (3) attend one of the John Zink Institute’s combustion training classes in Tulsa at no charge. Each student was named as a “John Zink Company Scholar” and received a one-time fellowship of $5,000 and a plaque. Fellowship support was used to attend workshop, conferences, and S & E supplies.

Network for Photovoltaic Technology (NPT) - 2011-2014

PIs Mark Lundstrom and Ashraf Alam, Electrical and Computer Engineering

The Network for Photovoltaic Technology (NPT) broadly addressed challenges in photovoltaic technology—from material synthesis and device processing, device physics and modeling, material/device characterization, to reliability and module-level performance. Theory, modeling, and simulation played an integrating role in the NPT by embedding insights and understanding gained in experimental research into broadly applicable simulation capabilitie. The NPT was launched by a core team at Purdue University and with a focus on modeling and simulation and driven by an initial set of projects defined by the needs of the founding members. A close partnership with the Purdue-led, NSF-funded Network for ComputationalNanotechnology supported the NPT and provided a forum for engaging universities in the U.S. and overseas. Technology transfer via students entering the PV industry, and through education, training, and knowledge transfer via on-site meetings and through the NCN's science gateway,, were important parts of the NPT mission. In three years, the NPT achieved several milestones:

  • 23 conference papers and 12 journal papers have been published by NPT researchers
  • More than 80,000 visitors have viewed the lectures of PV fundamental posted on nanohub
  • Affiliated graduate students have received several best poster and paper awards
  • A hub for photovoltaic research and exchange has been created:
  • Collaborations with researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory are increasing
  • Significant funding from the Indo-USA PV Initiative and Department of Energy has been awarded
  • Funding agencies, national labs and industry leaders have met:

evGrandPrix - 2010-2013

PI James Caruthers, Chemical Engineering

The Purdue Electric Vehicle Grand Prix was launched in 2010 as part of Purdue’s electric vehicle initiative. Purdue partnered with the leading technical universities and colleges in Indiana to establish a program to educate and train the workforce needed to design, manufacture and maintain advanced electric vehicles. Purdue seeks to train students and the Indiana workforce to deliver and maintain the electric vehicles of tomorrow. The purpose of the Purdue evGrandPrix was to accelerate innovation through education. Using electric powered go-karts, it inspired college students to commit their creative energies to develop future electric vehicle technologies. The winner of this event was the team that best blended kart design, battery efficiency, community outreach, and race placement in the 50 lap event. The future of transportation is changing and the Purdue evGrandPrix looked to charge the innovation of personal vehicles.

Crossroads Smart Grid Training Grant - 2011-2013

PI Eric Dietz, Computer Information Technology

Purdue University, in partnership with Ivy Tech Community College, received a $4.7 million grant from the US Department of Energy to develop an education and training program designed to minimize the education-workforce gap in the electric energy sector. The focus of the training project was to bring together education and industry to develop and deploy a suite of educational/training modules and courses to meet industry needs as required for the 21st century “Smart Grid,” as well as to bring institutional experience and expertise to bear on related challenges of recruitment, retention, graduation and employment. Evolution towards a national Smart Grid occurs in the context of major national and regional energy sector workforce concerns which include:

  • Effects on grid reliability and capability with loss of knowledge and expertise due to retirements
  • skilling of the existing workforce to meet changing and increasingly technical requirements
  • the career pipeline with students interested in energy careers
  • Improving employability and retention

EcoCAR2: Plugging into the future - 2010-2013

PI Vahid Motevalli (now at Tennessee Tech University) and Peter Meckl, Mechanical Engineering

EcoCAR 2 was a three year intercollegiate engineering competition which challenged 15 universities across North America to reduce the environmental impact of a Chevrolet Malibu. This competition offered hands-on, real world experience to educate the next generation of automotive engineers. General Motors provided production vehicles, vehicle components, seed money, technical mentoring and operational support. The U.S. Department of Energy and its research and development facility, Argonne National Laboratory, provided competition management, team evaluation, technical and logistical support. The goal of this competition was to design, construct and incorporate technologies in a vehicle that reduce petroleum energy consumption, reduce well to wheel greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, reduced criteria tailpipe emissions and maintained consumer acceptability in the areas of performance, utility and safety. During the three-year program EcoCAR 2 teams followed a real-world Vehicle Development Process (VDP) modeled after GM's VDP. The VDP served as a roadmap for improving their vehicle efficiency while retaining consumer acceptability, performance and safety. Technical goals were to construct and demonstrate vehicles and powertrains that: (1) reduced fuel consumption, (2) reduced well-to-wheel greenhouse gas emissions, (3) reduced criteria tailpipe emissions, and (3) maintained consumer acceptability in the areas of performance, utility, and safety.

Center for Coal Technology Research (CCTR) - 2005-2012

PI Marty Irwin, Energy Center, Discovery Park, Purdue University

The CCTR was created by the Indiana State Legislature in 2004 and funded from 2005 to 2012 by the State of Indiana. The CCTR conducted regional meetings twice a year and conducted several research studies and widely disseminated during annual meetings and web site. The goal of CCTR was to determine suitable coal technologies which will meet the economic and environmental priorities of Indiana. Decision processes of purchasers of Indiana coals, primarily the electric utilities, need to be better understood. Technology factors that will control future coal use in Indiana, the Illinois Basin and Midwest region generally need to be assessed. Projects supported by CCTR were: (1) assessment of the quality of Indiana coals, (2) factors that affect the design and implementation of clean coal technologies in Indiana, (3) coal gasification to use Indiana coal for the production of metallurgical coke, (4) reclaiming Indiana's coal fines, (5) coal transportation infrastructure in and around Indiana, and (5) production and use of transportation fuels from Indiana coals.

The HOME - DOE Solar Decathlon Competition - 2009-2011

PI William Hutzel, Mechanical Engineering Technology

Starting in 2009, a dedicated team of Purdue University students started working towards the goal of competing in the United States Department of Energy's Solar Decathlon, a high profile international competition where 20 collegiate teams design, build, and demonstrate solar powered houses. While the competitive aspect of the Solar Decathlon was exciting, the real goal was to educate college students and the general public about sustainable communities. The competition was held on the National Mall in Washington D.C. from September 23 to October 2, 2011. The INhome finished in 2nd place overall during the competition, which consisted of 10 individual contests: architecture, market appeal, engineering, communications, affordability, comfort zone, hot water, appliances, home entertainment, and energy balance. In addition to the contests, the INhome was open to the public for tours and hosted more than 18,000 guests during its stay in our nation's capital.

Differentially Pumped Dual Linear Quadrupole Ion Trap Mass Spectrometer

PI Owen BC, Kenttämaa HI, Patent Application #61/537,949; Filing Date 9/22/2011

In collaboration with Thermo Fisher Scientific, C3Bio has developed a unique mass spectrometry system to provide structural information for molecules directly in complex mixtures, such as biomass degradation products that can consist of thousands of unknown compounds. Previous instruments used for this type of research, such as dual-cell FT-ICR mass spectrometers, are obsolete, expensive to maintain, need highly-trained operators and lack the required sensitivity and dynamic range. Identification of previously unknown compounds often requires several different types of reactions in sequence, but commercial mass spectrometers are not configured to allow sequential reactions. Thus, we combined two commercial linear quadrupole ion trap (LQIT) mass spectrometers within a differentially pumped vacuum chamber to allow for the isolation of ionized compounds from the mixture in one mass spectrometer followed by the examination of their reaction products in the first as well as the second mass spectrometer, the latter being free of all unwanted chemicals. This differentially-pumped dual linear quadrupole ion trap mass spectrometer (named TWIN) is the most versatile tandem mass spectrometer to date.

C3Bio developed the tandem MS concept and fabricated the vacuum connection piece (in Purdue’s Jonathan Amy Facility for Chemical Instrumentation) between two Thermo Fisher Scientific LQIT mass spectrometers. Thermo provided the connector design and developed the software to interface the two machines. Pending further testing, Thermo may commercialize a variant of the TWIN instrument for the life sciences and analytical chemistry market. Thermo Fisher Scientific has contributed more than $1.5M in new and reduced price equipment to the C3Bio project since 2010.
Contact: Hilka Kenttämaa, Department of Chemistry,, 765-494-0882 

Green Tech America

PI Nancy Ho, Chemical Engineering

Green Tech America (GTA) is focused on the development and commercialization of an innovative, yeast-based cellulosic ethanol technology pioneered by Prof. Nancy Ho. Based upon this technology, GTA will expand into several growth areas: marketing the Ho-Purdue yeast for cellulosic ethanol production, cellulosic ethanol production by GTA, generation and marketing of innovative new co-products produced simultaneously with cellulosic ethanol production, development of other yeast-based products and development of new renewable energy and chemicals from CO2. In addition, GTA will provide technical assistance to cellulosic ethanol producers and collaborate with ethanol and cellulosic ethanol producers to produce and market additional co-products using GTA’s new cellulosic ethanol yeast derived from the Ho-Purdue Yeast.

Contact: Nancy Ho, Chemical Engineering,, 765-588-3834, 

John Zink Company scholarships

Purdue University’s Energy Center and the John Zink Company are collaborating on three $5,000 interdisciplinary graduate research fellowships focusing on combustion. Based in Tulsa, the international company operates three separate test facilities, to create one of the combustion industry’s largest research and development operations. Its emissions-control and clean-air technologies are used in industries such as hydrocarbon and chemical processing, biofuels, automobile manufacturing, food processing, pulp and paper, and waste management.

Contact Pankaj Sharma, Energy Center, Discovery Park,, 765-496-7452

Network for Photovoltaic Technology

PI Mark Lundstrom, Electrical and Computer Engineering

Purdue University is leading a new research center to improve photovoltaic solar cells as part of a national effort to bring alternative energy technologies to the marketplace. The Network for Photovoltaic Technology is led by Ashraf Alam, professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Mark Lundstrom, the Don and Carol Scifres Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering. The work, which is being funded by the Semiconductor Research Corporation, addresses performance, cost, reliability and manufacturing challenges of photovoltaic cells, which convert sunlight into electricity. Participating Industry leaders include ABB, Applied Materials, Bosch, First Solar, IBM and Tokyo Electron.

Contact Mark Lundstrom, Electrical and Computer Engineering,, 765-494-3515

About the Energy Center

The Center’s mission is to grow the Purdue energy research and education enterprise. We engage researchers and students in a community that delivers new discoveries and develops disruptive technologies with national and global impact.


Maureen McCann

Director, Energy Center,
Global Sustainability Institute

Pankaj Sharma

Managing Director, Energy Center,
Global Sustainability Institute

Mann Hall, Rm 105
203 South Martin Jischke Dr.
Purdue University
West Lafayette, IN 47907-1971