Cornell, startup receive $7M for novel clean energy tech

Cornell researchers and a startup have received more than $7 million in federal grants to advance novel clean energy research that includes wirelessly charging electric vehicles, low-carbon jet fuel and construction materials made from waste.

Doctoral students, from left, Sounak Maji and Maida Farooq and postdoctoral researcher Sreyam Sinha work to develop a wireless power transfer system in the lab of Khurram Afridi, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, far right.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced the grants Feb. 16 from the U.S. Department of Energy Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). The grants prioritize funding technologies that support fresh approaches to clean energy challenges as part of the ARPA-E OPEN 2021 program.

Schumer said in a statement that the cutting-edge research being conducted at Cornell and in Ithaca is integral to the fight against climate change.

“I am proud to deliver this $7 million federal investment that will supercharge our efforts to deliver critical clean energy solutions and create good paying jobs right here in upstate New York,” Schumer said. “From the push to decarbonize 100% of its buildings to the groundbreaking research being done at Cornell University, many are now recognizing what I have long known: Ithaca is paving the way to a greener and gorges future.”

The research and technologies funded are:

Field-Focused Load-Leveled Dynamic Wireless Charging System for Electric Vehicles – $1.425 million

Led by Khurram Afridi, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering. Co-PIs include Francesco Monticone, assistant professor, and Lang Tong, the Irwin And Joan Jacobs Professor of Engineering, both from the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

The project seeks to develop a breakthrough wireless charging system for stationary and dynamic charging of electric vehicles (EVs). By enabling effective stationary and dynamic wireless charging of EVs, this project has the potential to drastically reduce the need for expensive and bulky on-board batteries, enable unlimited range and accelerate EV market penetration.

Advancing a Low-Carbon Built Environment with Inherent Utilization of Waste Concrete and CO2 via Integrated Electrochemical, Chemical and Biological Routes – $2.5 million

Led by Greeshma Gadikota, Croll Sesquicentennial Fellow and assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering. Co-PIs include Buz Barstow, assistant professor of biological and environmental engineering in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

The project will harness low-cost renewable electricity to produce cementitious materials using waste construction residues and carbon dioxide emissions. The technology, known as ADVENT, would replace thermally intensive processes for producing construction materials with integrated electrochemical and chemical approaches that utilize carbon dioxide emissions and construction and demolition materials.

3D-Printed Ceramic Thermocatalytic CO2 Reactor with High Carbon Conversion and Energy Efficiencies – $3.1 million

Led by Dimensional Energy, a Cornell startup co-founded by Jason Salfi ’92, David Erickson, the S.C. Thomas Sze Director of the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, and Tobias Hanrath, the Marjorie L. Hart ’50 Professor in the Smith School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.

The project will use additive manufacturing systems to 3D print ceramic components for innovative chemical reactors that can run on low-carbon electricity sources. Dimensional Energy’s innovative reactors convert carbon dioxide into a feedstock chemical that can be further processed into a low-carbon, synthetic jet fuel.

“The number of Cornell Engineering projects funded through this competitive process demonstrates the high level of innovation we are applying to the global challenge of lowering humanity's carbon footprint,” said Lynden Archer, the Joseph Silbert Dean of Engineering. “We are grateful to Senator Schumer for his commitment to scientific research and his steadfast support of ARPA-E, which accelerates the technological advances necessary to address our world's most pressing problems.”

Gadikota’s funding is related to a Cornell Atkinson Rapid Response Fund and Erikson received early funding from a Cornell Atkinson Academic Venture Fund.

Syl Kacapyr is PR and content manager for the College of Engineering.

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Rebecca Valli