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GCEP efforts spin-off into major cleantech research centers
September 25, 2012
BY MARK SHWARTZ
Many of the exciting discoveries and technologies developed at GCEP have blossomed into large-scale research programs at Stanford and other leading institutions. In this section, we feature several follow-on projects with deep roots in GCEP, including four new research centers sponsored by the Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Science Foundation (NSF).
Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP)
Based at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif., JCAP brings together more than 120 scientists and engineers from Caltech and its lead partner, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The center is led by Caltech Professor Nate Lewis, a former GCEP research theme leader in solar energy. In 2007, Lewis and several Caltech colleagues received a three-year GCEP award to develop a photoconversion system that uses sunlight to split water into oxygen and hydrogen.
"The work sponsored by GCEP was really the underpinning of what became the foundations of JCAP," Lewis said. "[GCEP] allowed us to take our concepts in the early stages and start to see ways to reduce them to practice and make them real. Then when we had this tangible outcome, we could leverage that into an entire DOE center devoted to expanding, developing and building on a technology that was at its inception really created with GCEP support."
Center on Nanostructuring for Efficient Energy Conversion (CNEEC)
CNEEC is led by Stanford engineering Professors Fritz Prinz and Stacey Bent, past recipients of GCEP research grants. According to Prinz, the findings that resulted from his GCEP program on photosynthesis played a crucial role in establishing the new DOE center. "There is no doubt about it, CNEEC has its origin in GCEP," he said.
Center for Ultra-wide-area Resilient Electric Energy Transmission Networks (CURENT)
The center is led by UT Professor Kevin Tomsovic, principal investigator on a GCEP-funded effort to integrate solar, wind and other renewables into the electric grid. The GCEP program also includes investigators from Northeastern University and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, which have since joined the CURENT partnership with UT. The work done at GCEP helped the researchers compete successfully for NSF/DOE funding, Tomsovic said, adding that the new center "will allow us to more fully evaluate the concepts developed [at GCEP]."
Bay Area Photovoltaic Consortium (BAPVC)
Established in 2011 with a five-year, $25 million award from DOE, BAPVC is an industry-supported program led by Stanford and the University of California-Berkeley to dramatically reduce the installed price of utility-scale photovoltaic systems by 2020. "Our goal is to develop low-cost solar cells that can go into production within the decade," said John Benner, BAPVC executive director.
The consortium includes several GCEP researchers, including BAPVC co-director Yi Cui, a Stanford engineering professor; and the BAPVC executive board includes GCEP corporate sponsors, GE and DuPont. "GCEP had a big role in producing the culture that prompted the BAPVC to be conceived and proposed in the first place," Benner explained.
Stanford Center for Carbon Storage (SCCS)
For large-scale CO2 storage and sequestration to become a reality, a broad range of fundamental scientific questions must be addressed. To meet that challenge, Benson and her colleagues in the Stanford School of Earth Sciences established SCCS, a scientific collaboration that investigates key questions relating to CO2 sequestration in saline aquifers; shale and coal formations; and mature or depleted oil and gas reservoirs.
Building on the successful CO2 storage research undertaken by Benson and nearly two-dozen other GCEP-sponsored investigators, SCCS scientists have adopted a multidisciplinary approach to tackle critical scientific issues relating to sequestration.
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