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Energy Engineering Research

Energy is a major determinant of world events and quality of life. Addressing the relevant challenges and opportunities requires not only application of the full spectrum of engineering disciplines but also recognition of the social, political, and economic contexts.

Aims of energy engineering research at Dartmouth include increasing the efficiency of energy conversion, storage, transmission, and utilization, accelerating the transition to sustainable energy sources, and improving access to and management of energy systems.

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Dartmouth supports a non-departmental structure that highlights the intersection between energy and biological and chemical, electrical and computer, mechanical, operations and systems, and materials engineering. Graduate engineering students are expected to propose a plan of study that supports their interests, potentially including distinctive intellectual paths unconstrained by disciplinary boundaries and enriched by interdisciplinary synergies.

We foster accessible communities among students and faculty within Thayer School as well as across campus—including at Dartmouth’s Irving Institute for Energy and Society—and involving researchers and practitioners from around the US and the world.

The following research sub-areas have been strategically chosen to address key challenges and opportunities and are supported by leading faculty in their fields.

Biomass Energy

Providing 10% of today’s global primary energy, plant biomass-derived fuels (biofuels) are widely thought to be the leading alternative available for decarbonizing aviation, long-haul trucking, and ocean shipping. Because biofuels require land, their production has strong linkages to food security, rural economic development, and land-based ecological services.

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Research Subfields

Microbial cellulose utilization, including fundamental and applied aspects

Metabolic engineering, focusing on thermophilic bacteria for fuel production

Innovative biomass processing technologies, including development, design, and evaluation

Sustainable bioenergy futures, including analysis of resource, environmental, and social development aspects

Researchers

Energy Materials

Materials play a critical role in energy production, storage and utilization. These include high temperature alloys for power plants, semiconductor materials for solar panels, magnetic materials for wind turbines, battery materials for energy storage, and optoelectronic materials for energy-efficient data centers, to name a few. Through the investigation of structure-property relationship, fundamental materials science leads to the discovery of new materials that boost the efficiency of energy systems and the deployment of renewable energy sources.

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Research Subfields

High temperature materials

Magnetic materials

Solar materials and other optoelectronic/nanophotonic materials

Battery materials and electrochemistry

Materials for nuclear fuel

Thermoelectric Materials

Functional nanomaterials design and synthesis

Researchers

Energy Systems

Systems research involves a holistic approach to a class of systems characterized by a high degree of technical complexity, social intricacy and elaborate processes aimed at fulfilling important functions in society. At their core, engineering systems integrate multiple technologies which often exhibit complex dynamics at multiple time scales. These dynamics necessitate the need for similarly complex layers of control, decision, and information technologies so that they may sustainably, reliably, and economically deliver their intended services.

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Research Subfields

Smart power grids

Energy platforms

Energy internet-of-things

Bio-energy

The food-energy-water nexus

Electrified transportation systems

Industrial energy management

Integrated smart city infrastructures

Big data analytics

Researchers

Power Electronics

The capability of power electronics to control and convert electrical energy is essential to the use of many modern high-efficiency components such as LED lighting and brushless motors as well as interfacing renewable energy sources to the power grid.

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Research Subfields

Integrated circuit design for power electronics

Resonant switched capacitor (ReSC) and other advanced power converter topologies

Applications in battery management, photovoltaics, and digital systems

Magnetics and passive component modeling, design and optimization

Wireless power transfer

Microfabrication of power magnetics for integrated power conversion

Researchers

Sustainable Design

Sustainable design seeks to re-engineer material culture for a future of health and beauty for coming generations. This means optimizing buildings, products, and other industrial systems to eliminate their burden on the world and ideally help revive beneficial natural and social systems. This also means quantitatively measuring environmental and social impacts through life-cycle assessment, certifications, and other metrics.

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Research Subfields

Efficient power electronics

Engineering biomaterials

Mechanical performance of natural materials

Measuring environmental transport processes

Environmental fluid mechanics

Green additive manufacturing (3D printing)

Sustainable design methods

Researchers