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Climate and Energy Challenge Research

Current Projects

The Productivity of Polar Marine Systems and Their Response to Global Change

Productivity of Marine Systems

High latitude oceans are major contributors to global primary production providing substantive food webs and a high degree of carbon sequestration. However, there is a need to better understand the mechanisms responsible for this productivity. Therefore, Morel and his team are researching phytoplankton blooms in these oceans and their response to global change. more>>
Self Assembled Film Injected Battery

Film Injected Battery

Batteries provide excellent storage capabilities, but have always had limitations within couplings of lifetime stability, energy and power. Dan Steingart and his team believe they can break this coupling with a new fuel cell design that leverages traditional battery materials. In their new design they are trying to minimize the reactor volume to maximize power through thin film assembly and disassembly. more>>
Climate Syndromes of Seasonality

Climate Syndromes

This project seeks to understand climate syndromes of seasonality from both ecological and atmospheric perspectives. Initial research by David Medvigy and his team is focusing on seasonally dry tropical forests in Costa Rica, Mexico, Colombia, and Brazil. These particular forests are expected to be strongly impacted by climate change. more>>
Southern Ocean Observations and Modeling

Urban Solutions

In an effort to bridge the environmental sciences, architecture, and the humanities, Mario Gandelsonas and Bruno Carvalho explore how scientists, writers, planners, and designers have attempted to rethink traditional city/nature dichotomies. Their goal is to reassess and better understand the role of cities in the environment as part of the search for solutions to climate and energy challenges. more>>
Southern Ocean Observations and Modeling

The Role of the Southern Ocean

There is a growing consensus in Earth System research that the Southern Ocean is a critical and under-measured gateway between the deep ocean and the surface ocean and the atmosphere. Jorge Sarmiento is spearheading a team to revolutionize Southern Ocean observations and modeling in this remote and inhospitable region of the world. more>>
Synthesis and Characterization of Novel Photocatalysts for Solar Water Splitting and Carbon Dioxide Reduction to Fuels

Solar Fuels

Bruce Koel’s group is conducting basic research on the synthesis and characterization of novel photocatalysis for solar water splitting and carbon dioxide reduction to fuels. Improved utilization of solar energy particularly the development of solar fuels is key to addressing future energy needs. more>>
Sargasso Sea Study

Sargasso Sea Study

Daniel Sigman and his team are researching ocean productivity in the Sargasso Sea under conditions of rising CO2 in the atmosphere and increased warming of ocean surface waters. Field research will provide students with a hands-on introduction to oceanography and research methodology. more>>

Drought and the Carbon Cycle

Forest mortality can lead to a large release of CO2, which can impact climate, as well as changes in species dominance. Steve Pacala, Kelly Caylor, and Adam Wolf aim to develop a predictive model of plant water use and drought mortality that hinges on knowing the competition among plants for water below ground. more>>

Rainforest Research Institute

David Medvigy and Lars Hedin are creating the PIRANHA Consortium, a tropical rainforest research community of Princeton faculty, undergraduates, and GFDL researchers to conduct integrated biological, biogeochemical, and atmospheric investigations of rainforests and impacts from large-scale deforestation. more>>

Biofuels & Combustion Sensing

Gerard Wysocki and Yiguang Ju are developing a novel in-situ sensing method to detect key species in biofuel combustion and creating a new course on cleaner transport fuels, combustion sensing, and emission control. more >>
Water Rock

Water-Rock Interactions

John Higgins is using an experimental rock autoclave system to study how weathering reactions at Earth’s surface and in deep-sea hydrothermal systems impact global climate on geologic timescales. Higgins is developing a new lab-based undergraduate course on analytical techniques in the environmental and engineering sciences. more >>
Vertical Turbine

Vertical Axis Wind Farms

Wind is an abundant and increasingly adopted source of clean, renewable energy. Elie Bou-Zeid and Alexander Smits are working on the optimization of vertical axis wind turbines from the scale of the individual-blade to the scale of large wind farms. more >>
Metabolic Rate Processes of Plants

Plant Metabolic Rate Processes

Michael Bender is studying the processes of photosynthesis and respiration in land plants. With the acquisition of a cavity ringdown spectrometer, Bender is developing education materials centered around variations in the CO2 concentration of local air and isotopic composition.
more >>
Microfluidics on Heavy Metals

Microbial Fuel Cells

Howard Stone is conducting research on microbial fuel cells using methods of microfluidics. Stone is also creating interdisciplinary modules for mathematical modeling to enhance an applied mathematics course required of all engineering undergraduates. more >>
Lichao Cahi and Desalination,


Desalination is a core technology in the quest for providing humankind with access to fresh water. Sankaran Sundaresan and colleagues are exploring the feasibility of desalination via formation of clathrate hydrates to address the water challenge, while also lowering energy demand.
more >>
Climate Computing

Accessible Climate Computing

Jaswinder Singh and Venkatramani Balaji are integrating the leading climate research being done at GFDL with the scalable computing expertise on the Princeton campus. A new upper-level application-driven course on parallel computing is being developed, with climate modeling being a driving application area. more >>
Craig Arnold

Alternative Energy Storage

Craig Arnold is developing high-capacity, extended-life energy storage devices for use with solar and wind technologies. Undergraduates in Arnold’s new freshman seminar course examine how energy is used, generated, stored and converted, and explore emerging energy alternatives.
more >>
Daniel Sigman

Turbulent Boundary Layers

Elie Bou-Zeid, Robert Hallberg, Pino Martin, and Alexander Smits use computer simulations and data from wind tunnel experiments to refine the representation of lower atmosphere flows at night and over ice with implications for modeling surface-atmosphere energy exchange and pollutant dispersion. more >>
Lars Hedin

Tropical Ecosystems

Lars Hedin seeks to understand how tropical land ecosystems function within the coupled earth-climate-energy system. The course Ecosystems and Global Change was revised to include a fall break trip to Panamanian tropical forests to address their role and influence on the Earth’s changing climate. more >>
Catherine Peters

Carbon Sequestration

Catherine Peters exposes students to cutting-edge carbon capture and sequestration technology with a goal of bridging the gap between scientists who study geological processes and build models to predict CO2 leakage, and decision-makers in the public and private-sectors. more >>
Daniel Sigman

Ocean Nutrients & Climate

Daniel Sigman is investigating the interaction between biogeochemical cycles and the Earth’s physical climate, in the past, the present, and into the future. Sigman’s group has demonstrated the existence of an internal biological feedback within the ocean to stabilize its inventory of nutrient nitrogen and fertility over time. more >>
Greening IT faculty

Greening IT: Phone to Data

Mung Chiang, Michael Freedman, Margaret Martonosi, and Jennifer Rexford are developing innovations to reduce the energy consumption of information technology. The team has created techniques to lower data center electricity use while improving efficiency. The team received a $100,000 Google Innovations Award. more >>
Ocean acidification

Ocean Acidification Effects

The Morel group examines the impact of increasing atmospheric CO2 and the resulting ocean acidification on the marine biota. The project has demonstrated that decreasing seawater pH results in a lower bioavailability of iron to phytoplankton that represent nearly half of primary production on Earth. more >>
Emily Carter

Harvesting Solar Energy

Emily Carter uses Quantum mechanics methods to create more efficient and inexpensive solar cells. The project demonstrated band-gap engineering of nickel and manganese oxides. Carter received external funding from the Dept. of Energy and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research to continue this work. more >>
Bernard Haykel

Oil, Energy, and the Middle East

Bernard Haykel integrates faculty expertise on Middle Eastern resources, economics and politics. The initiative sponsors a postdoctoral research program and has produced a multi-year lecture series involving over 20 speakers with science, engineering, international relations, policy, and industry expertise. more >>
Michael Oppenheimer

Climate Change & Agriculture

Michael Oppenheimer and David Wilcove model interactions among agriculture, climate change, and biodiversity variables in South Africa. Preliminary projections indicate that the dry land wheat-growing region of South Africa’s Western Cape will contract in response to climate change, with implications for biodiversity and conservation efforts. more >>