News at Princeton

Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014
 

Science & Technology Story

Princeton researchers join nationwide project to boost energy efficiency of buildings

Princeton University researchers will participate in a $122 million research project sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to develop technologies and educational programs to make buildings more energy efficient. 

Scientists from Princeton's School of Engineering and Applied Science and the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) will receive a combined total of $4 million in funding over the next five years as participants in a new national Energy Innovation Hub.

The project, led by Pennsylvania State University and based at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, brings together researchers from universities, national laboratories and private industry to find ways to reduce energy use in buildings, which now accounts for 40 percent of U.S. energy consumption and carbon emissions. It is one of three energy innovation hubs that will receive funding from DOE in fiscal year 2010.

"The Energy Innovation Hubs are a key part of our effort to harness the power of American ingenuity to achieve transformative energy breakthroughs," U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu said in an announcement about the funding. "By bringing together some of our brightest minds, we can develop cutting-edge building energy-efficiency technologies that will reduce energy bills, cut carbon pollution and create jobs."

Researchers from Princeton's engineering school will focus on developing sensors for measuring how energy flows through buildings, and on creating computerized systems that can use that information to better manage how homes are heated and cooled.

At PPPL, Andrew Zwicker, the head of science education, will oversee the creation of education programs to train people about energy-efficiency technology and systems.

This effort will include developing educational models to integrate the project's research activities into teaching in high schools and colleges, as well as incorporating energy-efficient building systems concepts into current job training for workers.

"We are delighted to be part of this hub, and in training the next generation in energy-efficient technologies," said PPPL Director Stewart Prager.

David August, an associate professor of computer science at Princeton who will work on the research team, noted that the project will require extensive collection and analysis of data on current energy usage. 

"Buildings account for 40 percent of this nation's carbon footprint," August said. "First we need to understand how buildings use energy.  We plan to outfit existing buildings with enough sensors to account for every bit of energy flow. I look forward to the insight we will derive from this explosion of information."

The researchers plan to focus on developing technologies that can be used in many different types of buildings. "We're especially interested in finding ways to retrofit older buildings, because they represent a huge portion of the energy use in the United States," said Naveen Verma, an assistant professor of electrical engineering at Princeton who will participate in the research.

Niraj Jha, James Sturm and Sigurd Wagner, all professors of electrical engineering at Princeton, also will work on the project.

Other organizations participating in the project are Bayer Material Science, Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeast Pennsylvania, Carnegie Mellon University, Collegiate Consortium, Delaware Valley Industrial Resource Center, Drexel University, IBM Corp., Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Morgan State University, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation, PPG Industries, Purdue University, Rutgers University, Turner Construction, United Technologies Corp., University of Pennsylvania, University of Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech and Wharton Small Business Development Center.

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