ESE Faculty Making News, Progress on Sustainable Energy

As renewable energy solutions become more important than ever, several faculty members in ISD’s Master of Engineering in Energy Systems Engineering (ESE) program are making headlines for their trailblazing research and expertise on sustainability.

In a recent issue of Environmental Science and Technology, ISD instructors Gregory Keoleian and Levi Thompson – along with graduate student Maryam Arbabzadeh and an interdisciplinary team of sustainability experts and engineers from U-M – published an article entitled “12 Principles for Green Energy Storage in Grid Applications,” which introduces the most important guidelines researchers and designers should consider when designing and operating energy storage systems. The project, funded by a National Science Foundation grant authored by Thompson, provides a framework intended to be “universally applicable to all energy storage technologies” and designed to create improved environmental outcomes.

“The timing of this project is very good,” Keoleian told the U-M Energy Institute. “We’re entering into a time of hopefully even more attention to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. One of the key strategies to achieve that [goal] is more deployment of renewable energy.”

For Thompson, who teaches courses on hydrogen technology and fuel cells at ISD, the project represents just one of many on sustainable energy storage. He was also featured on WJR’s Greening of the Great Lakes and on MLive for his cutting-edge research on emerging storage technologies like flow batteries and nanomaterials. Among his talking points, Thompson discussed the advantages of an interdisciplinary approach to energy solutions.

“We don’t think of it in terms of just being chemical engineering or just being chemistry or mechanical engineering. There are some areas that cut across all of those disciplines, and it’s given us opportunities to address problems that maybe years ago we were not able to address as efficiently,” he said.

Joining Thompson and Keoleian in the news is Greenhouse Gas Control instructor Christian Lastoskie, who was recently quoted in The Economist’s Technology Quarterly for his insight on life-cycle assessment (LCA) in manufacturing. Entitled “New Materials for Manufacturing: Material Difference,” the article discusses LCA?s potentially favorable environmental impact, as well as Lastoskie?s 2014 project examining the life cycle of conventional lithium-ion and solid-state batteries.

Likewise, ESE program director Dr. Suljo Linic has published a number of recent articles on sustainable energy generation and conversion (among other areas), including a study on solid oxide fuel cells in the April 2016 issue of Applied Catalysis B: Environmental. Dr. Linic, who won the 2014 American Chemistry Society (ACS) Catalysis Lectureship award, teaches two different ESE courses in addition to his directorship.

With instructors like Linic, Keoleian, Thompson, and Lastoskie providing high-level, cross-disciplinary expertise, the ESE program offers students a rare educational opportunity in the realm of sustainable energy. Courses such as Sustainable Energy Systems – taught by Keoleian – allow students to examine current energy systems, consider alternatives, and present strategies for improving those systems through collaborative projects. And the degree is offered entirely online, providing a level of flexibility seldom seen in programs of similar caliber – enabling its expert faculty to interact with students, and ultimately drive change, in every corner of the world.