The Center for Sustainable Energy at Notre Dame (ND Energy) is dedicated to supporting energy related research and moving toward sustainable energy solutions. It is essentially a hub for all energy related research, enabling affiliated faculty members to discover and collaborate on research projects that may result in new or improved energy technologies and systems. We visited with Dr. Ian Lightcap, Senior Scientist, at his Nieuwland Science Hall office to hear about the research and impacts of ND Energy.
ND Energy grew from the Notre Dame Energy Center, a college-level center established in 2005, and the Sustainable Energy Initiative (SEI), a Strategic Research Investment funded by the University in 2010, to a University-wide research center under the auspices of the Office of the Vice President for Research. More than $10 million was invested in new faculty and in starting ND Energy. The Materials Characterization Facility (MCF), a shared-used facility, was also created from the SEI and is home to seventeen instruments and multiple custom setups. There is a broad range of research currently going on based on ND Energy’s users, totaling over 150 researchers. Dr. Joan Brennecke is doing research on energy-related ionic liquid applications, Dr. Seth Brown is studying catalysis and decreased energy input, Dr. Prashant Kamat is researching solar energy, and Dr. Jason Hicks is investigating biofeedstocks.
Dr. Lightcap feels that ND Energy is unique because of the interactions between affiliated faculty and the increase in collaboration in high-quality energy research. He foresees that interdisciplinary research will be further boosted once the new research building under construction in the Hesburgh Library parking lot is completed. Sustainability is a key component to all of the work that ND Energy does. They are “into the nuts and bolts of how to make processes more energy efficient through innovation.” The group also has a “culture of sustainability,” in which they are motivated by the recognition that they are working on something that can have huge impact. Dr. Lightcap summed up ND Energy, “The best way to make a difference on a large scale is to innovate and create technologies lower the demand for energy and can effectively convert and produce energy where we didn’t have it before.” Ultimately, ND Energy’s mission carries valuable goals such as facilitating energy awareness and innovation, and building a community of scholarship in energy related research.
For more information about the MCF, visit: mcf.nd.edu, and to learn more about ND Energy, visit: energy.nd.edu.