Undergraduate Summer Research in Sustainable Energy
Lewis Funding for Undergraduate Summer Research Available
DOE NETL Gas Turbine Industrial Fellowship Program
Energy Grand Challenge
Contact Person: Pascale Maloof Poussart, Ph.D,
The Next Generation Jet Fuel Program
The NGJFP is launching an undergraduate research program for those who have completed sophomore year before June of 2009 with science and/or engineering backgrounds (including some thermodynamics) interested in energy technologies and energy systems. Summer support will be provided for up to five students, who will be encouraged to carry on their research into the academic year as independent research or senior thesis projects. (For those pursuing an undergraduate Certificate in Sustainable Energy, the work will satisfy part or all of the research requirement for the certificate.) The student members of the NGJFP research team during the summer, will interact regularly with fellow students pursuing parallel interests as well as with their research supervisors. Candidate research topics are described below, illustrating current interests of the NGJFP. Topics may be adjusted depending on students’ interests and progress.
Students interested in a summer position with the NGJFP should email their resume and course transcript toNextGJFP@princeton.edu. Inquiries will be considered until positions are filled. Both thermochemical processing of carbon-containing energy resources with carbon capture and storage and alternative liquid fuels derived from renewably-grown biomass through bio-refining offer potential for producing liquid transportation fuels, including aircraft fuels. The project is performing detailed studies on the former approach, and it is important to also understand the relative merits of alternative approaches. In all cases and especially for aircraft fuels, it is highly desirable that the final products are essentially “drop-in” replacements for petroleum-derived products.
1) One option getting considerable attention is bio-oil from the seeds of Jatropha plants. The goal of the Jatropha summer project is to prepare a report that reviews the state-of-the art of Jatropha oil for aviation fuel applications. The review would describe what is known about cultivation of Jatropha, processes for extracting and converting Jatropha oils into aircraft fuels, and current research and tests on burning properties and emissions from aircraft engines. The work will seek to quantify such factors as 1) potential yields per hectare of Jatropha oil in different regions of the U.S., 2) estimates of land areas potentially available for Jatropha cultivation in the U.S., 3) lifecycle energy and carbon inputs required for Jatropha cultivation and processing into aircraft fuel, and 4) combustion properties of Jatropha-derived aircraft fuels.
2) Another plant-derived oil receiving attention today is that extracted from Camelina seeds. The goal of this summer project would be to prepare a report that reviews the state-of-the art of Camelina as a potential source of aviation fuel. The review would describe what is known about cultivation of Camelin, processes for extracting and converting Camelina oils into aircraft fuels, and current research and tests on burning properties and emissions from aircraft engines. The work will seek to quantify such factors as 1) potential yields per hectare of Camelina oil in different regions of the U.S., 2) estimates of land areas potentially available for Camelina cultivation in the U.S., 3) lifecycle energy and carbon inputs required for Camelina cultivation and processing into aircraft fuel, and 4) combustion properties of Camelina-derived aircraft fuels.
3) A third potential biological source of aviation fuel that is also receiving attention today is algae. The goal of this summer project would be to prepare a report that reviews the state-of the art of algae as a potential source for aviation fuel. The review would describe what is known about cultivation of algae, processes for extracting and converting algae oils into aircraft fuels, and current research and tests on burning properties and emissions from aircraft engines. The work will seek to quantify such factors as 1) potential yields of algae oil per unit area in different regions of the U.S., 2) estimates of area potentially available for algae cultivation in the U.S., 3) lifecycle energy and carbon inputs required for algae cultivation and processing into aircraft fuel, and 4) combustion properties of algae-derived aircraft fuels. The review will consider both algae derived from fossil fuel CO2 and algae derived from atmospheric CO2 and address the relative challenges of using each of these CO2 sources.
4) Alternatives to plant-derived oil paths to aviation fuels are those which process woody biomass, herbaceous biomass, and/or coal thermochemically and also apply carbon capture and storage as a means of achieving low carbon footprint fuels. In these processes, the biomass and/or coal are first converted into a mixture of gases (primarily CO, H2, and CH4) via gasification before further chemical processing over catalysts to form liquid fuels. A variety of different gasifier designs are under development. The goal of this summer project is to prepare a report describing the state-of-the-art of gasification technology that utilizes plasma torches to provide the requisite heating for gasification. Mass and energy balances should be quantified, and key design and operational features of such systems would be described in detail.
5) A key challenge to utilizing woody biomass resources from forests is transporting the material from forests to a conversion facility. Conventionally, this is done by truck or rail, but these approaches may not be optimal for retrieving materials from forests. Some have proposed utilizing lighter-than-air vehicles (LTAVs) for this purpose, so as to reduce public access road construction, etc. into such environments. The goal of this summer project is to review the state-of-the-art of LTAV technology and develop an engineering design for an LTAV capable of transporting biomass such as collected forest thinnings. Energy requirements for operating the LTAV and payload capacities will be estimated.
6) A central focus of the NGJFP is analyses of systems that can provide Fischer-Tropsch liquid (FTL) fuels (i.e., synthetic diesel, aircraft fuel, and gasoline) with near-zero carbon foot print. The systems being analyzed coprocess coal and biomass with capture and long-term storage underground of CO2 produced as a major coproduct (accounting for half of the carbon in the feedstocks). Near-zero GHG emissions can be realized by exploiting the negative emissions arising from storing photosynthetic CO2 to offset coal-derived CO2 emissions from the conversion facility and vehicle exhaust. There are vast reserves of low-cost coal in the Rocky Mountain region (e.g., Montana, Wyoming), where a significant fraction of a domestic U.S. FTL industry might be sited. But 3 FTL plants require considerable quantities of water for their operation, and these states have limited water resources. The goal of this project would be to assess current and prospective water supplies in the region and current and prospective demands for water, including possible water demand for a growing FTL industry. Water demands for FTL plants would be estimated both by reviewing literature on this topic and by making estimates from mass and energy balance simulations of FTL plants that have already been carried out by NGJFP researchers. The student would identify and describe both qualitatively and quantitatively (to the extent feasible) options for reducing the largest water consumers for FTL systems, giving particular attention to water for cooling and alternatives to evaporative cooling.
Contact Person: Frederick L. Dryer, Professor