April 15, 2011 | Faculty
Dr. Dan Steingart Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering at the Grove School of Engineering (CCNY), is a native New Yorker. But after spending most of his adult life on the West Coast—the Bay Area, more specifically— he’s realizing there’s some validity to the clichéd expression that everything here happens in “a New York minute.”
After just four semesters at CUNY, Steingart has been making great strides for the Chemical Engineering department. In addition to securing three federally funded and three state funded grants on advanced battery research, he helped launch the brand new entrepreneurship contest for engineering students who want to turn their business ideas into successful start-ups (see page 9). Steingart is heading the program, and he’s now busy making preparations for the first group of students who will spend this summer immersed in a state-of-the-art prototyping lab on the CCNY campus. The contest aspires to be a “Silicon Valley” garage-like environment. Steingart should feel right at home.
After completing his PhD in Materials Science at UC Berkeley, Steingart created a start-up company with his Berkeley adviser, Jim Evans, called Wireless Industrial Technologies (WIT). The company, based in Berkeley, allowed Steingart to apply his engineering and materials science background in a practical manner—using wireless mesh networks to enhance electrical efficiency and reduce emissions in large metals production plants. After two years with WIT, he joined another Bay Area start-up doing the same sensor work, but in a more general environment.
Steingart’s ‘real-world experience’ was rewarding, and it helped him secure his faculty position at CCNY. “They wanted someone who was going to make something. Specifically, someone who could make big batteries,” Steingart said.
Dan’s PhD research focused on batteries and real-world applications. He sees his new position at CCNY as a chance to make significant impacts in power production by improving the efficiency of batteries. He looks forward to continuing to work closely with his students in the Printed/Electrochemical Engineering Lab (P/EEL). Steingart believes that, similar to a start-up, the success of the P/EEL depends on collaboration— not just in the lab but also throughout the department.
The P/EEL is part of the CUNY Energy Institute, of which Steingart is a founding member. It is one of the few labs working on large-scale battery testing and fabrication. In conjunction with the labs of Energy Institute Director Sanjoy Banerjee and Associate Professor Stephen O’Brien, another member of the Energy Institute, the lab is now working on both of CUNY’s recent Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) grants.
The overall goal of engineering large-scale batteries is to solve large energy problems for urban settings, like New York City. For example, large-scale batteries could be used to run apartment buildings for a day, and combined with energy efficiency, an entire week. With environmental concerns at an all-time high, emission-free power like this is extremely attractive. “It’s modular and cheap, and we’re pretty far along,” Steingart added.
Pretty far along in part because of the quick and well- organized way the P/EEL has been able to print, test, and analyze battery electrodes. Work has progressed so well that these new batteries could be tested for real-world use in just two years. Efficient indeed and reassuring for what is to come.