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Founded in 2008 by CUNY’s board of trustees, the Energy Institute produces top-notch research and develops sustainable-energy technologies that have practical applications.

The institute develops innovative approaches that provide the central elements of a sustainable-energy strategy that reduces oil consumption and greenhouse-gas emissions. The strategy envisions electricity generated from renewable but intermittently available resources such as the sun, wind and waves and from low-carbon-emitting sources, including nuclear power, fossil fuels and carbon sequestration. The excess off-peak energy generated would be efficiently stored and regenerated to power largely electric, energy-efficient transportation and to provide power for residential and industrial use. The institute also educates and mentors the next generation of top-quality energy scientists and engineers.

The institute’s vision offers a viable alternative to the national focus on hydrogen as an energy storage and distribution medium by proposing to capitalize on the enhancement and development of the infrastructure for electricity production, storage and distribution. The institute is multidisciplinary, and students have access to the resources of the full university.

The institute is focusing on the development of electrochemical energy-storage systems such as rechargeable fuel cells and solid-state and flow batteries that have unprecedented energy and power densities, rapid charge rates, high round-trip efficiencies, low costs, long lives and large scales.

The lab is the institute’s major program that focuses on developing alternatives to lithium-ion batteries that are being manufactured in Asian factories. Drawing upon the experience of more than 20 CUNY faculty members and research associates who have experience in the battery industry, the lab focuses on competing, leapfrogging technologies that offer better solutions for transportation and utility use than lithium-ion batteries because they are cost-effective, safe and can be used on projects of every scale.

In the short term, the lab will develop zinc-nickel oxide flow batteries, which cost half as much as nickel-metal batteries and have energy densities that are twice as high. The lab also has a pilot program on zinc-air flow batteries.

Research has begun on metal-air flow batteries, particularly aluminum-air and lithium-air, that could lead to energy densities that are greater than those of lithium-ion systems and at a much lower cost.

The institute has its headquarters at CUNY’s City College of New York in Manhattan, and professors from CUNY campuses participate in it. It shares resources with several CUNY colleges, including City College, Hunter College, Brooklyn College, Queens College, the College of Staten Island and Queensborough Community College.

Twenty science and engineering faculty members from CUNY colleges, including Hunter College, Brooklyn College, Queens College, College of Staten Island and Queensborough Community College are affiliated with the institute and serve as principal investigators. The institute’s investigators also collaborate with other U.S. universities and national laboratories.

Doctoral candidates interested in fundamental research with applied-energy projects are advised by faculty members from the CUNY campuses who are affiliated with the institute. Students generally work with one adviser and collaborate across the institute, but co-advisement also is an option. Bright undergraduates also are encouraged to seek research opportunities within the institute.

Students seeking a doctorate in biochemistry, chemical engineering, materials science and chemistry, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and physics are encouraged to apply.

An energy systems and theory minor is planned for the 2010-2011 academic year.

Applications are available from Prof. Sanjoy Banerjee, director of the Energy Institute.

The City College of New York
Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering
Director of the CUNY Energy Institute