The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



ND energy centers merge

Christian Myers | Wednesday, April 27, 2011

With the announcement of the creation of the Center for Sustainable Energy at Notre Dame (cSEND) earlier this month, the University will create an umbrella for its various sustainable energy projects, research and initiatives.

The new center will incorporate two existing Notre Dame institutions, the Notre Dame Energy Center (NDEC) and the Sustainable Energy Initiative (SEI). The transition to incorporate the two under cSEND will be completed by the fall semester of 2011.

“The Center for Sustainable Energy will become the one place on campus for all students interested in energy research and policy,” junior Douglas Pernik said.

Pernik serves on the SEI student advisory board. He said the newly-created cSEND will unify the University’s efforts to promote sustainable energy.

“I think it will be beneficial to have the Center for Sustainable Energy to encompass the missions of the NDEC and SEI,” Pernik said.

According to cSEND director Joan Brennecke, the goals of the new research center will involve both research and education in in the area of sustainable energy.

“The goals of the center are to increase and support research [into] energy-related to sustainable energy,” Brennecke said.

While NDEC was formerly the center for all energy research by engineers at gNotre Dame, Brennecke said it will be replaced because it was only a program within the College of Engineering. cSEND is a University-wide hub to encompass all efforts for sustainable energy.

“Previously, we had the Notre Dame Energy Center, which was just part of the Engineering Department,” she said. “Now we have cSEND, which is interdepartmental.”

SEI is a University initiative that began July 2010 to promote overall clean energy. The initiative has three years of funding to support sustainable energy research, and its office established the newly-approved Energy Studies minor that will now be a part of cSEND. The minor will become officially available next semester for students in any college or major.

The new center will support the current and future research of undergraduate students, graduate students and faculty, including the Slatt Fellowship that funds undergraduate student research on energy systems and processes, Brennecke said.

“There will be other research [under cSEND], including work for the Department of Energy and the Department of Defense,” she said.

Graduate student Ben Meekins is researching solar energy technology and the production of hydrogen gas from water using sunlight. Meekins works with Professors Prashant Kamat and Paul McGinn, and his work will be incorporated into cSEND.

“We’re currently working on actual hydrogen generation using a homemade ‘reverse fuel cell’ that flows water and allows the capture of hydrogen and oxygen,” Meekins said.

Pernik also researches solar energy with Kamat through cSEND. He said his work focuses on developing more efficient quantum dot solar cells.

Educating students and the local South Bend community about sustainable energy is the other main goal for cSEND, Brennecke said.

In order to accomplish this goal, Brennecke said cSEND will sponsor the fifth annual Energy Week in September. The center will also continue the NDEC Distinguished Lecture series.

“I’ve gotten to see a lot of the interesting work that’s being done by other members of the NDEC, as well as see some great talks from other members of the scientific community doing energy work,” Meekins said.