Engineers Celebrate Yale Sustainability through their research

Last week, associate professor of electrical engineering Minjoo Larry Lee sat down with Yale Daily News to discuss his work on novel dual-junction solar cells that can operate at temperatures above 400 degrees Celsius. This research, for which Lee received a $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy, aims to create an efficient solar cell that will not only convert the entire solar spectrum into energy but will also create storable energy that can be dispatched when the sun is not shining or whenever electrical demand rises.

Such research is one example of how engineers from every department of Yale’s School of Engineering & Applied Science contribute to global sustainability through forward-thinking innovations and environmentally conscious research. “In all fields, engineers are increasingly evaluating and improving the sustainability of industrial processes as they’re being developed,” says Desirée Plata, assistant professor of chemical & environmental engineering. “Through creative research and groundbreaking inventions, Yale is at the forefront of this paradigm shift.”

One way Yale has affirmed its commitment to this ideal is through three recent faculty hires in the Department of Chemical & Environmental Engineering. In addition to Plata, whose research focuses on nanocarbon formation mechanisms and geochemical analysis, the environmental engineering program welcomed Jaehong Kim, Barton L. Weller Associate Professor of Chemical & Environmental Engineering, and Drew Gentner, assistant professor of chemical & environmental engineering & forestry & environmental studies.

Kim’s research focuses on materials that use the sunlight to destroy harmful chemicals and kill germs in water, materials that could be made into reusable water bottles to reduce the waste of disposable water bottles while providing clean water to developing countries. Gentner’s research is concerned with the physical and chemical processes of primary and secondary air pollution, as well as the impacts of traditional and alternative energy production and use on air quality, climate change, and public health.

“Each one of us is working on cutting-edge research with implications for sustainability,” says Menachem Elimelech, Roberto C. Goizueta Professor of Chemical & Environmental Engineering; Elimelech, who was recently named one of the most highly cited researchers in his field, founded Yale’s environmental engineering program in 1998. “Further, our faculty is always looking to work with other entities at Yale to tap into the university’s greater environmental resources, creating a synergy to magnify our output.”

In this way, SEAS research is a natural extension of the Yale’s continued concern for sustainable innovation and global perspectives. So if Celebrate Sustainability Week gets you excited about our environment, perhaps it’s time to take an engineering class.