Published: Dec 1, 2015 9:45:00 AM
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Jeffrey Suhling, Richard D. and Marjorie M. Quina distinguished professor and department chair of mechanical engineering at Auburn University, has received a $400,000 grant awarded through the Alabama Innovation Fund. Matching funds by Auburn University created an $800,000 total award for Suhling’s project, “Developing High Performance Integrated Building Energy Systems Technologies.”
His research is a collaborative project with Lorenzo Cremaschi, who will join Auburn’s Department of Mechanical Engineering from Oklahoma State University’s mechanical and aerospace engineering faculty. The grant will support Cremaschi’s work, as well as equipment and facilities infrastructure, for a state-of-the-art experimental laboratory for research in scalable energy conversion systems.
“Dr. Cremaschi is an outstanding scientist in the area of energy research,” Suhling said. “His applied and fundamental research will enhance our national energy security and will make a significant and near-term impact on building systems energy usage.”
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, electrical energy usage in buildings has increased from 25 percent of all energy in the 1950s to 76 percent today. Heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems for residential and commercial buildings alone account for more than 40 percent of all U.S. electrical energy consumption. Cremaschi’s research will develop techniques to save energy and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“The state of Alabama, with its solar, geothermal, natural gas and biomass energy resources in rural areas, is an ideal place to demonstrate the economic feasibility of these types of distributed energy systems,” Cremaschi said. “Our laboratory will have the capability to reproduce climate conditions from around the world, including tropical to continental, and dry desert to polar tundra. It will be a platform to perform research on scalable building energy systems that cannot be conducted anywhere else in the world at this time.”
Cremaschi’s research complements one of the Engineering Grand Challenges listed by the National Academy of Engineering that emphasizes the development of sustainable approaches to the utilization of energy, water and other natural resources. Moreover, his work matches one of Auburn’s five strategic research clusters, the new Institute for Scalable Energy Conversion Science and Technology. Led by Bruce Tatarchuk, Charles E. Gavin professor in chemical engineering and director of the Microfibrous Materials Manufacturing Center, the multidisciplinary focus will address societal needs in energy security, environment and economic development.
Initiated in 2012 as part of the Accelerate Alabama strategic growth plan, the $4.5 million Alabama Innovation Fund seeks to leverage research to create economic development opportunities and attract more scientists, researchers and engineers to the state.
Suhling’s project was selected among 14 funded programs at six universities and two research-focused organizations. Mark R. Liles, associate professor in biological sciences in Auburn’s College of Sciences and Mathematics, also received an Alabama Innovation Fund Award for his project, “Probiotic and Vaccine Development to Benefit the AL Catfish Industry.”