It took only six months for Stony Brook University to hit an energy research grand slam, earning major federal funding on four projects poised to revolutionize the world’s energy technology. “These four projects, which together earned nearly $5.7 million in funding, showcase Stony Brook’s dedication to researching and developing technologies that will have a major impact on how we generate and consume energy globally,” said Samuel L. Stanley Jr., MD, President of Stony Brook University.
But how can a state university on Long Island suddenly secure such funding and rise to rank alongside renowned energy research institutions like MIT and Stanford? The approach is two-fold, said Dennis N. Assanis, Provost, Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, and Vice President for Brookhaven Affairs — empower newly hired faculty researchers to lead, and make veteran faculty accessible to them, resulting in an innovative team spirit of collaboration.
“Because Stony Brook University is a fairly young institution, anything is possible. We’re fostering a unique culture similar to a start-up,” said Assanis. “Innovation doesn’t usually happen in established, entrenched cultures. Stony Brook’s culture is enabling innovation.” Such innovation is proven by the recent news that Stony Brook researchers submitted four Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) proposals, and each was accepted. “We cultivated this success at Stony Brook,” said Assanis. “If you’re lucky, it happens once. Four times is not luck anymore.”
Stony Brook’s four groundbreaking ideas that got the ARPA-E green light include an “on-demand” targeted air conditioning system that reduces energy costs by 30 percent; a system that condenses water vapor from power plants to reduce or eliminate cooling water use; anovel microemulsion absorption system for supplemental power plant cooling; and a compact, efficient, inexpensive and clean natural gas generator based on a free piston linear alternator, designed to provide electricity and heat in residential homes.