AUSTIN, Texas — A team of researchers at The University of Texas at Austin is creating a new technology for the economic recovery of rare earth elements from fly ash to alleviate the materials bottleneck in the manufacturing of sustainable energy technologies. Across campus, another group is finding ways to eliminate blackouts by reducing power grid vulnerabilities during intense storm events, droughts and wildfires.
These and nine other projects have won a campus-wide competition to identify and support the most promising global energy transition research at UT. The teams include 53 faculty members and researchers from nine schools across the university — from the Moody College of Communication and the Jackson School of Geosciences to the School of Architecture and the Cockrell School of Engineering. Interdisciplinary collaboration was a key criterion for award evaluation, and the selected teams reflect different approaches from departments and disciplines throughout the university.
“These collaborations will unlock the unique ability of team-based projects to approach energy research at UT in unconventional and creative ways,” said Vice President for Research Dan Jaffe. “The range of topics underscores our researchers’ commitment to being responsive to global energy demand while reducing environmental impacts and leveraging groundbreaking technology. The remarkable quality and imaginativeness that the projects demonstrate shines a bright light on the amazing community of UT researchers in the energy domain.”
The selected projects emerged from a diverse pool. UT’s Energy Institute, which facilitates interdisciplinary research and engagement at UT to transform the future of energy worldwide, received 30 research proposals from 127 researchers across 11 different schools. During the past four months, these 30 teams presented transformative research ideas under a core theme of “Fueling a Sustainable Energy Transition.”
From designing the next generation of battery packs to new solar-powered water purification systems to creating multiscale design and optimizing techniques for carbon capture, the 11 projects attack a broad range of key research topics under the energy transition umbrella.
“The most important thing we do at the Energy Institute is provide UT researchers, whose expertise spans the entire spectrum of energy issues, with the funding and support necessary to advance their work and make new discoveries,” said Varun Rai, director of the Energy Institute. “I’m thrilled to see this level of excitement for tackling some of the most difficult energy challenges that industry, policymakers and communities face today.”
To view a full list of the projects, visit the Energy Institute.