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Home > Nanotechnology Columns > UAlbany College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering > CNSE creates the Center for Sustainable EcoSystem Nanotechnologies

John Elter
Executive Director of the Center for Sustainable Ecosystem Nanotechnologies;Empire Innovation Professor of Nanoengineering
UAlbany- College of Nanoscale Science & Engineering

Abstract:
The College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering ("CNSE") of the University at Albany, SUNY, has established the new Center for Sustainable EcoSystem Nanotechnologies to identify and develop and produce the critical nano-materials, devices and structures needed to realize the commercial development of truly sustainable system. The Center will provide critical design analysis, pilot prototyping and proof of concept to enable advanced systems and structures for integration within a host of renewable energy technologies. The Center will be housed in a new "zero energy" nanotechnology building or "ZEN" facility which will itself be the laboratory to demonstrate advanced ecosystem technologies.

April 23rd, 2008

CNSE creates the Center for Sustainable EcoSystem Nanotechnologies

Most experts agree that the world needs to change its energy and ecosystem operating paradigms. Most urgently, a transition needs to be made from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy. Widespread evidence of this exists in the form of climate change, loss of cropland, extinction of species, deterioration of water resources and pollution of land, sea and air. Clearly, ecosystem resources need to be managed in ways that are sustainable for both human populations and natural ecosystems. Advances in nanotechnology, based upon sound systems analysis, are necessary to enable many of these urgently needed changes.

The Center for Sustainable EcoSystem Nanotechnologies will work to identify the critical nano-materials, devices and structures that are needed to realize the commercial deployment of truly sustainable systems---those that intelligently integrate renewable sources of energy, water and other ecosystem resources. Although the initial focus of the center will be on energy, including fuel cells, solar energy, hydrogen, biofuels, wind and hydropower, it is clear that sustainable system technologies are also needed in the areas of water management, air quality and land stewardship. The Center will provide critical design and analysis, pilot prototyping, and proof of concept to enable advanced systems and structures for integration within a host of renewable energy technologies. The research will compliment the applications-based programs of CNSE's Energy and Environment Technology Applications Center ("E2TAC"), providing additional capabilities and expertise to accelerate the path to commercialization for next generation alternative energy ecosystems. It will leverage the nanoscience, nanoengineering, nanobioscience and nanoeconomics thrusts within CNSE, as well as draw upon the expertise from other departments within the University. Neither purely theoretical, nor driven by discrete industry problems, the Center will embrace head-on the critical ecosystem issues facing both the developed and developing world. Its vision is to do this within the context of innovative ecosystem nanotechnologies, guided by a comprehensive, market driven systems analysis which defines the high-leverage areas for research and development.

Examples of areas of research are expected to include nanotechnologies that enable advanced fuel cell architectures that yield improved performance, lower cost and enhanced durability through the incorporation of novel nano materials and structures; materials and systems for hydrogen production, generation and storage systems; biofuels and biofuel cells; nanostructures for improve water purification systems; next generation solar photovoltaic and photoelectrochemical systems; and sensors for in-situ monitoring of ecosystem health.

It is anticipated that the Center will be housed in a new "zero energy" nanotechnology building or "ZEN" facility which will itself be the laboratory to demonstrate advanced ecosystem technologies. The Center is seeking industrial partners to co-locate within the ZEN facility and to work jointly on identifying and developing the key enabling nanotechnologies to a state of "technology readiness" for rapid commercialization.

Author's Note:

Dr. John F. Elter is Executive Director of the Center for Sustainable EcoSystem Nanotechnologies, and Empire Innovation Professor of Nanoengineering at CNSE. He recently retired as CTO from Plug Power, where he was responsible for a wide range of activities, including directing the development of advanced fuel cell systems, creating and managing the company's Centers of Excellence, and guiding the development of fuel cell technologies that drive overall product development. Prior to joining Plug Power, Dr. Elter worked at Eastman Kodak as Vice President and Chief Technology Officer of their former Professional Division. Dr. Elter has more than 30 years at Xerox Corporation, where he held a variety of executive positions, including Vice President of Strategic Programs. Dr. Elter has a proven track record in pioneering high technology innovation and clean sheet product commercialization, including two major product platforms that have generated over $40B in revenue. As head of the "Lakes" program at Xerox, he led the "Zero to Landfill" effort to deliver Xerox's first fully recyclable, remanufacturable and reusable digital networked product.

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