The Climate and Energy Challenge research projects tackle challenges in climate dynamics, the impacts of global change on the Earth's ecosystems, alternative energy, and energy efficiency. Funded projects involve faculty from numerous departments across campus. Significant research advances to date include the discovery of fundamental controls on the ocean biosphere that will shape its response to climate change; the development of predictive modeling of plant water use and drought mortality; and the development of new diagnostics enabling bio-fuels in transportation with reduced air pollutant emissions and improved efficiency.
Through this research, the Morel group, is interested in characterizing siderophore production in response to Fe, quorum sensing, and elevated temperatures. This work should improve the fundamental understanding of siderophores, a tool used by almost all bacteria, and offer new insights into the infection strategies of an increasingly important pathogen.
Climate change worsens hurricanes and coastal cities are vulnerable to storm surges that can lead to loss of life and harm to the economy. Current flood protection technology cause obstructions and pose risks to local ecologies. Sigrid Andriaenssens and Ning Lin are collaborating to develop a new paradigm for flood protection technology.
Mohammad Seyedsayamdost and Oliver Baars aim to elucidate the chemical structures and the biological origins of strong iron-complexing molecules in surface seawater. The purpose is to increase understanding of the effects of iron limitation on ocean productivity and carbon sequestration.
The melting of land ice from Earth's ice sheets and high mountain glaciers is the largest contributor to global sea level rise. Frederik Simons and his team are mapping which parts of ice sheets are losing the most ice and are at risk for future and possible irreversible changes.
Recent measurements have shown that abandoned oil and gas wells in Pennsylvania are leaking methane to the atmosphere. No methane emissions inventory currently includes this newly discovered source of methane. Michael Celia and Denise Mauzerall are conducting research to better understand the cause of leaks from high-emitting wells.
Marine phytoplankton account for about half of annual global CO2 production. Bess Ward and her team propose to obtain crucial data on the most abundant phytoplankton species with the goal of improving characterization and prediction of primary and new production with implications for carbon sequestration.
Ammonium oxidation in wastewater requires aeration, which is energy intensive. Feammox is a new anaerobic ammonium oxidation process that uses iron oxides as electron acceptor. Peter Jaffe and Daniel Steingart are testing this process to try to increase ammonium removal rates comparable to traditional treatment technologies.
The main objective of CFI project is to integrate positive and normative perspectives on humanity’s future, with a special focus on climate change. The goal is to examine how the forces and dimensions shaping the future of humanity in respect of this challenge can be analyzed.
The controls on biological N2 fixation, a key reaction governing the fertility of natural and managed ecosystems, remain poorly understood. The work of Anne Kraepiel and Xinning Zhang will provide much needed understanding of the nitrogen fixation, with consequences for long term storage of anthropogenic CO2 on land strategies for biohydrogen production.
High latitude oceans are major contributors to global primary production providing substantive food webs and a high degree of carbon sequestration. There is a great need to better understand the mechanisms responsible for this productivity. François Morel and his team are researching phytoplankton blooms in these oceans and their response to global change.
Batteries provide excellent storage capabilities, but have always had limitations within couplings of lifetime stability, energy and power. Dan Steingart and his team believe they can break this coupling with a new fuel cell design. In their new design they are trying to minimize the reactor volume to maximize power through thin film assembly and disassembly.
This project seeks to understand climate syndromes of seasonality from both ecological and atmospheric perspectives. Initial research by David Medvigy and his team is focusing on seasonally dry tropical forests in Costa Rica, Mexico, Colombia, and Brazil. These particular forests are expected to be strongly impacted by climate change.
In an effort to bridge the environmental sciences, architecture, and the humanities, Mario Gandelsonas and Bruno Carvalho explore how scientists, planners, and designers rethink traditional city/nature dichotomies. Their goal is to reassess and better understand the role of cities in the environment as part of the search for solutions to climate and energy challenges.
There is a growing consensus in Earth System research that the Southern Ocean is a critical and under-measured gateway between the deep ocean and the surface ocean and the atmosphere. Jorge Sarmiento is spearheading a team to revolutionize Southern Ocean observations and modeling in this remote and inhospitable region of the world.
Bruce Koel’s group is conducting basic research on the synthesis and characterization of novel photocatalysis for solar water splitting and carbon dioxide reduction to fuels. Improved utilization of solar energy particularly the development of solar fuels is key to addressing future energy needs.
Daniel Sigman and his team are researching ocean productivity in the Sargasso Sea under conditions of rising CO2 in the atmosphere and increased warming of ocean surface waters. Field research will provide students with a hands-on introduction to oceanography and research methodology.
Forest mortality can lead to a large release of CO2, which can impact climate, as well as changes in species dominance. Steve Pacala, Kelly Caylor, and Adam Wolf aim to develop a predictive model of plant water use and drought mortality that hinges on knowing the competition among plants for water below ground.
David Medvigy and Lars Hedin are creating the PIRANHA Consortium, a tropical rainforest research community of Princeton faculty, undergraduates, and GFDL researchers to conduct integrated biological, biogeochemical, and atmospheric investigations of rainforests and impacts from large-scale deforestation.
John Higgins is using an experimental rock autoclave system to study how weathering reactions at Earth’s surface and in deep-sea hydrothermal systems impact global climate on geologic timescales. Higgins is developing a new lab-based undergraduate course on analytical techniques in the environmental and engineering sciences.
Michael Bender is studying the processes of photosynthesis and respiration in land plants. With the acquisition of a cavity ringdown spectrometer, Bender is developing education materials centered around variations in the CO2 concentration of local air and isotopic composition.
Jaswinder Singh and Venkatramani Balaji are integrating the leading climate research being done at GFDL with the scalable computing expertise on the Princeton campus. A new upper-level application-driven course on parallel computing is being developed, with climate modeling being a driving application area.
Craig Arnold is developing high-capacity, extended-life energy storage devices for use with solar and wind technologies. Undergraduates in Arnold’s new freshman seminar course examine how energy is used, generated, stored and converted, and explore emerging energy alternatives.
Michael Oppenheimer and David Wilcove model interactions among agriculture, climate change, and biodiversity variables in South Africa. Preliminary projections indicate that the dry land wheat-growing region of South Africa’s Western Cape will contract in response to climate change, with implications for biodiversity and conservation efforts.
Elie Bou-Zeid, Robert Hallberg, Pino Martin, and Alexander Smits use computer simulations and data from wind tunnel experiments to refine the representation of lower atmosphere flows at night and over ice with implications for modeling surface-atmosphere energy exchange and pollutant dispersion.
Lars Hedin seeks to understand how tropical land ecosystems function within the coupled earth-climate-energy system. The course Ecosystems and Global Change was revised to include a fall break trip to Panamanian tropical forests to address their role and influence on the Earth’s changing climate.
Daniel Sigman is investigating the interaction between biogeochemical cycles and the Earth’s physical climate, in the past, the present, and into the future. Sigman’s group has demonstrated the existence of an internal biological feedback within the ocean to stabilize its inventory of nutrient nitrogen and fertility over time.
Mung Chiang, Michael Freedman, Margaret Martonosi, and Jennifer Rexford are developing innovations to reduce the energy consumption of information technology. The team has created techniques to lower data center electricity use while improving efficiency. The team received a $100,000 Google Innovations Award.
The François Morel group examines the impact of increasing atmospheric CO2 and the resulting ocean acidification on the marine biota. The project has demonstrated that decreasing seawater pH results in a lower bioavailability of iron to phytoplankton that represent nearly half of primary production on Earth.
Emily Carter uses Quantum mechanics methods to create more efficient and inexpensive solar cells. The project demonstrated band-gap engineering of nickel and manganese oxides. Carter received external funding from the Dept. of Energy and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research to continue this work.
Bernard Haykel integrates faculty expertise on Middle Eastern resources, economics and politics. The initiative sponsors a postdoctoral research program and has produced a multi-year lecture series involving over 20 speakers with science, engineering, international relations, policy, and industry expertise.