The Center for Energy & Environment leverages our research expertise in science, engineering, and health disciplines to develop new energy technologies, better understand earth system dynamics, and address the human health implications of various energy resources.
The center provides scientists and engineers the tools to understand and solve some of the most complex issues facing our planet. Its researchers collaborate to develop new energy technologies that will improve our quality of life and have the least amount of impact on our environment and our health.
The Need for Carbon-Neutral Solutions
Virtually everything that exists has a carbon footprint—a measure of the amount of carbon dioxide, methane, and related compounds emitted by people, organizations, and their activities. These gases play an essential role in regulating global temperature. Over the years, there has been an increase in the size of our carbon footprint, which has led to higher levels of carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere. The resulting accumulation of carbon in the atmosphere and oceans is contributing to climate change, ocean acidification, and sea level rise. Developing carbon-neutral energy technologies is becoming increasingly important for our environment and for our health.
Advanced computing will guide the creation of technologies that provide maximum energy production with minimal impact on the environment and health. University faculty members have already established strong programs in applying advanced materials, biotechnology, and nanotechnology to the development of alternative energy resources that can supplement, and may ultimately supplant, fossil fuels. They are conducting highly regarded programs in many areas, including solar concentrators, photovoltaics, fuel cells, and biofuels. The University’s Laboratory for Laser Energetics— home to the world’s second-largest laser—conducts fusion and high energy physics research that could contribute toward building future energy supplies.
Earth System Dynamics
The Earth system—its atmosphere, oceans, biosphere, cryosphere, and geosphere—and its carbon cycle are being altered at unprecedented rates due to a combination of natural and human-influenced factors. A challenge is determining the magnitude and speed of these changes. The center will build on current research to help establish a leading program in the study of climate-carbon cycle interactions. Work on carbon cycle modeling, atmospheric modeling, and Earth system analytics will complement current strengths in field and laboratory research.
Mercury, lead, air pollutants, pesticides, plastics, copper, cigarette smoke, and diesel fumes all affect human health. As energy sources change, researchers will need to learn more about their potential effects. Researchers on the River Campus and the University of Rochester Medical Center will collaborate to expand the University’s inhalation, exposure, and toxicology program; to promote studies on the effects of environmental pollutants and toxicants; and to further studies on the role of early life exposure to toxins that develop into adult diseases