Renewable Energy, Storage and Systems
Reducing the world's dependence on fossil fuels requires the development of new renewable energy resources and energy storage systems, as well as identifying and designing the technical, management, and policy requirements that encourage industries and communities to implement sustainable energy options.
Renewable energy can be captured from ongoing natural sources including the sun, wind, water flow, geothermal and biological processes. Meeting the rapidly growing global energy need while at the same time reducing our dependence on non-renewable fossil fuels requires the development of technology in all of these areas.
Kimberley Hall, Ian Hill and Ghada Koleilat are developing new light-absorbing materials, including conjugated polymers and carbon nanowires as well as hybrid organic-inorganic materials (perovskites) for the next generation of PV solar cells. Mita Dasog and Michael Freund are developing new strategies for creating nanostructures from traditional semiconductors such as silicon to reduce cost and expand their use. Professors Hall, Hill and Koleilat have developed extensive characterization facilities to study fundamental processes and measure figures of merit of new PV materials. Erin Johnson and Ryan MacDonell are studying the theoretical and quantum chemistry of energy transfer, fundamental to the conversion of light to electrical energy.
Converting light energy directly into fuels will help address energy storage for large-scale use and for uses where high energy density is required (e.g., transportation). Mita Dasog and Michael Freund are actively involved in coupling light absorption to electrochemical (fuel generating) reactions. Peng Zhang and Mita Dasog develop new nanostructured catalysts, key for increasing the efficiency of redox reactions that create and utilize fuels.
Development of biofuels from low value biomass and organic wastes is an important approach for extracting energy from agricultural processes that does not compete with food production. Quan Sophia He and Azadeh Kermanshahi-Pour have projects on the conversion processes from biomass to biocrude to usable fuels and other biochemicals. Azadeh Kermanshahi-Pour's current work is focused on an integrated system for anaerobic digestion of thin stillage produced in corn-bioethanol plant and microalgae cultivation for nutrient recycling and bioenergy production. Quan Sophia He is developing new methods of extraction of value-added compounds from biomass and conversion to biocrude oil by hydrothermal liquefaction processes.
Thermoelectric materials can turn waste heat into power. If they can be made more efficient, their use would be widespread, as >50% of the world’s energy is currently lost as heat. Mary Anne White is carrying out experiments to develop new materials with exceptionally low thermal conductivity as a mechanism to increase thermoelectric efficiency. Jesse Maassen’s focus is on theory and simulation of electro-thermal transport and energy conversion.
Nova Scotia is uniquely placed to develop tidal power generation and Dominic Groulx is studying the impact of tidal flow on tidal turbines (single unit and arrays) in order to characterize the amount of energy produced and the forces on the devices, maximize the energy extraction and the useful lifetime of the devices, and reduce the overall cost of such projects.
The intermittent nature of many renewable energy resources demands storage solutions that are safe, durable and economical. The energy storage solution that powers a city will not be the identical to the one that drives an electric wheelchair or turns on a smartphone; the development of technologies that operate on different scales and serve different applications is vital if we are to make full use of the renewable energy resources available to us.
Jeff Dahn and Mark Obrovac are focusing on advanced lithium ion batteries focusing on electrode materials, electrolytes. Mark Obrovac's research is focused on developing advanced high energy Li-ion batteries and "beyond Li" metal-ion battery chemistries, with a focus is on the physics and chemistry of advanced Sodium-ion, Magnesium-ion and other Metal-ion batteries. Jeff Dahn's research focuses on lithium-ion battery electrode materials, electrolyte and electrolyte additives, for improved battery cycle life, increased energy density and lower cost. He uses a variety of techniques to characterize battery lifetimes and reaction products on electrode surfaces and within electrolytes to determine mechanisms of capacity loss. In Ian Hill's research, redox flow batteries are constructed, cycled, and characterized. Degradation pathways are studied using surface science, electrochemical and spectroscopic techniques. The goal is to improve cycle life in low-cost aqueous organic-based systems. Michael Metzger’s lab investigates high-energy lithium-ion batteries, long-lived lithium metal batteries and novel devices for energy-efficient water desalination, so-called “desalination batteries”. His work is centered on developing novel methods to study the performance and lifetime of advanced battery cells. An example is on-line electrochemical mass spectrometry, a technique that allows to identify and quantify unwanted gases generated in batteries while they operate. The goal is to create fundamental understanding that will help develop new electrochemical systems, innovative materials, as well as high performance and lower cost batteries for electric vehicles and stationary applications. Chongyin Yang’s group focuses on developing high-performance materials for advanced lithium-ion batteries, which includes sustainable electrode materials that contain no transition metals. It is a crucial part of Dalhousie-Tesla partnership that seeks lower-cost, longer lifetime, and higher-energy battery technologies as the next-generation energy storage solution for electric vehicles and sustainable green energy. Penghao Xiao’s group simulates kinetic processes in battery materials from first principles, including ion diffusion, phase transition and surface reactions.
Supercapacitors are important for applications requiring short burst for high power applications such as airbag deployment and camera flashes. Heather Andreas studies mechanisms of self-discharge, which is a major limitation in this technology. Michael Freund develops novel porous redox materials that increases the rate of charging and discharging as well as its charge capacity.
Mary Anne White and Dominic Groulx are developing phase change materials and devices to efficiently store thermal energy from various processes (solar thermal, waste heat, heat pumps) for later release as heat. This highly efficient storage plays a direct role in solving the time discrepancy between energy production and utilization. Mary Anne White’s approach focusses on development of new materials that can be used sustainably to store thermal energy. Dominc Groulx is studying the fundamental heat transfer processes found inside solid-liquid phase change heat transfer thermal storage system as well as developing advanced modeling techniques for phase change heat transfer. This knowledge is also applied to the development of applied design, development and testing of thermal storage systems for various applications, from solar energy storage, to peak shifting and electronics thermal management.
GRID AND TRANSMISSION
With end-use electrification (heat pumps, electric vehicles) and an evolution to zero-carbon, the electricity grid is becoming more important than ever, requiring the management of greater quantities of intermittent renewable energy (wind, solar, tidal). Energy storage will play a key role to dynamically compensate for variations in renewables and load, and thereby enhance conventional generation performance (thermal and hydro). Lukas Swan is working with numerous grid-interactive battery technologies at demonstration scale (100+ kWh) to develop optimized control for energy efficiency, availability, resiliency, and lifetime.
Zhizhang Chen explores the principles of the wireless power harvesting and transfer and focusses on mid-range wireless power transfer.
Beyond the technical issues of renewable, sustainable energy, there are socio-economic, management and policy issues that must be understood and addressed. Why do some communities seem to be reluctant to accept renewable energy projects? What are the technical and policy barriers that prevent industries from implementing sustainable energy options? What are the risks of renewable energy systems within organizations and on the societal level, and how can these be effectively managed and governed?
Michelle Adams focuses her renewable energy research at the intersection of policy, technology and the society it affects, seeking to understand the barriers and enablers impacting renewable energy development. Kate Sherren studies how landscape change influences stakeholder perspectives of energy options. Karen Foster's research focuses on the sustainability of rural life in Atlantic Canada, with a particular emphasis on how government policy and everyday life intersect.
Floris Goerlandt focuses his research on developing risk analysis and safety engineering approaches to understand risks emerging from socio-technical systems in marine industries, and to support related risk mitigation decision-making, organizational management, and societal governance. His work is sensitive to varying degrees of complexity, uncertainty, and ambiguity at different geographical and temporal scales, and ranges from accident prevention and consequence mitigation, to emergency preparedness and response. He is primarily interested in risk and safety implications of clean technologies and renewable energy systems for marine industries, particularly related to maritime shipping, ports, and offshore wind.
Chad Walker’s (he/him) research program is centered around better understanding how clean energy policy and planning processes (including those relating to renewable energy and Local Smart Grids) can lead to a more equitable, just, and supported energy transition. He is also interested in research that explores how local, regional, and national support for low-carbon energy projects may translate into broader political changes that can either undermine or reinforce climate action.