Research: The Catalyst for Breakthrough Technologies in Energy Transition

Embracing the Potential of Disruptive but Uncertain Technologies to Solve the Greatest Challenge of Our Century

The quest to complete the energy transition is among humanity's most formidable challenges. It demands that our energy sources not only be affordable and reliable but also sustainable. Since the industrial revolution, energy consumption per capita in the U.S. has skyrocketed, evolving from the equivalent labor of two horses and family members to the staggering work of 60 people for each individual. This dramatic increase has cultivated a lifestyle heavily dependent on vast energy resources, 80% of which currently derive from fossil fuels. The existing energy infrastructure, developed over a century ago, has ensured the affordability and reliability of this energy. However, the additional imperative for sustainability presents an almost insurmountable challenge.

Transitioning to sustainable energy requires replacement of our century-old infrastructure to generate, transmit, store, and utilize energy in entirely new forms. This transformation hinges on the development of technologies that not only match but surpass the value offered by fossil fuel-based systems. Research in this area, especially in the search for critical materials, is indispensable.

Purdue University, with its robust intellectual and facility resources, is poised to lead this research. Fundamental studies, combined with Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) and Technoeconomic Analysis (TEA), are essential to develop the disruptive new technologies for a sustainable energy future. Purdue's commitment to this research underscores the university's role in not just adapting to but also shaping the future of energy, tackling the critical materials challenge, and forging a path towards a more sustainable and resilient energy landscape.

Energy Research Centers

Center for Advances in Resilient Energy Storage (CARES)

A research hub that will explore the design and operation of batteries and energy-storage systems in general, as well as their impact on safety and sustainability.

The Center for Innovative and Strategic Transformation of Alkane Resources, CISTAR

The Center for Innovative and Strategic Transformation of Alkane Resources, CISTAR, is one of the flagship Engineering Research Centers (ERCs) funded by the National Science Foundation. CISTAR brings together industry, academia, and government to cultivate engineering discovery and education in research areas critical to our nation's strength. CISTAR's research is focused on catalysis, separations, and systems design of sustainable manufacturing processes for chemicals and transportation fuels. ERC's infrastructure integrates four pillars: research, engineering workforce development, industry and innovation, and diversity & culture of inclusion, with industry and national lab partnerships being paramount to center success. Headquartered at Purdue University, CISTAR is a coalition of five collaborating institutions comprising of Purdue University, University of New Mexico, Northwestern University, University of Notre Dame, and The University of Texas at Austin. Our vision is to create transformative engineered systems to convert light hydrocarbons into lower carbon footprint chemicals and transportation fuels, by exploring decarbonization of manufacturing processes, modular design, and electrification based on renewable energy sources.

Center for Innovation through Visualization and Simulation (CIVS)

CIVS is an internationally recognized resource for applying advanced visualization and simulation to create innovative solutions in business, industry and education, and to provide effective educational and collaborative technology tools.

Advancing Sustainability through Powered Infrastructure for Roadway Electrification (ASPIRE) Engineering Research Center

ASPIRE ERC is a National Science Foundation-funded Generation 4 Engineering Research Center (ERC) that aims to improve health and quality of life for everyone by catalyzing sustainable and equitable electrification across the transportation industries. ASPIRE's research is focused on developing the widespread electrification of all vehicle classes, improved air quality, and public infrastructure that provides an inexpensive, seamless charging experience.

Headquartered at Utah State University and operated by core partners Purdue University, the University of Colorado Boulder, the University of Texas at El Paso, and the University of Auckland New Zealand, ASPIRE ERC isn't just about designing electrified roadways. The center's working groups also are concentrating on energy storage and the System of Systems (i.e. how electrified roadways and charging stations connect to a grid that needs to support them).

ASPIRE ERC's stakeholder base boasts 60+ transportation and electric utility companies, state agencies, and nonprofits that manage more than one million lane-miles of roads and multiple urban regions and have a combined annual revenue of over $700B. ASPIRE ERC's affiliated research partners include Colorado State University, Cornell University, the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, the University of Utah, and Virginia Tech. Critical strategic partnerships include the following national labs: Idaho National Laboratory, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Argonne National Laboratory.

Laboratory of Renewable Resources Engineering (LORRE)

The Laboratory of Renewable Resources was founded in 1978 to carry out research, education, and translation of multi-disciplinary, fundamental research in renewable resources engineering. By 2024, six hundred students had received education and training in LORRE while contributing to the laboratories research in energy, bioproducts and health. These students have gone on to contribute to industry, public service and universities; to found companies; and to add fundamental knowledge that has advanced the field of bioprocessing and bioprocess engineering. The research explores fundamentals of proteins, biocatalysts and cells in biomanufacturing processes in a manner that leads to new knowledge, functional prototypes and validated computational models for translating discoveries from laboratory to plant. LORRE's vision is to contribute foundational knowledge and a diverse group of engineers and scientists who will contribute sustainable solutions that address the global challenges of food, climate, energy and health.

Purdue Research Facilities

Related Initiatives at Purdue University