Precourt Institute for Energy

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  • Katharine (Kate) Maher

    Katharine (Kate) Maher

    Associate Professor of Earth System Science

    Current Research and Scholarly InterestsResearch
    Chemical reactions between fluids and minerals create the environments that are uniquely characteristic of Earth’s surface. For example, chemical weathering reactions support the growth of soils and organisms and regulate the flow of elements to the oceans. The rates of these reactions also control the release and storage of natural and human-derived contaminants. Over geologic timescales, mineral-fluid reactions have helped to maintain a mostly habitable planet. Over human timescales, these reactions will regulate our ability to use Earth’s resources, such as soils, waters, and minerals.

    My research focuses on the rates of reactions in different environments using a combination of geochemical tools, including isotope geochemistry, geochemical and hydrologic modeling, and geochronology in order to address the following themes: (1) defining the controls on mineral-fluid reactions rates in the environment (2) finding new approaches to use mineral-fluid reactions to safely store carbon dioxide in the subsurface; and (3) development of isotopic approaches to study mineral-fluid reactions in the environments of Earth’s past. To support these research themes, I have constructed a new mass spectrometer and clean lab facility capable of high precision geochemical and isotopic measurements, and teach a number of classes and short courses on reactive transport.

    My teaching focuses on introducing students to the questions and major challenges in low-temperature and environmental geochemistry, and the application of isotope geochemistry to environmental and geologic problems. In order to introduce incoming students to Earth surface processes, materials and geochemistry, I am also teaching a freshman seminar on forensic geoscience. At the graduate level, I offer classes on isotope geochemistry and modeling of environmental transformations and mass transfer processes (i.e., subsurface reactive transport).

  • Dr. Arun Majumdar

    Dr. Arun Majumdar

    Director, Precourt Institute for Energy, Jay Precourt Professor and Professor of Mechanical Engineering and of Photon Science

    BioDr. Arun Majumdar is the Jay Precourt Provostial Chair Professor at Stanford University, a faculty member of the Departments of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering (by courtesy) and co-Director of the Precourt Institute for Energy, which integrates and coordinates research and education activities across all seven Schools and the Hoover Institution at Stanford.

    Dr. Majumdar's research in the past has involved the science and engineering of nanoscale materials and devices, especially in the areas of energy conversion, transport and storage as well as biomolecular analysis. His current research focuses on electrochemical and thermochemical redox reactions that are fundamental to a sustainable energy future, multidimensional nanoscale imaging and microscopy, and a new effort to re-engineer the electricity grid using data science, including deep learning techniques.

    In October 2009, Dr. Majumdar was nominated by President Obama and confirmed by the Senate to become the Founding Director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E), where he served till June 2012 and helped ARPA-E become a model of excellence and innovation for the government with bipartisan support from Congress and other stakeholders. Between March 2011 and June 2012, he also served as the Acting Under Secretary of Energy, enabling the portfolio that reported to him: Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Office of Electricity Delivery and Reliability, Office of Nuclear Energy and the Office of Fossil Energy, as well as multiple cross-cutting efforts such as Sunshot, Grid Tech Team and others that he had initiated. Furthermore, he was a Senior Advisor to the Secretary of Energy, Dr. Steven Chu, on a variety of matters related to management, personnel, budget, and policy. In 2010, he served on Secretary Chu's Science Team to help stop the leak of the Deep Water Horizon (BP) oil spill.

    After leaving Washington, DC and before joining Stanford, Dr. Majumdar was the Vice President for Energy at Google, where he created several energy technology initiatives, especially at the intersection of data, computing and electricity grid.

    Prior to joining the Department of Energy, Dr. Majumdar was the Almy & Agnes Maynard Chair Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science & Engineering at University of California–Berkeley and the Associate Laboratory Director for energy and environment at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

    Dr. Majumdar is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He served as the Vice Chairman of the Advisory Board of US Secretary of Energy, Dr. Ernest Moniz, and was also a Science Envoy for the US Department of State with focus on energy and technology innovation in the Baltics and Poland. He is a a member of the International Advisory Panel for Energy of the Singapore Ministry of Trade and Industry. He serves as an advisor to Envision Energy, Breakthrough Energy Ventures, First Light Fusion, and the New Energy Group of Royal Dutch Shell. He is a member of the Board of Directors of Cyclotron Road and the Electric Power Research Institute.

    Dr. Majumdar received his bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay in 1985 and his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley in 1989.

  • Ali Mani

    Ali Mani

    Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering

    BioOur research is broadly defined by multiphysics problems in fluid dynamics and transport engineering. Our work contributes to the understanding of these problems primarily through theoretical tools such as techniques of applied mathematics as well as massively-parallel simulations. Numerical simulations enable quantitative visualization of the detailed physical processes which can be difficult to detect experimentally. They also provide quantitative data that guide the development of reduced-order models, which would naturally induce insight for design, optimization and control. Most of our work involves complementary interactions with experimental groups within and outside of Stanford. Specific current research topics include:

    (1) Electro-convection and microscale chaos near electrochemical interfaces

    (2) Particle-laden flows with applications in solar receivers

    (3) Applications of superhydrophobic surfaces for drag reduction of turbulent flows

    (4) Micro-bubble generation by breaking waves

    (5) Electrokinetics of micropores and nanopores

  • Gilbert Masters

    Gilbert Masters

    Professor (Teaching) of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Emeritus

    PH.D. (1966) Electrical Engineering, STANFORD UNIVERSITY

    Gil Masters has focused on energy efficiency and renewable energy systems as essential keys to slowing global warming, enhancing energy security, and improving conditions in underserved, rural communities. Although officially retired in 2002, he has continued to teach CEE 176A: Energy-Efficient Buildings, and CEE 176B: Electric Power: Renewables and Efficiency. He is the author or co-author of ten books, including Introduction to Environmental Engineering and Science (3rd edition, 2008), Renewable and Efficient Electric Power Systems, (2nd edition, 2013), and Energy for Sustainability: Technology, Policy and Planning (2nd edition, 2018). Professor Masters has been the recipient of a number of teaching awards at Stanford, including the university's Gores Award for Excellence in Teaching, and the Tau Beta Pi teaching award from the School of Engineering. Over the years, more than 10,000 students have enrolled in his courses. He served as the School of Engineering Associate Dean for Student Affairs from 1982-1986, and he was the Interim Chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in 1992-93.

  • Pamela Matson

    Pamela Matson

    Richard and Rhoda Goldman Professor in Environmental Studies and Senior Fellow at the Woods Institute

    BioPAMELA MATSON is an interdisciplinary sustainability scientist, academic leader, and organizational strategist. She served as dean of Stanford University’s School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences from 2002-2017, building interdisciplinary departments and educational programs focused on resources, environment and sustainability, as well as co-leading university-wide interdisciplinary initiatives. In her current role as the Goldman Professor of Environmental Studies and Senior Fellow in the Woods Institute for the Environment, she leads the graduate program on Sustainability Science and Practice. Her research addresses a range of environment and sustainability issues, including sustainability of agricultural systems, vulnerability and resilience of particular people and places to climate change, and characteristics of science that can contribute to sustainability transitions at scale.

    Dr. Matson serves as chair of the board of the World Wildlife Fund-US, and on the boards of the World Wildlife Fund – International and the ClimateWorks Foundation, and several university advisory boards. She served on the US National Academy of Science Board on Sustainable Development and co-wrote the National Research Council’s volume Our Common Journey: A transtion toward sustainability (1999); she also led the NRC committee on America’s Climate Choices: Advancing the Science of Climate Change. She was the founding chair of the National Academies Roundtable on Science and Technology for Sustainability, and founding editor for the Annual Review of Environment and Resources. She is a past President of the Ecological Society of America. Her recent publications (among around 200) include Seeds of Sustainability: Lessons from the Birthplace of the Green Revolution (2012) and Pursuing Sustainability (2016).

    Pam is an elected member of the National Academy of Science and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and is a AAAS Fellow. She received a MacArthur Foundation Award, contributed to the award of the Nobel Prize to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, among other awards and rcognitions, and is an Einstein Fellow of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

    Dr. Matson holds a Bachelor of Science degree with double majors in Biology and Literature from the University of Wisconsin (Eau Claire), a Master degree in Environmental Science and Policy from Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs, and a Doctorate in Forest Ecology from Oregon State University. She spent ten years as a research scientist with NASA-Ames Research Center before moving to a professorship at the University of California Berkeley and, in 1997, to Stanford University.

  • Nicholas Melosh

    Nicholas Melosh

    Professor of Materials Science and Engineering

    BioThe Melosh group explores how to apply new methods from the semiconductor and self-assembly fields to important problems in biology, materials, and energy. We think about how to rationally design engineered interfaces to enhance communication with biological cells and tissues, or to improve energy conversion and materials synthesis. In particular, we are interested in seamlessly integrating inorganic structures together with biology for improved cell transfection and therapies, and designing new materials, often using diamondoid molecules as building blocks.
    My group is very interested in how to design new inorganic structures that will seamless integrate with biological systems to address problems that are not feasible by other means. This involves both fundamental work such as to deeply understand how lipid membranes interact with inorganic surfaces, electrokinetic phenomena in biologically relevant solutions, and applying this knowledge into new device designs. Examples of this include “nanostraw” drug delivery platforms for direct delivery or extraction of material through the cell wall using a biomimetic gap-junction made using nanoscale semiconductor processing techniques. We also engineer materials and structures for neural interfaces and electronics pertinent to highly parallel data acquisition and recording. For instance, we have created inorganic electrodes that mimic the hydrophobic banding of natural transmembrane proteins, allowing them to ‘fuse’ into the cell wall, providing a tight electrical junction for solid-state patch clamping. In addition to significant efforts at engineering surfaces at the molecular level, we also work on ‘bridge’ projects that span between engineering and biological/clinical needs. My long history with nano- and microfabrication techniques and their interactions with biological constructs provide the skills necessary to fabricate and analyze new bio-electronic systems.

    Research Interests:
    Bio-inorganic Interface
    Molecular materials at interfaces
    Self-Assembly and Nucleation and Growth

  • Reginald Mitchell

    Reginald Mitchell

    Professor of Mechanical Engineering

    BioProfessor Mitchell's primary area of research is concerned with characterizing the physical and chemical processes that occur during the combustion and gasification of pulverized coal and biomass. Coals of interest range in rank from lignite to bituminous and biomass materials include yard waste, field and seed crop residues, lumber mill waste, fruit and nut crop residues, and municipal solid waste. Experimental and modeling studies are concerned with char reactivity to oxygen, carbon dioxide and steam, carbon deactivation during conversion, and char particle surface area evolution and mode of conversion during mass loss.

    Mitchell’s most recent research has been focused on topics that will enable the development of coal and biomass conversion technologies that facilitate CO2 capture. Recent studies have involved characterizing coal and biomass conversion rates in supercritical water environments, acquiring the understanding needed to develop chemical looping combustion technology for applications to coals and biomass materials, and developing fuel cells that use coal or biomass as the fuel source. Studies concerned with characterizing coal/biomass blends during combustion and gasification processes are also underway.