Overall Rating Silver
Overall Score 48.88
Liaison Brad Haydel
Submission Date June 6, 2016
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.0

California State University, Los Angeles
AC-9: Academic Research

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 5.87 / 12.00 Philip LaPolt
Associate Vice President for Research and Academic Personnel
Office of the AVP for Research and Academic Personnel
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Number of the institution’s faculty and/or staff engaged in sustainability research:

Total number of the institution’s faculty and/or staff engaged in research:

Number of academic departments (or the equivalent) that include at least one faculty or staff member that conducts sustainability research:

The total number of academic departments (or the equivalent) that conduct research:

A copy of the sustainability research inventory that includes the names and department affiliations of faculty and staff engaged in sustainability research:
Names and department affiliations of faculty and staff engaged in sustainability research:

See attached

A brief description of the methodology the institution followed to complete the research inventory:

We created and utilized a Faculty Research Interest Database maintained by the Officer of Research and Development.

A brief description of notable accomplishments during the previous three years by faculty and/or staff engaged in sustainability research:

Building upon the University’s reputation for excellence in teaching and research in engineering and the sciences, California State University, Los Angeles has been awarded a three-year, $1.7 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to create a core facility to boost research activities for the University’s recently-launched Center for Energy and Sustainability (CEaS).

The Center for Energy and Sustainability (CEaS) involves 13 faculty members from eight interdisciplinary departments to promote energy diversity, energy sustainability, and energy efficiency. Its mission is to educate policymakers and the public about the value and applicability of alternative energy technologies, as well as about the environmental impacts of current energy technologies. It includes five research areas: Advanced Materials, Fuel Cells, Biofuels and Combustion, Carbon Sequestration, and Modeling.

The Center for Energy and Sustainability is conducting research in many fields, including the following:

Multiple methodologies and materials are being tested to develop novel photovoltaic materials. These involve the attachment of photosensitizers and platinum complexes to Quantom Dot (QD) surfaces, the study of nanoparticles and magnetic thin-films, and a priori molecular dynamics simulations of structures capable of transmitting a photocurrent. This project is run by Dr. Feimeng Zhou of the department of Chemistry along with Dr. Adel Sharif from the department of Mechanical Engineering, Dr. Radi Jishi from the department of Physics, and Dr. Matthias Selke from the department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

The future of portable electronics requires efficient and small power sources to operate them. The focus of this project is to develop microfluidic direct methanol fuel cells (DMFCs) as well as those utilizing hydrogen and formic acid. The use of these fuels entails one of the most promising mobile technologies by which such power can be provided. Fuel cells can be considered chemical reactors designed to convert chemical reactant streams into electrical energy and chemical products. Dr. Frank A. Gomez and his group have developed several novel prototypes built on a layer-by-layer (LBL) assembly and chip platform. We have concentrated on both passive and active types of fuel cells utilizing the proton exchange membranes (PEMs) Nafion 117 and 212. Our focus has been on optimizing the design of the DMFC which has involved the type of membrane to use, the catalyst loading, the mechanism of catalyst loading onto the membrane, to hot press or not the catalyst, and variations in the microfluidic design. Current work is focused on optimization and maximizing the efficiency of the microchips as well as in developing stacked assemblies. The testing of the fuel cells is in collaboration with Dr. David Blekhman and his students. A major component of the studies involves computation and modeling with Dr. Arturo Pacheco-Vega and his students. Numerical simulations of single-phase and two-phase models of a ?DMFC have been performed. The focus here is on the parametric analysis of a single channel of the system, for specific sets of operating conditions, in order to map the dependence of the cell performance with respect to the geometrical parameters. The project is very interdisciplinary and involves students from a myriad of disciplines including chemistry, biochemistry, mechanical engineering, and physics. This project is run by Dr. Frank A. Gomez from the department of Chemistry and Biochemistry along with Dr. Arturo Pacheco-Vega of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, and Dr. David Blekhman from the department of Technology.

Internal combustion engines are the primary means of transportation in the world. Emissions of soot and contaminants (such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or PAHs) pose significant human health and environmental hazards and contribute to golbal warming. Our reliance on fossil fuels has made us vulnerable to geopolitical, environmental, and economic pressures. This project seeks to reduce soot and contaminant emissions by controlling the combustion zone and to study the feasibility and impacts of switching from fossil fuels to environmentally friendly biofuels. This project is run by Dr. Darrell Guillaume from the department of Mechanical Engineering.

The atmospheric concentration of CO2 has been increasing dramatically in the past century. Proposals to mitigate the risks include sequestering CO2 in underground, geological repositories. Geological sequestration which involves CO2 injection into geologic formations for large-scale carbon storage is currently being tested at a few sites. While CO2 sequestration is considered relatively safe there are some risks when the stored CO2 may escape by leakage via faults or fractures. Environmental impacts may include groundwater quality degradation, damage to hydrocarbon and/or mineral resources and deleterious impacts on biota. Our aim is to get a predictive understanding of changes in the biogeochemistry of soils and the concomitant changes in water quality caused by leakage of subsurface CO2, and the possible impacts on biota, specifically bryophytes. The effects of CO2 leakage are sometimes subtle and our group proposes to fill a critical knowledge gap by developing geochemical or biological markers that provide indications of a CO2 stressed system before more advanced effects are observed. Faculty with expertise in geochemistry, biology, remote sensing, and modeling, have come together to build a partnership with the CREST team at California State University Bakersfield (CSUB) to create a truly multi-disciplinary team that is necessary to conduct a study of this nature and magnitude. Current activities, centered on training and education, include conducting background research related to biogeochemical changes of water chemistry in the presence of elevated carbon dioxide concentrations and a survey of bryophytes in and around the tree-kill area in Mammoth Lakes, CA. The site is considered a natural analogue for a CO2 sequestration site because natural CO2 escapes to the surface making the area a natural laboratory to study the impacts of escaping CO2. The elevated CO2 in the soils is blamed for the scores of dead trees seen in the area. Future studies include laboratory experiments to study effect on elevated carbon dioxide on water chemistry and bryophyte growth. The final piece of the puzzle will be to develop remote sensing tools to monitor CO2 distribution across the area and map changes in vegetation patterns. This project is run by Dr. Andre Ellis from the department of Geological Sciences along with Dr. Gustavo Borel Menezes from the department of Civil Engineering, Dr. Tina Salmassi from the department of Biological Sciences, and Dr. Kirsten Fisher from the Department of Biological Sciences.

Mathematical models, algorithms and numerical simulations of different engery-related phenomena and systems are being developed at our Center to promote energy diversity, efficiency, and sustainability. These models are being constructed from fundamental principles or are machine learned from observed data on existing systems. The results from this group are central to developing affordable and efficient methodologies for the design of novel and analysis of extant and novel renewable energy systems. The Project is run by Dr. Arturo Pacheco-Vega of the Department of Mechanical Engineering along with Dr. Gustavo Borel Menezes from the department of Civil Engineering, and Dr. Tonatiuh Rodriguez-Nikl from the department of Civil Engineering.

The website URL where information about sustainability research is available:

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