Brookhaven researchers are developing groundbreaking and game-changing technologies to power the transition to new, more efficient, and sustainable energy sources to meet the world’s current and future energy needs. We're leveraging our world-class scientific staff, one-of-a-kind facilities, and key partnerships in New York State and beyond to advance two overarching areas of science and technology research: electrical infrastructure and sustainable chemical conversions. Our research addresses challenges at all essential points in the energy pipeline — generation, transmission, storage, and end use — with initiatives ranging from fundamental physics to grid-scale deployment.
Managing fluctuating demand for energy and enhancing the reliability of renewable sources requires breakthroughs in storage at the transmission and distribution levels. Our research is focused on developing a variety of storage technologies, including advanced battery materials and superconducting magnet energy storage systems. The Lab’s connections to the NY-BEST Consortium and the New York State Smart Grid Consortium provide a solid and active connection to the changing needs of local and regional communities.
The Lab is working with New York State utilities on technology for a smarter, next-generation distribution system that will adjust to automatic feedback from users and help identify and reduce losses. Most losses in the transmission and distribution of electricity occur as it travels to homes and business, and the future efficiency of renewable energy – including grid automation and real-time responsiveness to energy demands – is intimately connected to advancing an aging distribution system.
Research at Brookhaven improves the critical properties of ultra-efficient superconducting materials, which are key to integrating renewable energy into the grid. The 32-megawatt Long Island Solar Farm at Brookhaven—the largest in the Eastern U.S.—offers a unique opportunity for our scientists to study utility-scale photovoltaic plant performance and grid integration in the Northeast. A smaller solar array and a Brookhaven Lab micro-grid test bed are key components of a Northeast Solar Energy Research Center that serves as a focal point for research and industrial collaboration to tackle systems performance and grid-integration issues.
Generating electricity without producing climate-changing carbon dioxide is crucial to our future. Developing renewable sources of energy such as solar, wind, and nuclear power—as well as discovering new methods of capturing and storing the carbon dioxide byproducts of fossil fuel combustion—will help drive carbon-free energy generation and preserve the planet. Brookhaven provides tools and techniques for improving photovoltaic materials, wind turbine technology, carbon dioxide sequestration, and safety for nuclear systems.
Fuel cells transform the chemical energy in fuels into useful electricity, and catalysts are essential components of the electrodes that make high-efficiency energy generation possible. Brookhaven is developing new catalysts that avoid reliance on large amounts of precious metals such as platinum typically required for superior performance. New nanomaterial structures and synthesis methods pioneered at Brookhaven are increasing efficiency and significantly lowering the cost of catalysts used in electric vehicles and other advanced technologies.
Brookhaven researchers create novel catalysts to remove sulfur from oil and prevent acid rain, and to transform pollutants such as carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide into alcohols that can be used as clean fuels. These studies not only combat harmful emissions, but they also add to our fundamental understanding of the catalytic processes involved in producing and improving clean fuels.
Brookhaven biologists are advancing biofuels—fuels produced directly by plants or derived from plant materials such as stalks, stems, seeds, and fruits—as a promising alternative to fossil fuels. To optimize biofuel production, scientists must learn how plants accumulate biomass and then identify methods to influence and optimize these processes. With expertise in plant genetics, metabolism, molecular biology, chemistry, imaging, computational modeling, and environmental interactions, scientists at Brookhaven Lab are at the forefront of biofuel innovation.
While solar generation of electricity is important, hydrogen and liquid fuels are essential for long-term storage of energy as a replacement for the fossil fuels used in transportation and industrial processes. Brookhaven scientists are pioneering ways to use the sun to transform water and carbon dioxide into pure fuels such as hydrogen and oxygen, and using a carbon dioxide reduction process to produce important raw materials such as methanol and methane.