Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering

Mechanical Engineering Seminar


Energy Sustainability and Solar Thermochemical Fuels


Prof. Ellen Stechel


Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Deputy Director, ASU LightWorks; and Senior Sustainability Scientist in the Global Institute of Sustainability, Arizona State University


Friday, March 29, 2013 at 1:00:00 PM


Instructional Center Building, Room 103


Peter Loutzenhiser


Over the last decade ASU has been pioneering a new model for higher education based on eight design principles: (1) leveraging our place, (2) transforming society, (3) valuing entrepreneurship, (4) conducting use-inspired research, (5) enabling student success, (6) fusing intellectual disciplines, (7) being socially embedded, and (8) engaging globally. One of the mechanisms for achieving what amounts to a significant cultural change inside a university, is the creation of ASU centers, institutes, and initiatives, many of which conduct trans-disciplinary research on sustainability. One of the flagship initiatives is ASU LightWorks, which draws together, under one strategic umbrella, light inspired research for energy and sustainability both at ASU and with partners at other universities, research laboratories, and industry. This presentation will present on the strategic intent of ASUís model generally and LightWorks more specifically. Many of the areas of interest to LightWorks strongly overlap with areas of interest here at Georgia Tech. After a general overview of LightWorks, we will turn attention to solar thermochemical fuels research focused primarily on the Sunshine to Petrol (S2P) effort established at Sandia National Laboratories. S2P is a multidisciplinary effort that has been progressing a technical path for systems, reactors, and materials making liquid hydrocarbon fuels from concentrated sunlight, waste carbon dioxide, and water motivated to address the dual challenges posed by the strategic and economic importance of petroleum and the increasing concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide. We find that given high enough efficiency (> 10%) lifecycle energy conversion routes, supplanting a large fraction of global petroleum-derived liquid fuels with synthetic solar-fuels is challenging but nonetheless possible; indeed it is quite plausible.


Ellen Stechel is Professor of Practice in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Deputy Director, ASU LightWorks; and Senior Sustainability Scientist in the Global Institute of Sustainability, all at Arizona State University. Ellen joined Sandia National Laboratories as a technical staff member in 1981 in Condensed Matter Theory and later Advanced Materials Sciences and Devices, where she made the move from individual contributor to manager. In late 1998, she left Sandia on Entrepreneurial Leave of Absence and joined the Scientific Research Laboratory in Ford Motor Company, where she managed the chemistry and environmental science department and interfaced with the company on a number of areas including environmental emissions, fuel and additive chemistries, sustainability, lifecycle analysis, and climate change. In 2001, she moved into Fordís product development and led the R&D to develop, prove, and deploy new technology to halve precious metals usage in catalytic converters while meeting the more stringent Tier 2 emission standards ahead of the regulatory schedule. In 2005, she re-joined Sandia National Labs on assignment to the Department of Homeland Security in the Science and Technology Division in DC as Technology Transition champion. In 2006, she moved back to Sandia in Albuquerque to manage a materials for energy department and build a multi-disciplinary program in fuels from the sun. Ellen retired from Sandia at the end of 2011 and joined the faculty at ASU in her current positions. She received her MS in Physical Chemistry and Ph.D. in Chemical Physics from the University of Chicago, in 1976 and 1978, respectively.


Co-sponsored by the Strategic Energy Institute.