CEET's Mission

Emerging Energy Technologies support the rising generation of energy resources. Harnessing energy from sunlight or wind, converting it to other forms, storing this energy and distributing it to end uses are just a few examples of the role of these technologies. The mission of CEET is to facilitate collaborative research in this inherently interdisciplinary field. The Center is a meeting place for faculty, students and practitioners from the School of Engineering, UNM and outside to work together to find the solutions to one of society's most pressing needs - sustainable energy. The role of CEET is to support faculty and researchers in all stages of the research enterprise - writing proposals, administering grants, providing facilities and instrumentation, organizing workshops and conferences. In particular, CEET provides an environment to foster large-scale research efforts, involving Universities, Industry and the National Labs. The goal of CEET is to assist the economic growth of New Mexico, by developing competitive new technologies, and by training and preparing tomorrow's workforce, through providing an environment of research excellence in which to pursue advanced degrees.

Strategic Plan

The raison d'être of CEET is to facilitate the full cycle of innovation, from the conception of a specific energy material to its manufacture and deployment in various forms of energy infrastructure (e.g. power generation, transportation). Thus, the role of the center is to act as a catalyst, by engaging the many research programs that would exist independently in the various Departments in the School of Engineering, with the goal of achieving a unified vision. Thus, research groups working in basic scientific discovery are cognizant of efforts in devices and systems, while at the other end of the scale, systems researchers are aware of developing trends in materials and devices.

CEET grew out of Prof. Atanassov's program in electrochemistry, and is still heavily rooted in this foundational effort. A large proportion of the Center's research is indeed in the area of energy materials, with efforts in devices and systems being a smaller (albeit growing) part of the overall enterprise. While this emphasis has been and continues to be very successful, further growth of the Center demands that the streams become more balanced, meaning that the devices and systems efforts must grow. The 'steady state' structure of CEET mirrors very closely that of a third generation NSF Engineering Research Center:

ceet stairs

Schematic of the operation of the Center, dedicated to bridging the typical 'silo' nature of research within Engineering Departments. The Center actively promotes interactions between departments and research areas, by encouraging information exchange between researchers. The Center is also seeking ways to promote and incentivize interdisciplinary collaborations for large research grants.

'to create a culture of innovation in engineering research and education that links scientific discovery to technological innovation through transformational-engineered systems research and education to advance technology and produce engineering graduates who will be creative innovators in a global economy.'

Indeed, one of the immediate goals of the Center is to help UNM to become the lead institution in such a center, in the "Energy Sustainability & Infrastructure" technology cluster. UNM is already a core partner in two of five ERCs, the 'Smart Lighting ERC' and in the 'Quantum Energy and Sustainable Solar Technologies (QESST) ERC', headed by RPI and ASU respectively. Growth of CEET's efforts in devices and systems will enable UNM to leverage CEET's recognized national leadership in energy materials for this purpose. In the systems stream, CEET has developed unique infrastructure in distributed energy systems, which could support an ERC testbed. In the devices area, cooperation with UNM's Center for High Technology Materials (CHTM), and with the Mechanical Engineering's Manufacturing Technology and Training Center (MTTC) ensures the availability of needed infrastructure without redundant investment.

Given the intention, the capability, and the infrastructure, how then to achieve the goal? First, there is the need to establish dialogue. CEET grew out of the Chemical and Nuclear Engineering Department, and its membership reflects that: 53% ChNE, 18% ME, 11%ECE, 18% CE. Other than semi-annual SOE faculty assemblies, by and large faculty in individual Departments operate within the walls of that Department's building, with few inter-departmental interactions. To counteract this, CEET holds monthly meetings to discuss ceter-related issues and to exchange research notes through short seminars. Monthly agendas often contain discussion of current research funding opportunities, and are aimed at stimulating collaborations.

However, these good intentions must be followed by concrete actions, to prevent the normal outcome of individuals returning to their Department after the meeting, placing collaborations on the proverbial backburner until the next meeting. Although the Center often streamlines the submission of research proposals with better, more dedicated administrative support, there is no mechanism to incentivize collaborative proposals.

Thus, the Center Director is currently working with the School to identify incentives aimed at solidifying collaborations. For example, it may be possible to reward inter-departmental collaborative research with an additional portion of overhead returning to the individual PI. The recent school-wide shift to yearly pre-set operating budgets for Centers and Department makes returning overhead to individual PIs at the discretion of the Center Director impossible. However, it may be possible to set up a mechanism at the School level to automate this process, without resorting to ad hoc solutions.