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Jessie Levine

Position: 
Students
Research Interests: 

Renewable energy, rural development in Latin America, local and international energy policy, environmental justice and energy.

Background: 

M.A. Candidate, Energy and Resources Group, UC Berkeley A.B. (1995) Stanford University (Human Biology)

Agricultural Innovation in Africa

Project Background and Rationale

African agriculture is at the crossroads. Persistent food shortages are now being compounded by new threats arising from climate change. But Africa faces two major opportunities that can help transform its agriculture and use it as a force for economic growth. First, advances in science and technology worldwide offer African countries new tools needed to promote sustainable agriculture. Second, efforts to create regional markets will provide new incentives for agricultural production and trade. This is the focus of the "Agricultural Innovation in Africa" (AIA) project. The project seeks to disseminate policy-relevant information on how to align science and technology missions with regional agricultural development goals. It does so in the context of the larger agenda to promote regional economic integration and development.

Distributed Concentrating Solar Combined Heat and Power

In conjunction with Combustion Analysis Laboratory and the Laboratory for Manufacturing and Sustainability in Mechanical Engineering, our research aims to develop a Rankine cycle heat engine system which will convert sunlight to heat at 60-80% solar-thermal efficiency and electricity at 8-10% solar-electric efficiency using concentrating solar collectors. In contrast to photovoltaic systems which cost ~$7/Watt [Solarbuzz, 2007] of generator rated peak electrical output, in mass production the proposed collector and generator system sized at 1-10kW would cost ~$4/Watt electricity or $0.80/Watt heat, allowing adjustment of heat and electrical output on demand. Considering that 112 MW of grid-connected PV was installed in the U.S. in 2006, there is a large proven market for solar energy. With widespread market penetration, this system would reduce greenhouse gas and criteria pollutant emissions from electricity generation and heating for a significant portion of the developed and developing world.

There are currently two prevalent technologies for solar-electric energy conversion: photovoltaics harness the photo-electric effect for direct conversion of light to electricity, and solar thermal collects light as heat, driving mechanical-electrical generators; typically using a Rankine Cycle. While photovoltaics exist in both centralized and distributed power applications, solar-thermal power is exclusively used in centralized plants. This is due to the fact that the expanders required in a Rankine cycle do not operate efficiently at low power levels (1 - 10 kW). If this technical barrier can be overcome, distributed solar-thermal could have several advantages over distributed photovoltaics: photovoltaic technologies cannot currently store excess energy economically; while energy in the form of heat can be cost effectively stored using available thermal storage technologies. Additionally, semiconductor processing requires large amounts of energy, water, and harmful chemicals; whereas solar-thermal technology uses more easily processed engineering materials, such as steel, glass, and rubber. Solar thermal may thereby provide cheaper, more reliable and environmentally benign distributed generation in a variety of economies worldwide. As outlined in the 2005 Dept. of Energy publication “Basic Research Needs for Solar Energy Utilization,” moderate temperature distributed solar thermal is an area where there is potential for significant breakthroughs to reduce the cost of solar energy.

Current research focuses on the following: (1) Determine likely candidates for the power generation device in moderate temperature heat engine applications. (2) Characterize the environmental impact (embodied energy, toxicity, and global warming pollution) of each potential design, and provide an example of how to consider these impacts during the design stage. (3) Optimize the system design using integrated multi-objective design-optimization over the following parameters: solar conversion efficiency, weight, cost, and environmental impacts. (4) Produce a moderate temperature expander design and prototype and a viable business model. 

Daniel Prull

Position: 
Alumni
Background: 

PhD Student, Mechanical Engineering, UC Berkeley
M.S. (2005) University of California, Berkeley (Mechanical Engineering)
B.S. (2003) University of Colorado (Mechanical Engineering)

Position:
Alumni

Description:
PhD Student, Mechanical Engineering, UC Berkeley
M.S. (2005) University of California, Berkeley (Mechanical Engineering)
B.S. (2003) University of Colorado (Mechanical Engineering)

Research Interests:
microgrid design, wind energy (design, testing and implementation), photovoltiacs, control of biofuels in IC and diesel engines, GIS energy mapping, aerodynamics, control, digital logic design

Projects:
Design and Implementation of Low-carbon Microgrids in the British Virgin Islands (thesis)

UV-Tube: Ultraviolet Water Disinfection

The project focuses on improving water quality for people in developing areas where other water treatment methods are not applied consistently because of their cost, inconvenience, complexity, or energy requirements. The goal of the UV-Tube Project is to design and promote the UV-Tube—an affordable, simple, and easy to use household water disinfection device that uses ultraviolet (UV-C) light to inactivate pathogens.

More Information about UV-Tube: Ultraviolet Water Disinfection