The latest in a series of federally-​​funded pro­grams sup­porting the university’s three major research themes – health, secu­rity and sus­tain­ability – Northeastern’s Center for Renew­able Energy Tech­nology (NUCRET) has received six fed­eral grants totaling more than $8 mil­lion to con­duct research that will pri­marily focus on pow­ering the next gen­er­a­tion of elec­tric cars and con­sumer products.

The Depart­ment of Energy (DOE) awarded North­eastern the majority of the funds, including a four-​​year, $6.38 mil­lion grant to develop a cost-​​effective and energy-​​efficient non-​​platinum based fuel cell cat­a­lyst for elec­tric vehi­cles. The new tech­nology would replace internal com­bus­tion gas engines with fuel cells.

Global chal­lenges, such as sus­tain­ability, call for leading research uni­ver­si­ties to pro­vide inno­v­a­tive solu­tions,” said Pres­i­dent Joseph E. Aoun. “North­eastern is responding to this call across a range of fronts, including our path­breaking work to develop renew­able energy. This work exem­pli­fies our use-​​inspired approach to research, which con­tinues to gain sup­port from impor­tant fed­eral agencies.”

NUCRET director and North­eastern pro­fessor San­jeev Muk­erjee and his team are col­lab­o­rating on the project with a host of uni­ver­si­ties and National Lab­o­ra­tory and other part­ners, including the chem­ical firm BASF, Los Alamos National Lab and Nissan. The goal is to develop a more afford­able fully elec­tric vehicle that would hit the market between 2016 and 2018, Muk­erjee said.

As a global focus to inte­grate more sus­tain­able living prac­tices con­tinues to gain momentum, increasing elec­tric cars’ avail­ability and afford­ability in the marketplace—and the tech­nology to build them—has become a stronger point of emphasis for both Amer­ican and for­eign automakers.

For Muk­erjee, who has been researching this field for 20 years, this DOE grant “rep­re­sents the greatest oppor­tu­nity for engen­dering a breakthrough.”

These grants put North­eastern at the fore­front of mate­rials sci­ence,” said Muk­erjee, pro­fessor of chem­istry and chem­ical biology. “Our lead­er­ship role will define the future devel­op­ment of these mate­rials for years to come.”

The DOE also pro­vided NUCRET with two addi­tional grants. One will sup­port a col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Uni­ver­sity of North Florida and Johnson Matthey to develop portable methanol fuel cells for con­sumer appli­ca­tions. This next gen­er­a­tion of fuel cells would enable lap­tops and other devices to run for months without being recharged.

The other grant will sup­port a part­ner­ship with Gen­eral Motors to develop ultra-​​low plat­inum loading cat­a­lysts for auto­mo­tive fuel cell applications.

Addi­tional sup­port includes:

• Defense Uni­ver­sity Research Instru­men­ta­tion Grant (DURIP) from the Depart­ment of Defense’s Army Research Office to aug­ment existing facil­i­ties with new lab­o­ra­tory equipment.

• Grant from Dupont as a part of a DOD pro­gram for the devel­op­ment of cost effec­tive non-​​platinum based Anion Exchange Mem­brane Fuel Cells for sol­dier power applications.

• Grant from the U.S. Army’s Communications-​​Electronics Research, Devel­op­ment, and Engi­neering Center to con­duct fun­da­mental studies on mate­rials for lithium-​​air batteries.

Improving the effi­ciency and low­ering the cost of advanced mate­rials will lead to a new gen­er­a­tion of fuel cells for effi­cient and clean energy con­ver­sion,” said Melvin Bern­stein, vice provost for research at North­eastern. “Through its sig­nif­i­cant grant sup­port DOE and DOD have rec­og­nized the impor­tance of the cut­ting edge mate­rial sci­ence and engi­neering research being car­ried out at NUCRET in achieving this national goal”

NUCRET researches ways to develop renew­able energy through an inter­dis­ci­pli­nary team of chemists, physi­cists, engi­neers, econ­o­mists and policy ana­lysts. Its col­lab­o­ra­tors include world­wide part­ners from the Czech Republic to China ded­i­cated to clean energy and water.