The Cullen College of Engineering is the biggest inhabitant of the UH Energy Research Park, the only industry research park in the City of Houston dedicated to energy. Research in diesel emissions, biofuels, wind energy, superconductivity and petroleum engineering are all currently housed or are in development at the park. The Cullen College of Engineering is looking to partner with corporations and industries in efforts that span from basic and applied research to product development and technology transfer.
SSpeed Center — Building 3
The Severe Storm Prediction, Education and Evacuation from Disasters (SPEED) Center organizes leading universities, researchers, emergency managers and private and public entities to better address severe storm impacts in the Gulf Coast area, the largest energy hub in the world. The center, a collaborative effort with Rice University, focuses on severe storm and hurricane research and storm surge prediction; radar-based rainfall and flooding warning systems for urban and coastal areas; state-of-the-art educational programs for workforce training and public awareness; infrastructure risks assessment; and evacuation plans linked to the best warning and transportation systems and societal needs.
National Wind Energy Center — Building 3
With the federal government attempting to fuel 30 percent of the nation’s electricity consumption through wind sources by 2030, researchers at the National Wind Energy Center are working establish an offshore wind energy operation to lead the nation toward this goal. They are working to develop advanced materials to be used in turbine blades and towers that can withstand extreme offshore conditions. In addition, they hope to streamline the manufacturing process for blades larger than 70 meters.
National Center for Airborne Laser Mapping (NCALM) — Building 4
Research at the NSF-funded National Center for Airborne Laser Mapping (NCALM) is focused on mapping terrains with laser surveying instruments to provide critical data to scientists and government agencies about the changing surface of the earth. Everything from erosion and drainage patterns to the devastating effect that natural disasters have on the environment can be topographically mapped and modeled for study. The NCALM team is currently working to develop a next generation Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) system to provide some of the most accurate, high-res observations available via laser mapping. The system will also be able to penetrate shallow water depths, which is currently not available with existing technology. Less expensive than current commercial units, the technology has commercialization potential, making it more readily available for widespread research.
Petroleum Engineering — Building 9
In January 2011, UH's new Petroleum Engineering Program opened in a newly renovated building at the Energy Research Park. The new undergraduate program is fully operational in this location, which is home to several classrooms, undergraduate teaching laboratories, a computer lab, graduate research laboratories, offices and a student lounge. In June 2011, the facility was formally named the ConocoPhillips Petroleum Engineering Building.
Texas Center for Clean Emissions, Engines & Fuels (TxCEF) — Building 14
The Texas Center for Clean Emissions, Engines & Fuels (TxCEF) was established in 2004 through a partnership with the City of Houston to test emissions for the city’s fleet of diesel vehicles. Since Houston is a non-attainment area, emissions in the industrial region of Houston must meet state emissions regulations and the moving fleet of diesel vehicles is a huge contributor to the problem. In addition to testing vehicle emissions, Harold and center researchers have a variety of projects aimed at testing and implementing retrofit technologies, which work by cleaning NOx toxins emitted from diesel vehicle engines. The center is working to provide the EPA with data on the performance of these technologies and is working with specific companies to test and retrofit their systems on various diesel vehicles, including a fleet of local school buses.
Researchers are also working to examine the potential of algae as a renewable source of fuel. Unlike corn and soybeans, algae harvested as a biofuel will not compete with the production of current food crop and would only use two percent of the nation’s cropland to generate enough biofuel to meet half the country’s fuel demand. Currently, Harold and Muncrief are looking for ways to tailor algae production that can be processed by today’s refineries.
Energy Device Fabrication Laboratory — Building 15
The mission of the Energy Device Fabrication Laboratory is to develop transformational technologies that are capable of producing inexpensive, high efficiency solid-state energy devices using roll-to-roll thin film manufacturing. Its innovative approach developed by Prof. Venkat Selvamanickam, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and the Director of the Applied Research Hub, is based upon creation of single-crystalline-like semiconductor thin films on inexpensive, flexible substrates. This approach is built on process method successfully demonstrated by Prof. Selvamanickam in the superconductor industry to construct a power transmission cable which was inserted into the electric power grid in 2008.