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Listed below is research related to sustainability and the environment that Vanderbilt researchers have produced over the past several years.


  • Carbon labeling can reduce greenhouse gases even if it doesn’t change consumer behavior. Michael Vandenbergh, David Daniels Allen Distinguished Professor of Law and director of the Climate Change Research Network, examines how carbon labeling can help reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in a variety of ways. Being required to disclose how carbon-intensive their products are can also incentivize food producers to reexamine their supply chains and look for efficiencies to bring those numbers down, particularly if those changes result in cost savings. There is a reputational incentive as well, as businesses may be loath for customers to see a high-GHG label on their products.
  • Vanderbilt engineers’ smart grid platform joins new Linux Foundation energy project. Vanderbilt University was the first academic partner to join a new effort by The Linux Foundation to advance open source innovation in the energy and electricity sectors, contributing both deep expertise and a platform for smart grid applications.
  • Safe solid-state lithium batteries herald ‘paradigm shift’ in energy storage. Recent announcements about game-changing research using a solid non-flammable ceramic electrolyte known as garnet has some in the race calling it revolutionary. Assistant professor of mechanical engineering Kelsey Hatzell’s paper describing her novel research on the failure points of a garnet electrolyte was published in March.
  • Pint cracks code to cheap, small carbon nanotubes. Vanderbilt University researchers discovered the blueprint for turning carbon dioxide into carbon nanotubes with small diameters.
  • New recyclable resin makes wind turbines much more sustainable. When wind turbines wear out, very little of that material can be recycled. The problem has a solution in sight, thanks to a new recyclable resin that cures at room temperature. Vanderbilt is a partner in the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation, and Vanderbilt researchers tested the resin’s self-setting properties using infrared imaging.






2012 and Before

  • Winds offer students good view of turbine action. Three faculty members and 24 students got a complete run down of the turbine siting, energy estimation, facility design, installation, operation and other engineering issues tackled in the context of setting up the site.  “The visit complements their lesson plans on renewable energy and the students clearly had spent time reviewing the information on the VU/MWS Renewable Energy Showcase website,” Anilkumar said.
  • Grant will help professor develop battery to aid home energy use. Peter Pintauro, H. Eugene McBrayer, Vanderbilt professor, has partnered with researchers from the University of Kansas and TVN Systems, Inc. on a three-year, $1.72 million grant from the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) of the U.S. Department of Energy to develop a durable, low-cost battery capable of gathering power at off-peak hours and storing it for use during times of high demand.
  • NSF funding boosts Vanderbilt climate change studies in Sri Lanka. Now a five-year, $3.7M grant from the National Science Foundation, through their Water Sustainability and Climate program, will further the VIEE study and its global best practices in developing nations.
  • Spinach power gets a major boost. Researchers from Vanderbilt have discovered a way to combine the photosynthetic protein that converts light into electrochemical energy in spinach with silicon. This produces substantially more electrical current than has been reported by previous “biohybrid” solar cells.
  • NSF Funding boosts Vanderbilt climate change studies in Sri Lanka. In 2010, the Vanderbilt Institute for Energy and Environment (VIEE) began an interdisciplinary study of agricultural adaptation to water scarcity in Sri Lanka. A five-year, $3.7M grant from the National Science Foundation will further the VIEE study and its global best practices
  • Grant will help professor develop battery to aid home energy use. Peter Pintauro received a $1.72 million grant from the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy. His research has the potential to reduce stress on the nation’s strained power grid and increase energy savings for consumers.
  • Winds offer students good view of turbine action. Students from the school of science and math at Vanderbilt saw a wind turbine come to life on top of love hill. The main purpose of the project is to examine the feasibility of alternative energy production through solar and wind facilities, and the expectation is that about 30kWh (kilowatt hours) of power will be generated on a daily basis.
  • Vanderbilt sophomore might just save the environment. Param Jaggi is has been named one of Forbes “30 under 30” due to his efforts in promoting clean air. While still in high school, he invented an algae-filled device that fits over a car’s tailpipe and turns carbon dioxide into oxygen. Now, he is working on a thermo-voltaic wind system that can be installed in an exhaust system to capture energy from waste air and heat.
  • Vanderbilt Research Brightens the Future of Lighting. The accidental discovery of ‘Quantum Dots’ seven years ago in a Vanderbilt Chemistry lab could lead to new lighting solutions for our future.
  • EPA awards $90,000 to VU seniors to develop a spinach-powered solar cell. Over Earth Day Weekend, a team of five Vanderbilt seniors won a $90,000 grant at the Annual National Sustainable Design Expo held in Washington, D.C. with their novel, large-scale biohybrid solar panel.
  • High school students turn blackberries into solar cells. Students from nine local high schools are participating in field trips to Vanderbilt laboratories to learn about and get hands on experience with nanotechnology by creating berry-powered solar cells.
  • Time to anticipate and adapt to climate change. Vanderbilt-hosted leadership summit concludes that despite uncertainties surrounding climate change, effective strategies that will keep the nation’s transportation systems and other critical infrastructure running in the face of the adverse impacts need to be developed.
  • Solar Energy Conversion Inspired by Nature’s Engineering. Watch video of G. Kane Jennings, associate professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, speaking at the Commencement 2011 Faculty Seminars.
  • Adsorbed in His Work. A leader in the field of adsorption, Doug LeVan, J. Lawrence Wilson Professor of Engineering and professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, seeks to improve air quality both on Earth and in space.
  • Video: Is Global Warming on the Back Burner? Prospects for Change.  Watch video of Mike Vandenbergh, professor of law and director, Climate Change Research Network; Michael Bess, Chancellor’s Professor of History; and Beth Conklin, associate professor of anthropology, speaking at the Dec. 8, 2010, Thinking Out of the (Lunch) Box on the future of Climate Change policies and actions.
  • Researcher looking into energy powered by the sea.  Vanderbilt’s Frank Parker suggests one of the best things the world can do to promote peace and stability in the coming century is to expand commercial nuclear power based on the extraction of uranium from the ocean.
  • Private incentives for carbon emissions reductions needed to fill gaps until public measures created.  As the Copenhagen Climate Change Summit continues, Mike Vandenbergh and Mark Cohen, two Vanderbilt professors, suggest that regardless of whether or not the meeting is successful in bringing public governance measures to bear, significant carbon reductions can be achieved by creating private incentives to reduce carbon emissions.
  • Costly myths: An analysis of idling beliefs and behavior in personal motor vehicles. The average U.S. resident idles their car for 16 minutes a day and wrongly believes that a car should idle 3.6 minutes before it is better to turn it off, finds the Energy Policy study, led by VU psychologist Amanda Carrico.
  • The Campaign to End American Idle. Vanderbilt Law professor Mike Vandenbergh wants to change your driving behavior: Stop idling your car.
  • Vanderbilt Doctors develop new technology to recycle anesthetic. Recently, doctors at VUMC have developed the Dynamic Gas Scavenging System, a device which collects air containing exhaled
    anesthetic, which is then captured, condensed, and recycled.
  • The Vanderbilt School of Engineering will soon have a new state-of-the-art biodiesel testing facility. Beginning in the fall of 2008, students from various engineering disciplines will use the Vanderbilt Multi-User Biodiesel Engine Test Facility to investigate diesel engine performance parameters and test campus-produced biodiesel fuels.
  • Energy Expert Discussess the Future of Solar Power. Watch a video of Lawrence Kazmerski, Director of the National Center for Photovoltaics in the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, discussing the prospects of solar-photovoltaic (PV) technologies, arguing that this solar-electricity source is at a tipping point in the very complex realm of worldwide energy.
  • The New “Wal-Mart Effect.” A new study by Vanderbilt Professor of Environmental Law Michael Vandenbergh finds that U.S. companies often are pushing for environmental regulations from foreign businesses rather than lobbying national or international governments.
  • The Vanderbilt Climate Change Research Project. This project includes a team of faculty and graduate students who are conducting theoretical and applied research on one of the most important and most widely overlooked sources of greenhouse gases: individual and household behavior. Furthermore, the Vanderbilt Law School’s Regulatory Program is engaged in the study of how governmental activities influence public or private behavior for purposes of promoting environmental protection and public health.
  • Mobile pollution sensors to be developed at Vanderbilt using Microsoft grant. Vanderbilt engineers have won an award from Microsoft Corp. to develop a real-time, online, detailed and accurate picture of air quality in large metropolitan areas like Nashville.
  • Chemists receive award from ‘Popular Mechanics’. A team of Vanderbilt chemists whose work could make the light bulb passé and cut electricity consumption by half are among the recipients of Popular Mechanics magazine’s 2006 Breakthrough Awards.
  • Cleaning Up Coal. Scientists and policymakers might debate the existence and causes of “global warming,” but no one debates the need for clean air or the desirability of cleaning up emissions from coal-fired power plants.
  • Historian offers overview of environmental issues. The litany of woe has become familiar and seemingly overwhelming: The Earth is running out of fossil fuel and facing chaotic weather due to global warming.
  • Nuclear waste issues to be tackled by VU-led team. Nuclear power might be “green power” — but only if nuclear waste can be managed properly.
  • \Reducing emissions of direct injection goal of VU research. An automobile engine with 30 percent greater fuel efficiency than current models — but that also meets U.S. emission standards — is the goal of an engineering professor.
  • Community Development and Ecological Theory. A Vanderbilt Professor writes about how community development is affected by the environment and vice versa.