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Print Editions Thursday September 28th, 2023

In a move intended to invigorate alternative-energy research at Brown, the University announced this summer that it will collaborate with Draper Laboratory, a non-profit engineering organization.

A memorandum of understanding signed by Brown and Draper officials earlier this year laid out a plan for the partnership, whose overarching aim is to help translate innovation at the University into marketable products that could increase energy efficiency in the United States.

Among the partnership's central initiatives, Brown and Draper, which is based in Cambridge, Mass., plan to jointly establish a center for energy research with a broad scope of study, including exploring how to make coal plants more efficient and investigating novel methods of CO2 capture and sequestration.

"Innovation comes when you collaborate," said Len Polizzotto, Draper's principal director of strategic business development and marketing. "Brown has big research and little development, we have very little research but we have big development. Now that's a match made in heaven."

The match began to flourish about a year ago, when Draper contacted the University, and it will be cemented with more formal agreements in the months to come, officials involved in the collaboration said.

It is possible that the partnership could expand beyond alternative energy research into other fields in the not-too-distant future.

"Their mission is to create knowledge, much like ours is," said Chair of the Department of Chemistry Peter Weber. The partnership will be conducive to Brown taking on larger projects, increasing opportunities for both undergraduate and graduate students and receiving more grant money for energy research, he added.

Draper and Brown have already applied jointly for funding from the Department of Energy, and the availability of stimulus money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act means that funding is more accessible than ever.

"The partnership makes us more competitive for getting what is now a bigger pot of money," said Richard Lewis, a science media specialist for Brown. "Let's hope we do so."
Draper and the University have already collaborated effectively on a project to improve coal power plant efficiency, according to Michael Feng, Draper manager for the Brown-Draper collaboration. While Draper was developing a sensor to make carbon sequestration more efficient, Brown research on coal combustion and power generation was significant, he said.

"Our vision for an energy partnership clicked" with that project, Feng wrote in an e-mail to The Herald.

The partnership will permit Brian Ahr GS, a graduate student in the chemistry department, to gain more market access and feedback for his research on CO2 release and capture, he wrote in an e-mail to The Herald.

"The research questions are fascinating on their own, but knowing that there is a large-scale application that could have an immediate effect on our planet brings the work to a whole new level," he added.



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