A Critical Agenda
The Future of Energy Science
The urgent need to revolutionize our thinking about energy can no longer be disputed. Scientific advances, combined with deep understanding of human interactions with the natural world, form the path to sustainable solutions to society’s energy needs.
In recent years, Penn Arts & Sciences has worked to accelerate discovery in energy science through a number of initiatives including critical faculty hires, the establishment of the Vagelos Institute, and undergraduate research opportunities through the Vagelos Integrated Program in Energy Research.
To establish a home for energy research that supports our commitment to this critical agenda, the University is undertaking construction of a 111,000-square-foot, state-of-the art laboratory space. The building is a central element of both the strategic plan of the School of Arts & Sciences and the University’s plan for advancing research in energy and sustainability.
The Vagelos Laboratory, located at the intersection of 32nd and Walnut Streets, will create a striking gateway to Penn.
Building for the Future
A World-Class Facility
Designed by Behnisch Architekten, the Vagelos Laboratory for Energy Science and Technology will create a striking gateway to the Penn campus while providing highly functional, flexible, and efficient space to facilitate collaboration and discovery.
View Opportunities to Support Energy Science at Penn
View VLEST Renderings
Experience the VLEST Virtual Reality Tour
Watch Video: Architect Matt Noblett on VLEST’s Innovative Design Program
Discovery in Action
Connecting People and Programs
The Vagelos Institute for Energy Science and Technology, a collaboration between Penn Arts & Sciences and the School of Engineering and Applied Science, fosters integrative basic research aimed at meeting the world’s present and future energy needs. Under the leadership of Karen Goldberg, the Institute is home to a powerful constellation of scientists who share a commitment to exploring new research directions in energy science and technology.
The Vagelos Integrated Program in Energy Research, or VIPER, prepares highly talented students to advance sustainable energy science and technology through interdisciplinary approaches and immersive experiences in cutting-edge research. Students in this dual-degree program offered jointly by the College and Engineering are positioned to become the next generation of energy leaders and innovators.
Vagelos Professor in Energy Research Karen Goldberg studies catalyst-dependent reactions with the potential to create biofuels from biomass feed stocks like natural gas and CO2. By improving the efficiency of these reactions, the Goldberg group aims to eliminate the world’s reliance on fossil fuels and instead produce valuable chemicals and fuels from a range of feedstocks. Goldberg is also interested in fundamental reactions that convert electrical energy into stored chemical energy by accumulating electrons. In doing so, they gather the tools to adjust these reactions to produce sustainable chemicals and fuels.
Chemistry professor Eric Schelter specializes in the inorganic synthesis of rare earth elements. His work includes exploring reactions that may help mitigate the release of methane into the atmosphere and could lead to a readily available carbon source for sustainable energy. The Schelter lab has also dedicated much of its brainpower to establishing a way to recycle rare earth elements, which are vital to technological advancements but are difficult to mine without causing environmental harm.
As the director of the Soft Materials Research and Technology (SMART) Laboratory, Daeyon Lee is tackling hard problems in how to make technology cleaner and more sustainable. Lee, Evan C Thompson Term Chair for Excellence in Teaching in the School of Engineering and Applied Science’s Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, is an expert in coaxing soft materials — things like polymers, colloids and biological substances — to assemble into complicated, useful structures that have unique properties.
Chemistry professor Zahra Fakhraai studies the behavior of materials on surfaces, interfaces and small-length scales to understand their properties in such technological applications as organic electronics. The knowledge gained from the Fakhraai group’s fundamental focus is applied to create novel materials for capturing solar energy. The Fakhraai group designs and synthesizes gold nanoparticles for various applications, including solar energy storage.
Stephen J. Angello Professor Cherie Kagan explores nanostructures and organic materials and integrates them into a new breed of energy-saving electronic and optoelectronics devices. The Kagan group experiments with increasing the energy storage efficiency in nanoscale semiconductors to improve their design for energy-saving applications. Kagan is also exploring gold nanorods, which have shown potential to replace semiconductors in solar cells.
Thomas Mallouk, Vagelos Professor in Energy Research, addresses challenges in materials chemistry that are feeding new ways of thinking about the storage and use of electricity. His group develops new kinds of nanomaterials that lead to more efficient and less expensive solar energy conversion devices, including nanostructures that trap visible light or redirect infrared light to control the flow of light in solar cells. His group also creates layered inorganic materials for a variety of energy harvesting and transferring applications.
Energy, Sustainability, and the Environment
A Time for Action
An overwhelming scientific consensus exists that human activity is having an unintended negative impact on the global environment. The Vagelos Laboratory for Energy Science and Technology will accelerate the pace of scientific advances in sustainable energy at Penn, forging the path to urgently needed solutions.