Energy Research at the University of Washington

Announcement Archives

Wood products part of winning carbon-emissions equation, researchers say

Trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to grow, so forests have long been proposed as a way to offset climate change.

But rather than just letting the forest sit there for a hundred or more years, the amount of carbon dioxide taken out of the atmosphere could be quadrupled in 100 years by harvesting regularly and using the wood in place of steel and concrete that devour fossil fuels, producing carbon dioxide, during manufacturing.

Patel named Microsoft Research Faculty Fellow

Shwetak Patel has been named a Microsoft Research Faculty Fellow for 2011. MRF Fellows are nominated by their universities and represent a selection of the best and the brightest in their fields.

Local scientist a global expert on air-sea-ice interaction

Polar oceanographer and climate expert Miles McPhee, 64, may keep a low profile studying data on air, sea and ice interactions at his rural home near Naches, but he's a bit of a celebrity among colleagues in this complicated field of study.

"I think it's fair to say he's the world expert on that," said Jamie Morison, the principal oceanographer at the University of Washington's Polar Science Center in Seattle.

Read more at Yakima

Atmospheric carbon dioxide buildup unlikely to spark abrupt climate change

There have been instances in Earth history when average temperatures have changed rapidly, as much as 10 degrees Celsius (18 degrees Fahrenheit) over a few decades, and some have speculated the same could happen again as the atmosphere becomes overloaded with carbon dioxide.

New research lends support to evidence from numerous recent studies that suggest abrupt climate change appears to be the result of alterations in ocean circulation uniquely associated with ice ages.

“There might be other mechanisms by which greenhouse gases may cause an abrupt climate change, but we know of no such mechanism from the geological record,” said David Battisti, a University of Washington atmospheric sciences professor.

Read more at UW today at:

Meet the innovative entrepreneurs behind MicroGREEN Polymers; see UW 360 Video

Meet the innovative entrepreneurs behind MicroGREEN Polymers and learn how the Center for Commercialization is bringing the UW's brain trust into the world of cutting-edge start-ups.

UW 360 profiles the fascinating people, programs and community connections that define the University of Washington. The show looks at a wide range of UW topics from solar energy, to heart tissue regeneration, to neighborhood farmer's markets - and much more. Samantha Rund The half-hour program is hosted by UW Alum Samantha Rund, who offers an insider's view on each story. With an abundance of UW stories to tell, each episode will give viewers a chance to discover a new facet of the University.

For full episodes and more visit

Code green: Energy-efficient programming to curb computers’ power use

Soaring energy consumption by ever more powerful computers, data centers and mobile devices has many experts looking to reduce the energy use of these devices. Most projects so far focus on more efficient cooling systems or energy-saving power modes.

A University of Washington project sees a role for programmers to reduce the energy appetite of the ones and zeroes in the code itself. Researchers have created a system, called EnerJ, that reduces energy consumption in simulations by up to 50 percent, and has the potential to cut energy by as much as 90 percent. They will present the research next week in San Jose at the Programming Language Design and Implementation annual meeting.

Read more at UW Today:

2011 Arts & Sciences Spring Lecture: A New Dawn for Solar Energy

Meeting the demand for clean, low-cost energy in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way is one of the defining issues of our time. Solar power can be a big part of the solution; however, ensuring it is affordable and scalable requires significant scientific and engineering breakthroughs. Explore the potential of solar energy and learn how UW researchers are combining basic scientific research in chemistry and physics with the powerful tools of molecular engineering, advanced materials and device design to meet this monumental challenge. This webcast is presented by the UW College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Engineering and the UW Alumni Association. See the video at:

Tidal power: another blessing from Puget Sound? See the article on

Energy researcher Brian Polagye discusses tidal power in an article on See the article at:

UW Today: Dimmable windows with solar panels could power zero-energy buildings (2/23/11)

Windows – typically a drain on a building’s energy consumption – are being re-imagined to help boost buildings’ energy efficiency. UW engineers and architects are collaborating on smart windows that can change transparency, depending on conditions, and actually harvest energy from the sun’s rays. Read more at:

Brookings Article: Around the Halls: 'Cut to Invest' at the Department of Energy (2/11/11)

The new budget request proposes growing the DOE budget by a substantial 12% over FY 2010 spending levels. R&D accounts would increase by 1/3 to about $8 billion. The outline would increase funding of the DOE’s Office of Science to $5.4 billion, on course to meet the President’s long-term commitment to double the budgets of key research agencies.
Read the full article at:

Shwetak Patel named 2010 top innovator of the year by Seattle Business Magazine and newsmaker of the year from TechFlash

Shwetak Patel named newsmaker of the year for his work on energy monitoring in the home.

Shwetak Patel named top innovator of the year by Seattle Business Magazine for his work on energy monitoring

Zensi, Shwetak Patel’s Energy Monitoring Startup, Purchased by Belkin

Zensi, an energy monitoring company based on technology developed by UW CSE professor Shwetak Patel and collaborators, has been purchased by Belkin.

Zensi’s technology was licensed from the University of Washington and from the Georgia Institute of Technology, Patel’s Ph.D. institution. The technology includes single-point-of-attachment sensors for electrical power, water, and natural gas — a single sensor in a home or business uses signal processing and machine learning to identify sources and rates of consumption. This dramatically reduces the cost of instrumenting the home or business and providing occupants with the information they need to behave in more economical and environmentally responsible ways.

According to Patel, this is just the beginning for using software to help consumers better conserve energy. “This puts UW on the map as a premier place for energy work in the residential space,” says Patel.

UW to study state biomass supply

OLYMPIA — The state has picked the University of Washington School of Forest Resources and TSS Consultants to do a 10-month study of the biomass supply in state forests. The study, the first of its kind in the nation, will be funded through a $1 million U.S. Forest Service grant. It will look at what biomass is available as well as access, infrastructure and location.

Read more at the Penninsula Daily News:

Read more at the Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce (with subscription):

Testing the Waters with Tidal Energy

Tidal power may be destined to remain a niche player in the U.S. energy portfolio, but the low-carbon energy source has one key advantage over wind and solar--it's as dependable as the moon's phases. UW professor Brian Polagye quoted in this Scientific American article. Read more at:

7 Projects Paving the Way for Ocean Power

What if we could tap the power of the ocean to produce electricity?

The University of Washington’s School of Aquatic and Fishery Scientists in Seattle will be evaluating three technologies — echo sounders, acoustic cameras and multibeam sonar — for their ability to monitor animal densities at sites where hydrokinetic projects are proposed. The team, which scored a $746,000 grant over two years, plans to deploy instruments at the site of a tidal energy demo project proposed by the Snohomish Public Utility District, in Washington’s northern Admirality Inlet.

Read more about companies involved in technologies to capture energy from waves, tides, currents and the ocean’s thermal gradients on a scale that could eventually make the sea a major contributor to the nation’s clean energy supply at GIGAom:

Molecular imaging and therapy center to develop, commercialize technologies

Ultrasound, best known by many for snapping pictures of babies before they are born, could soon be a way to spot cancerous cells before a tumor develops, precisely monitor how a person responds to treatment, or deliver genetic therapies to their targets.

The Ultrasound-based Washington Molecular Imaging and Therapy Center was established this spring with a $5 million grant from the Life Science Discovery Fund. The UW center will discover, develop and commercialize new medical technologies.

Read more at University Week:

UW Wins Green Washington 2010 Award

The University of Washington (UW) was selected as the government/academic winner of the Green Washington 2010 Award, presented by Seattle Business magazine. Evans School Dean Sandra O. Archibald accepted the award on behalf of the university. Archibald has chaired the UW's Environmental Stewardship Advisory Committee for a number of years. See the article at: