Home » Research

Research

Deep Learning for Energy Access

For my GCS research senior year, I am a Bass Connections Fellow with the Energy Data Analytics research lab under Kyle Bradbury and Leslie Collins taking part in the team project A Wider Lens on Energy: Adapting Deep Learning Techniques to Inform Energy Access Decisions. This is a two-semester intensive data science research project in which a team of undergraduates, graduates, and faculty use neural networks and computer vision techniques to help identify and map out energy infrastructure from satellite imagery. The purpose of this project is to fulfill a data gap in the energy infrastructure space and to help policymakers and businesses make intelligent decisions on expansion of the energy grid (microgrid development, distributed generation, or general grid expansion). This project has been in the works for a number of years and has won research awards, moving from a Data Analytics project to a Deep Learning project in its most recent iteration. The tools we are using are Python Tensorflow and Scikit-Learn.

Below is an example of the classification procedures of the algorithm built by the research team:

This research experience relates directly to my Grand Challenge because it is focused on large scale infrastructure development and improvement, filling a necessary gap in knowledge when it comes to the grid expansion process. I hope to expand my technical skillset and understanding of the energy grid through this project, as well as gain valuable connections in the exciting field of energy data analytics.

Start Date: August 2019

End Date: May 2020

Solar Thermal Energy

For my GCS research, I am working with Dr. Josiah Knight of the MEMS/Energy & Environment departments on solar thermal energy research. Solar thermal has extremely high potential for societal and environmental impact, and our focus is on phase change materials, which can significantly reduce the area required for solar collectors, as well as their storage capabilities. As the world urbanizes even more, the expansion of large scale and community-scale buildings will increase, and the demand for energy in developing and developed regions of the world will continually grow. It is up to engineers, policymakers, and designers to rebuild our energy infrastructure to be smart, efficient, and affordable for all. Solar energy is one of the most widely and readily available sources of energy, and proper and efficient capture and storage is key in ensuring its viability as a consistent and reliable power source. Solar thermal phase change materials are used to increase the efficiency of phase change solar thermal storage, and must fit into a set list of parameters in order to be feasible. The research process is quite new for me, and I am excited for the challenge of applying my knowledge of thermodynamics, materials science, heat transfer, and renewable energy in the field. This research is exciting because of its potential for global infrastructure impact and because of its intellectual relevance and rigor as a true optimization problem. I plan on participating in an Energy-related Bass Connections project senior year.

This research relates directly to the Grand Challenge of Restoring and Improving Urban Infrastructure (through renewable energy/energy systems), as it delves into a potential innovation that could help shape our future cities. Energy demand is projected to increase at unprecedented rates, and more and more experts are turning to solar thermal energy storage as an area with great potential.

This is a photo of our solar thermal testing rig with concentrated solar lamps focusing on a phase change material unit rigged with thermal sensors.

Start Date: January 2019

End Date: May 2019

GenereCycle

I led a project at the Duke Smart Home to design and implement a mobile bike generator. The idea was started as a part of Social Impact 360 freshman year, and was developed through the Smart Home Technology class at Duke. I conceptualized this project because I was doing research into urban transportation in India, and found that 60% of the urban population uses bicycles. This same population often suffers from rolling blackouts and poor energy access. The idea I had was to create a bicycle that would generate power as its users ride it around during the day, and then have it serve as a form of backup energy if they need first-aid, a phone charging station, or even lighting during an unexpected blackout. I am doing research on the mechanics, electrical generation, and efficiency of the bike system, as well as building different prototypes to generate different amounts of electricity. I received a Smart Home President Grant for the project, and was able to build a working prototype that could charge my phone and power bright LEDs as I rode around campus. Future potential for social impact depends on the lowering cost of batteries, the potential for reducing the weight of the system, and the manufacturing capabilities of a potential distributor.

Start Date: September 2016

End Date: April 2018