Illustration of the earth, showing temperature bands

The following highlights some areas of interdisciplinary excellence where Cornell faculty, staff and students have established expertise and ongoing interests that complement practitioner organization activities and advocacy in the field of Energy Research. Collaboration between Land Grant and endowed colleges, as well as extensive networking among numerous departments have fueled efforts in the interconnected and interdependent themes of energy, environment, and economic development.        

Contact Todd Cowen, ACSF Faculty Director for Energy.

Biochar soil amendment - after "charring" and before

Learn about ACSF's AVF research grants and research performed by ACSF Faculty Fellows

Key Campus Partners:
Engineering Energy Studies *,  Energy Transitions Group, Cornell Center for Materials Research, Energy Materials Center at Cornell (EMC2), Graduate Education in Earth-Energy Systems, KAUST Cornell Center for Energy and Sustainability, Northeast Sun Grant Initiative



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Topics: Biofuels | Carbon Footprint | Climate Change | Combustion Engineering | Computation and Modeling
Ecotecture | Electric Infrastructure | Energy Storage - Batteries | Fossil Fuels | Fuel Cells | Geothermal
Solar Cells | Wind and Water


Cornell researchers explore algal biofuels

Cornell researchers work to develop sustainable technology for bio-based energy and feedstock production. Cornell researchers are currently addressing the physical, chemical and biological barriers to liberating sugars from bioenergy crops such as switchgrass, miscanthus, other perennial grasses and woody biomass, and converting these sugars into fuel or other products. The integration of industrial and environmental biotechnology through broad-ranging projects assists in the discovery of both economically and ecologically advantageous biotechnological energy solutions.

Carbon Footprint

Illustration of Cornell's power and cooling infrastructure

Research across Cornell probes the conservation alternatives that will reduce carbon emissions from fossil-fuel-based technologies, and the remediation opportunities possible by either removing CO2 from combustion emissions and/or from managing the ecosystem. Efficient lighting, building design, and community planning are just some of the categories of active research.

Climate Change

Polar ice sheet breaking apart

Cornell scientists study the interactions between processes important for global, regional, and local climate change. Work at Cornell has focused on climate change impacts on vegetation, water resources, and city and regional planning. Given the economic costs and benefits of different energy choices, balanced by the environmental and climate impacts, Cornell scholars focus on understanding optimal strategies of energies as we move into the future.

Combustion Engineering

Laser diagnostic investigations of flame structure

The dual challenges of energy and climate change highlight the need for improved combustion technology. Currently, Cornell Faculty are focusing on the study of combustion processes that facilitate carbon capture, the development of computational simulation and modeling methodologies for efficient combustion processes of different fuels, the formation of soot and pollutants and their evolution in the atmosphere, the incineration of waste, and the monitoring and control of combustion processes.

Computation and Modeling

storm heat modeling image

Cornell has a new program centered around the computation and modeling of sustainable energy systems. This large group reflects the efforts of a multidisciplinary team from nine departments in three colleges to draw upon strength in algorithm development and in modeling and simulation of climate, water, and fossil fuel systems.


photo of Ithaca's EcoVillage

Conservation of energy is one of the most important aspects to consider in developing sustainable buildings. Cornell faculty and students the College of Human Ecology are exploring architectural designs with passive solar heating, building insulation and glazing to lower energy consumption and cost, and reduce air pollution by limiting infiltration of outdoor pollutants into the building's air supply.

Electric Infrastructure

diagram of the smart grid

Through collaboration with a dozen other research Universities, Cornell faculty are examining new means by which the electric-power industry can achieve high performance requirements and restructuring goals to produce a "Smart Grid". Areas of investigation include analysis of new transmission roles, such as fast control of power flow, development of new tools for design and analysis, and exploration of new roles for information, communication and measurement systems.


Energy Storage - Batteries

diagram of organosulphur battery

New composite nano-materials have the promise of increased performance in rechargeable lithium batteries. Cornell researchers have invented new nano-structured oxides, semiconductors, and metals, as well as organic and polymeric materials that could lead to more durable and inexpensive battery systems for use in transportation vehicles or in portable electronic devices.

Fossil Fuels

photo of first producing oil well in Bolivia

Scientists and engineers at Cornell study the most efficient ways to optimize discovery and recovery of hydrocarbons, as well as to exploit coal and non-conventional hydrocarbons in manners that are more sustainable. They also probe the recovery of stranded resources, especially natural gas hydrates—a source of energy with important climactic implications.

Fuel Cells

photo of combi chamber

The Cornell Fuel Cell Institute works to discover and develop novel materials for advanced fuel cell components that overcome the fundamental limitations in performance, durability and cost of current technologies. Additional functions of CFCI include collaboration with industrial and academic leaders in the fuel cell sector, as well as education of students and the public in fields of science and engineering relevant to energy production, storage, use, and efficiency.



photo of Old Faithful geyser (

Geothermal energy systems tap the renewable heat energy in the interior of the Earth. Heat stored in the easily tapped, hot hydrothermal sources a short distance below the surface, are currently widely exploited. Energy stored in hot rocks at substantial depths, reached by drilling similar to that in petroleum industry, have the prospect of supplying up to 100 gigawatts of electric power by mid-century. If developments on this order are realized from deep sources, geothermal power will play a significant role in the portfolio of energy technologies that will be needed to provide the carbon free energy that will be required in the near future.

Solar Cells

photo of organic solar cell in action

Faculty involved in solar energy research at Cornell focus on inorganic, organic and materials. Solar energy research aims to make new discoveries that are both energy efficient and cost effective. New technologies in the form of hybrid cells, improved semiconductor materials, and electroluminescent electronics among others fuel the development of the future of solar energy.

Wind and Water

photo of wind farm

Wind and water energy are being investigated as two key renewable energy sources through collaboration of expertise in atmospheric science, aerodynamics, mechanics, materials science, and control engineering. Using creative turbine designs, researchers are working to develop mechanisms to generate energy from the winds and tidal flows of the Earth's natural landscape.