Energy Systems Research Projects

Current Projects

Installation Microgrids - Living Laboratory

Lincoln Laboratory - Erik Limpaecher
Collaborators - University of Texas (Austin)

The Energy Initiative is developing a microgrid jointly for Lincoln Laboratory and Hanscom Air Force Base sites. In addition to improving the facilities’ energy infrastructure, the microgrid will serve as a “living laboratory” for demonstrating advanced off-grid energy security for Department of Defense installations in a cost-neutral manner, and integrating a high penetration of renewable energy. Current Microgrid-Living Laboratory work includes systems analysis for properly selecting and sizing energy assets, power system resiliency analysis to maximize energy availability during outages, power system stability analysis for islanded operation, a cyber security architecture to integrate energy control systems with DoD IT networks, and controls for optimally dispatching energy assets.


Tactical Microgrids - Hi Power

Lincoln Laboratory - Scott Van Broekhoven

MIT Lincoln Laboratory develops and demonstrates intelligent power management for future tactical microgrids in support of U.S. armed forces.   The Laboratory has designed and built prototype microgrid power distribution hardware and will integrate this hardware into its forward operating base (FOB) microgrid test bed. This testbed can serve as a model for advanced DoD installation energy systems.   The Laboratory-developed hardware and testbed will be used to demonstrate power-management architectures that increase energy security and efficiency in the battlefield.  Opportunities for collaboration include development of control methods to improve stability while maximizing efficiency and high penetration of renewable resources, modeling of these complex systems, and development of open standards.


Organic Photovoltaics

Lincoln Laboratory - Theodore Bloomstein

Organic photovoltaic (PV) systems are well suited to a large array of military and disaste- relief applications for which area demands and module lifetimes are much less stringent.  The deposition techniques are inherently low temperature, and can be applied using much simpler thermal evaporation or liquid coating steps on low-cost flexible substrates, using non-toxic materials.  Working with Prof. V. Bulović at the Organic and Nanostructured Electronics Laboratory, we proposee a three-dimensional solar cell architecture that complements the recent important advancements in developing more stable classes of light harnessing organic semiconductors and barrier films.  It is designed to capture light in the portion of the active structure which ultimately participates in charge generation, while maintaining similar efficient charge transport in current bilayer heterojunction devices.  By potentially enhancing the conversion efficiencies in these more stable classes of organic materials, the design enables a much broader range of material systems, tailored to a specific power per weight requirement, shelf and operational lifetime, and cost requirement to be considered.


Spectral-Splitting Photovoltaic

Lincoln Laboratory -

To date, crystalline silicon panels are primarily used in residential, commercial, and utility scale systems, with the highest performing single-crystalline modules achieving ~20% efficiency.   Working with Prof. T. Buonassisi at the Photovoltaics Research Laboratory at MIT, we are developing a higher-performance photovoltaic module combining spectral-splitting optics developed at Lincoln Laboratory with new classes of low-cost narrowband solar cells developed in his laboratory.    By steering different portions of the solar spectrum to the appropriate cells, our approach has the potential to achieve high quantum conversion efficiency over the full solar spectrum.  Previous spectral splitting approaches have relied on concentrating optics, a cooling apparatus, and expensive III-V materials.   Although demonstrated at scale, they have had very limited penetration at utility (MW) scale in both commercial and DoD sectors. The concentrating systems only work in direct sunlight, placing geographical constraints.  In our proposed architecture, additional solar cells are integrated on conventional silicon solar cells, which also serve as the backbone for signal routing and level shifting.  The primary advantage with this approach is the PV module can achieve higher efficiency during periods of direct radiation while maintaining similar efficiency as the underlying silicon PV panel during periods of diffuse radiation. 


Electric Vehicle Work

Lincoln Laboratory - Chris Smith

Lincoln Laboratory is using vehicle charging and building load data to design next generation energy forecasting and budgeting tools.  These include peak shaving, market ancillary services, and islandable power systems.  Students and professors interested in this area can contact the Lincoln Laboratory Energy Initiative for partnership opportunities and more information.


Potential Future Projects


Disaster Response

Lincoln Laboratory - Gabe Ayers

One of the major problems confronting humanitarian relief efforts is the immediate availability of basic necessities such as clean water, lighted nigh-time shelter, communication, waste management, and medical services.  Sustaining the availability of these necessities usually requires the regular delivery, often through air drops, of supplies. These humanitarian efforts can be in response to natural disasters, war, or epidemics of disease, and it is often challenging to  deliver these supplies to affected areas for the weeks and months often required for recovery. Development of integrated self-powered systems that could enable continuous water purification, recharging of nighttime lighting systems, communication, and waste water disposal would greatly improve responses. This project could lend itself to a close collaboration between MIT Campus and MIT Lincoln Laboratory.