Member Spotlight: Binghamton University

Binghamton University, located in Vestal, NY, is one of the four University Centers in the SUNY system. It is dedicated to excellence in education at both the undergraduate and graduate levels with 15,000 students, 2000 of which are graduate students. Binghamton has an international reputation in research and in working effectively with industry. Energy is a growing area of research in the Chemistry, Materials, Physics and Engineering departments with ongoing work spreading from generation, through conversion and storage to application and conservation. The University was given the SUNY2020 designation in energy by Governor Cuomo in 2012, which will result in expanded facilities and additional faculty.

The Institute for Materials Research was formed in 1988 to advance research in materials and to build bridges between the science researchers in materials with their colleagues in Engineering and the New York State Center of Excellence in Small Scale Systems Integration and Packaging (S3IP).  This new center is part of the expanding Innovative Technologies Complex (ITC) at the University, which includes the Center for Autonomous Solar Power (CASP) and the Integrated Electronics Engineering Center (IEEC).  The $30 million, 114,000-square-foot Center of Excellence building currently under construction will provide space for expansion and consolidation of S3IP and its interdisciplinary, inter-institutional teams of scientists and engineers.  The goal of the center is to bridge critical scientific, technology, commercialization and education gaps, and support collaborative partnerships in energy-efficient electronic systems, systems integration and packaging, flexible electronics, autonomous solar power, advanced materials and sensors, and healthcare/life sciences.

The ongoing emphasis at the Institute for Materials Research has been predominantly related to materials of interest for energy applications, including superconductivity, hydrogen storage, fuel cells and in energy storage using mostly lithium-based batteries and the related supercapacitors for power storage. More recently, with the establishment of CASP, the University has become active in next-generation solar energy materials.  The Institute is deeply involved with the DOE National Laboratories, in particular Brookhaven National Laboratory, in using the most advanced tools for studying the details of the materials while they are in functioning devices, such as batteries.

With respect to energy storage in particular, Binghamton has several very active programs. For example, Professor Stanley Whittingham’s group is investigating the fundamental limitations of today’s battery materials in order to devise new anodes and cathodes for Li-ion batteries with the goal of doubling the volumetric energy density of those available today and at half the cost. These include tin-based anodes that have double the capacity of carbon, and cathodes that can react with two electrons rather than the less than one typical of existing technology. His group works with Primet Precision in Ithaca on nanosizing materials and on evaluating their electrochemical behavior.  Professor Whittingham also leads the DOE NorthEast Center for Chemical Energy Storage based at Stony Brook University.

Stanley Whitingham commented that “Binghamton is proud to have been involved in the NY-BEST effort since the Governor's announcement of the NY Battery initiative in 2009, and has represented Academia on the Board of Directors since its formation."

Other work going on at Binghamton includes that of Professor CJ Zhong, who is studying electrocatalysts for fuel cells and Li/O2 batteries.   Professor Dimitrov is researching the electrodeposition of lithium to gain the dream of a pure Li anode.  Professor Louis Piper is studying the changes occurring in materials using the state-of-the-art tools available at the National Labs.  Professor Zhou is applying transmission electron microscopy to see structure at the atom level, and has students working jointly with Argonne National Laboratory.   Professor Wang is bringing neutron scattering to bear on the changes occurring in cycling batteries, using the capabilities at NIST.

The effort in the Center for Autonomous Solar Power (CASP), led by Professor Westgate, is focused on next-generation materials for photovoltaic systems. CASP is also researching supercapacitors that might be used to store the energy produced and to smooth their output.

Binghamton has a state-of-the-art materials characterization facility, set up by New York State, that allows researchers to perform the most demanding materials research, but also to make available to NYS industry these same capabilities. Binghamton benefits from extensive contacts with most of the major facilities at the National Laboratories, and has students and staff routinely performing experiments at those facilities.  In addition, Binghamton provides assistance to others in building bridges to the National Labs and has been funded by NYSERDA to perform this function.

As a major educational center in New York,  Binghamton University has the important role of educating the next generation of scientists that will be able to overcome the challenges of energy independence and sustainability for New York and the Nation.  Binghamton is an ongoing source of highly-trained new people in many of the National Laboratories, in major corporations as well as in the expanding number start-ups in energy storage.

Contact: M. Stanley Whittingham,