Energy-efficient computing and wastewater cleanup are basis of new industrial collaborations

Written by
Catherine Zandonella, Office of the Dean for Research
July 22, 2021

Industry often plays an essential role in identifying society’s most pressing challenges. The Dean for Research Fund for New Industrial Collaborations supports collaborations between scientists in industry and at Princeton, and it requires a pledge of matching funding from the company in the second year.

Peter Jaffe and Minjie Chen
Peter Jaffe and Minjie Chen. Photos by Denise Applewhite, Office of Communications; and Frank Wojciechowski

Two projects have been selected for funding:

Boosting the energy efficiency of today’s technologies

A collaboration with EnaChip, a New Jersey-based semiconductor energy startup, aims to shrink the size and improve the energy efficiency of telecommunications, computing and power electronics systems. The expansion of data centers, cloud computing, artificial intelligence and the switch to 5G cellular communications, which draws three times more electricity than 4G networks, is driving massive increases in energy usage. Minjie Chen, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering and the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment, has developed a systematic approach to reduce the size of the electronics delivering power to integrated circuits and microprocessors, and greatly reduce energy loss, enabling more compact and energy efficient systems. Chen will collaborate with EnaChip Inc. to evaluate a new system involving the company’s unique silicon integrated magnetic components and packaging techniques. The collaboration will garner input on how to deploy this new technology from industry partners including Google, Intel, and pSemi Corporation.

Detoxifying persistent chemicals

Through a collaboration with a leading chemical company, researchers at Princeton will explore a promising mechanism for breaking down long-lived contaminants in wastewater treatment plants.  Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which may have human health implications, contain carbon-fluorine bonds, which are some of the strongest chemical bonds in nature. Peter Jaffé, the William L. Knapp ’47 Professor of Civil Engineering and a professor of civil and environmental engineering, and his team have recently shown that a species of bacterium can break the carbon-fluorine bond and biodegrade PFAS. PFAS are commonly found in biosolids from domestic and industrial wastewater treatment plants, and removing PFAS from these biosolids would benefit the environment. Jaffe will collaborate with The Chemours Company to investigate conditions under which bacteria can break down PFAS in biosolids.