When SUNY Chancellor Kristina Johnson visited SUNY Broome last fall, she engaged Engineering Science students about their work in energy conservation, viewing their projects in the campus’ Sustainability Sandbox. That’s not all.
“She gave them a challenge – to develop a better electrical outlet that would automatically turn itself off to save energy when it wasn’t needed,” explained Engineering Science Professor Robert Lofthouse. “The students were really impressed by meeting Chancellor Johnson and they worked on some of these ideas in design class.”
Three SUNY Broome Engineering Science students headed to Albany to participate in the Chancellor’s showcase, which took place just prior to her State of the University System address on Jan. 31. Diana Kelly, Brandon Kipp and Nick Hayko explained their ongoing research into phantom or vampire energy – the electrical current used by devices even when they’re not in use.
Take Professor Lofthouse’s Keurig coffeemaker as an example. Even without a display, it uses 4 watts of energy all the time – about the same as an energy efficient lightbulb. (This is why it’s a good idea to unplug devices you’re not using.)
Green energy and energy conservation are particular interests of the Chancellor, who co-founded a clean-energy and infrastructure company and once served as Undersecretary for the U.S. Department of Energy. During her visit to campus, students learned about a particular quirk of hers: When she stays in hotels, one of the first things she’ll do is unplug the unused mini-refrigerator, which uses a great deal of energy.
The energy use of mini-refrigerators of this type was included in the students’ presentation, along with a poster showing their progress on the Chancellor’s challenge and a demonstration of the energy efficiency of light bulbs.
In the future, intelligent outlets may solve the problem of phantom energy – and perhaps be integrated into smart homes that can alert residents to problems. And who knows? Maybe SUNY Broome students will be the inventors.