By Dana Yamashita

With a world population of 7.8 billion and growing, improving the lives of 2 billion people in developing nations is no small achievement.

In countries where clean energy and clean water are scarce, Mukesh Chatter ’82 and his wife, Priti Chatter, are focusing on the need for technological developments to help solve those challenges.

“Priti and Mukesh say that when you have clean water, and access to electricity, it can change the game for the student, the family, and the community,” says Shekhar Garde, dean of the School of Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. “It allows people to study at night, to refrigerate their food, to connect to the internet, and it opens up windows to the world of information and opportunities.”

Realizing how fortunate they are, the Chatters have endowed two chaired professorships at Rensselaer to support creative researchers whose studies focus on clean energy and clean water. As a result, Rensselaer has employed two experts in those areas — Miao Yu, in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, whose research centers on the development of advanced nanomaterials for energy and environmental applications like carbon capture technologies, and Fudong Han, in the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering, whose research concentrates on building safe and energy-dense batteries for electric vehicles and renewable energy storage.

Yu’s research delves into the development of advanced nanoporous materials and membranes for application in energy, the environment, and water. His team is working on a solution to capturing carbon dioxide before it leaves coal power plants and enters the atmosphere. “Right now, everybody is facing this challenge,” says Yu. “How can you design your technology to make the cost low for CO2 capture?”

Han’s research focuses on building safe and high-energy-density batteries for electric vehicles and renewable energy storage. An energetic professor, Han has more than 55 published papers and over 3,700 citations. “We basically have two main goals,” Han says. “One is to develop reliable and cost-effective storage for the smart grid; the second is to develop high power, high-energy-density batteries for electric vehicles.”

Yu and Han are both excited to help further research in areas that will ultimately lead to clean energy, and to a stronger society across the globe.

If we can solve the basic problems, says Chatter, people, especially those in the developing world, will have the means to improve their lives. “We’ll have 2 billion more productive brains working in the world. When you think about how many we have at RPI, and how fabulous the quality of research is that is coming out of here, just magnify that.”