Johns Hopkins launches new institute for sustainable energy tech

With a $20 million gift from the estate of Ralph S. O'Connor, the new institute will look to develop fuel and energy technologies.

Johns Hopkins University.

( file photo; source unknown)

Increasingly, the race against climate change is becoming a sprint to develop technology that can speed progress toward the measures that will lessen manmade environmental degradation. It’s why President Joe Biden put a spotlight on technology at a global summit on climate this week, and why big names like Bill Gates are getting involved.

That’s a signal for research and development hubs to put resources behind the effort.

Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins University is a major hub for research, consistently ranking as the top attractor of research dollars in the nation. On Thursday, which was Earth Day, the university said it was standing up a new institute specifically to focus on green energy technologies.

The Ralph S. O’Connor Sustainable Energy Institute will serve as a center for interdisciplinary research at Hopkins. The goal to support research and education toward “creating clean, renewable, and sustainable energy technologies.” It is being formed with a $20 million gift from the estate of O’Connor, a prominent university benefactor which has also funded many of JHU’s entrepreneurship activities.

Housed within the university’s Whiting School of Engineering, it will have six core faculty and 26 affiliated faculty from across different schools. In all, the school plans to invest $75 million over 10 years into energy-related activities.

The new institute will have three focus areas:

  • Renewable energy — Including solar and wind
  • Fuel technologies — “Instead of being the source of damaging greenhouse gases, fuel and combustion products can become a chemical platform to capture carbon and repurpose it to create new materials for buildings, agriculture, and transportation,” the university states.
  • Affordable and equitable implementation — It plans to ensure the technology developed is integrated with policy, market solutions and other outreach programs.

“Hopkins has never shied away from tackling enormous, complex societal problems — and this is one such challenge,” said Ben Schafer, a professor of civil and systems engineering who is the institute’s founding director, in a statement. “With researchers from across the university collaborating and addressing these issues holistically, we can have a huge impact on advances in energy-related research and in informing policy that ensures the benefits of our work will be enjoyed by all.”


It joins a growing group of folks working on clean energy technology in the state, including the University of Maryland’s recently launched clean energy accelerator and Exelon’s 2c2i initiative to fund climate tech startups.

Companies: Johns Hopkins
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