Based on an interview with Zachary Patterson, March 2021

Faculty Profile

Peter Schubert, Ph.D., P.E.
Director, Lugar Center for Renewable Energy
Professor of Electrical & Computer Engineering, Purdue School of Engineering & Technology

Biographical Sketch

Dr. Peter Schubert is a Professor of electrical and computer engineering and the Director of the Richard G. Lugar Center for Renewable Energy (LCRE) at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). Dr. Schubert holds 43 US patents, is the author of over 100 technical publications, and is the principal investigator on research projects from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Department of Energy (DOE), the US Department of Defense (DOD), the National Science Foundation (NSF) and NASA, all related to renewable energy, energy harvesting, and sustainability. A key aspect of Dr. Schubert’s work – and the primary mission of LCRE – is to support and produce interdisciplinary research for the purposes of promoting renewable energy solutions and sustainable energy applications.

Outside of LCRE at IUPUI, Dr. Schubert is an instructor with the Society of Automotive Engineers, the global leader in technical learning for the mobility industry, and has taught over 1,000 engineers from 17 countries in systems engineering and mechatronics system design. He has served as a technical fellow for Delphi Electronics and as a space, energy, and education research consultant for Packer Engineering, Inc., becoming recognized as a technology leader in multiple disciplines and an expert in areas such as renewable energy, fuel cells, environmental engineering, and sustainability. His work within and beyond the academy demonstrates his emphasis on translating research into practice so to positively impact lives and communities, a quality that recently earned him IUPUI’s Bantz-Petronio Translating Research into Practice Faculty Award (the “TRIP Award”).

The Lugar Center for Renewable Energy

At LCRE technology, research, and education converge to form solutions for a clean, sustainable energy future – improving energy security and mitigating the negative impacts of climate change.

Lugar Center for Renewable Energy  LCRE Stoker in 2017

Established in 2007, LCRE began as a research center to discover and promote excellence in self-sufficiency and renewable energy with a mission of addressing the societal needs for clean and affordable energy sources and efficient use. To date, LCRE researchers have collaborated in discovering biofuels from local resources, developing hydrogen fuel cells, and increasing efficient use and storage of energy through other innovative technologies.

An important belief of the late US Senator Richard Lugar, for whom the Center is named, was putting research into practice and applying what has and is being done in the university to the world at large. This agenda to create knowledge, support job creation, and benefit the public’s access to and use of sustainable energy resources has remained unchanged for 14 years. LCRE currently hosts 44 research members from multiple disciplines who support approximately 60 students, interns, and post-doctoral researchers, all of whom benefit from 13 external advisory experts. Collectively, Dr. Schubert and other LCRE members are pioneering renewable energy technologies and these groundbreaking innovations directly align with identified targets for achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the 2030 Agenda.

Local research making a global impact: an integrated, holistic approach for sustainability

Dr. Schubert, alongside fellow LCRE researchers and other IUPUI colleagues, is providing cutting-edge solutions to climate change issues and fostering sustainable development through integrated and coherent renewable energy innovations. His expertise in fuel cell technology and bio-fuel production and consumption is positively impacting the lives of those most vulnerable around the globe, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia.

Key to IUPUI, LCRE, and the Purdue School of Engineering and Technology at IUPUI’s efforts to lessen the devastation of climate change, preserve our environment, and further efforts in sustainable development is Dr. Schubert’s biomass conversation initiative. This work is reducing agricultural waste, promoting sustainable energy use, and bringing new technology, for both the purposes of education and employment opportunities, to those in underserved and remote areas.

LCRE GasifierThis revolutionary system uses a biomass gasifier that is designed to break down crop residue and agricultural waste using high heat, breaking the waste into the simplest possible components while eliminating toxic externalities. The gas created can be used for electricity, presenting greater opportunities for education, healthcare and medical devices, and upscaling manufacturing operations.

Through this initiative Dr. Schubert believes that the 1.2 billion people on the planet without access to reliable electricity will see interrelated socio-economic benefits, including: sustainable access to clean water; increased accessibility to knowledge for education; the ability to utilize electrical lighting for schooling and industry; greater efficiency in agricultural activity and less desertification; and improved connectivity to information and resources for political and social justice issues. Every aspect of this project is directly aligned with the 2030 Agenda and targets the achievement of the SDGs.

The problems of today and solutions for tomorrow cannot be achieved with the tools of yesterday. Engineering is necessary for the development of tools for new, sustainable solutions.

The research and innovation headed by Dr. Schubert is proving an effective response to the complex development challenges countries face. His contributions present a multifaceted approach to achieving the SDGs. One of the main aims of the biomass conversion program, for instance, is to lessen the negative impacts of current indoor cooking and heating techniques used in parts of Africa (SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy), which are destructive to the surrounding natural environment (SDG 15: Life on Land) and harmful to one’s personal health (SDG 3: Good Health and Well-Being). An initiative such as this can provide people with electrical heating and cooking options, preserving natural resources and personal well-being. Specifically, the biomass conversation project makes progress toward these SDGs:

  • BiocharSDG 1: Reducing Poverty – Access to electricity can allow for the expansion of industrial productivity and the creation of employment opportunities for communities in need.
  • SDG 2: Zero Hunger – Access to electricity can limit food spoilage and enhance food security. Additionally, a biproduct of the conversion process known as biochar can be recycled to improve agricultural practices by enriching and naturally augmenting the soil.
  • SDG 15: Life on Land & SDG 13: Climate Action – The use of biochar to improve farmland, coupled with the access to electricity and the limited need for local natural resources for cooking and heating fires, can prevent desertification and the climatological impacts the destruction of an ecosystem and land can cause.
  • SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production – The conversion process can allow for the sustainable production of hydrogen that can be captured, stored, and used in fuel cells that could power clean and efficient agriculture equipment, protecting the environment while increasing crop yields.

Additionally, as Dr. Schubert explains, this biomass technology could provide a continuous, around-the-clock baseload of power to a rural and underserved community or village, helping the individuals within the area achieve a greater quality of life through the use of water pumps (SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation), better access to internet infrastructure (SDG 9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure), availability of online resources and information for education (SDG 4: Quality Education), and proper lighting for safer and more productive work conditions (SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth). This initiative will provide developing nations and communities an avenue to enter and equally participate in the global economy (SDG 10: Reducing Inequalities) without causing the environmental and ecological damage that developed nations caused during their own route to industrialization.

Engineers play a crucial role in creating infrastructure for the world. They apply knowledge and experience to innovatively meet human needs, protecting the environment while progressing towards sustainable development. Dr. Schubert and his colleagues are doing just this, and it is his goal to further diversify his interdisciplinary partnership network within and beyond the IUPUI community so to successfully reach the goals necessary for the 2030 Agenda.

The Ultimate Solution to (Nearly) the Entire Problem - Making the World a Better Place with the SDGs 

Peter Schubert presented his work in a 5-minute video as a part of the 2022 IUPUI International Festival - IUPUI SDG Day