Moura, Zekkos Receive 2022 CITRIS Seed Awards

December 20, 2022

Congratulations to Partners for Advanced Transportation Technology (PATH) Faculty Director and Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) professor Scott Moura and CEE professor Dimitrios Zekkos on receiving Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society and the Banatao Institute (CITRIS) at the University of California (UC)  2022 CITRIS Seed Awards.

Since 2008, the CITRIS Seed Funding Program has supported more than 240 early-stage, interdisciplinary research projects that show promise to shape the future of their fields.

Moura and Zekkos are involved with two of the eight selected proposals, submitted by multicampus teams from Berkeley, Davis, Merced and Santa Cruz, who will receive up to $60,000 for their work, thanks in part to external philanthropic support. The winning projects, which are designed to show results within one year, address various challenge areas within the information technology sector, including aviation, climate resilience, digital health and robotics. 

Sustainability proved to be a common area of interest, as half of the selected projects aim to make advances in energy storage or wildfire mitigation. Three projects will also use uncrewed aerial systems, otherwise known as UAVs or drones, to collect data and monitor terrain.

The awardees represent a diverse array of backgrounds, with 88 percent of the research teams including women or people of color. Over half of the research teams include a pre-tenure faculty member, and 75 percent of the principal investigators are new CITRIS Seed Award recipients.

“The 2022 Seed Award projects represent innovative ideas that have a high probability of meaningful application for the benefit of society in the near term and could shape the future of technical research in these fields for years to come,” said Costas Spanos, director of CITRIS and the Banatao Institute and the Andrew S. Grove Distinguished Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences at UC Berkeley. 

The ITS-related proposals awarded:

Battery health degradation for electric off-road vehicles

Principal Investigators: Shima Nazari (Lead PI, UC Davis), Scott Moura (UC Berkeley)

About half of the carbon emissions created by construction operations come from heavy machinery such as loaders and excavators, and these emissions disproportionately affect dense, low-income communities of color. Electrification is one of the most promising pathways to addressing this source of pollution. However, the high price and limited battery life of current electric construction equipment impedes its widespread adoption. This project will develop system-level models for excavators, to better understand their duty cycles, and for the batteries themselves, to estimate their life spans under different operating conditions. The researchers will also offer alternative energy storage designs to improve the performance, affordability and sustainability of electric construction vehicles.

Joint UAV- and robot-optimized approach to quantify methane emissions and energy losses from landfills 
Principal Investigators: Dimitrios Zekkos (Lead PI, UC Berkeley), Stavros Vougioukas (UC Davis)

Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas and a major driver of climate change, and municipal solid waste landfills are the third-largest source of methane emissions caused by human activity. Current methods of measuring methane emissions from landfills are sparse and infrequent, and likely lead to underestimations. This project will use UAVs, autonomous ground robots and topographical models to create a constantly updating map of landfill methane concentrations. The data will offer more accurate measurements of methane levels to help verify the extent to which landfills are contributing to climate change. The sensor system will also pave the way for “smart landfills,” where methane leaks can be easily detected and captured to generate sustainable energy.

See the full list at CITRIS: