Current Café Series

Penn State, the Energy University: Energy Literacy and Emerging Energy Technologies
March 23

Series hosted by Bruce Logan

On December 11, 2020 Penn State President Barron presented a vision of Penn State as the Energy University due to its leadership in energy research, education, and outreach. Providing energy in forms we use is more challenging than ever as our energy systems are becoming more connected through our phones and internet and technologies, while at the same time energy capture and use continues to be more variable as we harness solar and wind power into the electric grid. In this Energy University series we focus on two aspects of energy: the challenges of communicating how much we use in our daily lives and its relation to greenhouse gas emissions; and new technologies being developed at Penn State to harness energy and convert it into electricity. 

Living Materials: from Plant Movements to More Efficient Building Infrastructure
February 23, March 20

Series hosted by Zoubeida Ounaies

Operating buildings accounts for 40% of the energy consumption in the United States. This living materials* series is focused on highlighting emerging research topics in adaptive architecture, where new multifunctional materials technologies are sought to enable buildings to sense, adapt, and in general respond to internal and environmental conditions. The goal of this research is to improve the performance and maintenance of buildings by leveraging responsive, sustainable, multifunctional materials that achieve lower CO2 emissions, energy consumption, and maintenance needs. This series features speakers who will discuss plant biomimicry, smart materials, and innovative construction materials. 

Additive Materials & Manufacturing:  Trends, Needs, Opportunities
February 9, April 13

Series hosted by Tim Simpson

Additive manufacturing and 3D printing technology has been around for several decades, but recent advances in materials and processing technology have renewed interest in design, modeling, analysis, and characterization of new materials, parts, and processes that leverage these new capabilities.  From novel functionally graded materials to 3D printed ceramics and concrete houses to bioprinting replacement organs, the sky is the limit when it comes to additive materials and manufacturing.  In this series of talks, leading researchers at Penn State will provide an overview of the trends, needs, and opportunities involved with additively manufacturing and 3D printing metals, polymers, ceramics, concrete, and biomaterials with the goal of fostering interdisciplinary collaborations needed to collectively understand and advance the science of additive materials and manufacturing at Penn State.

The Climate Drawdown Initiative at Penn State: Transdisciplinary Strategies for Reversing Global Warming
February 9, March 9

Series hosted by Rachel Brennan

Penn State is partnering with the international non-profit organization, Project Drawdown (, to advance transformational technical, ecological, and social strategies to “draw down” greenhouse gases and reverse global warming. As a first step in this partnership, Penn State has established the Drawdown Scholars Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program, in which top students are recruited from across the U.S. to investigate global warming mitigation strategies in an immersive summer experience composed of contextual systems research and professional development training. In this seminar series, learn how you can get involved with some of the different topics that have been advanced though this initiative, which include: carbon sequestration; smart buildings and transportation systems; renewable energy and storage; alternative materials; health and education; and regenerative agriculture. 

Water, Public Health, and the Environment
February 16, March 23, April 13

Series hosted by Andrew Warner

While water is foundational to personal health, economic vitality, and the security of communities and nations, acute water challenges are often thought to be concentrated in arid or less developed regions of the world. However, millions of Pennsylvanians face water insecurity in their daily, 30% of our streams are impaired, with water quality degraded by both legacy pollutants and contaminants of emerging concern.  Collectively, these conditions erode physical and mental health, degrade economic well-being, and reduce overall standard of living.  This series features speakers who will characterize the scope of water degradation and insecurity across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.