International Research

Kampala 3

A new research area for ND Energy aims to create sustainable energy solutions for communities in Low- to Middle-Income Countries (LMICs) by using a unique approach to addressing the challenges of unavailable electricity. 

The Energy and Sustainable Development + Design (ESDD) laboratory, directed by Abigail Mechtenberg, ND Energy’s International Sustainable Development Researcher, provides a place for undergraduate and graduate students to study, engage, and prepare for key research projects in LMIC areas. 

Energy E3: Education, Engineering-design, and Entrepreneurship

Student researchers are currently implementing Energy E3 in Uganda, Nigeria, Rwanda, and Haiti. Energy E3 encompasses Education, Engineering-design, and Entrepreneurship in the curriculum. Students implement the curriculum with design teams comprised of local technicians and engineers who learn how to prototype, design, build, install, maintain, and create a business venture for renewable energy devices, using local materials and resident technical expertise. The devices currently being constructed and implemented fall into three main categories and provide enough power to produce electricity needed for the project area.

Energy E3 Devices:  Mechanical to Electrical

International Development Mechanical To Electrical





Energy E3 Devices: Thermal to Electrical and Chemical to Thermal to Electrical

International Development


Collaborators in Uganda

The success of Energy E3 involves the participation and commitment of several local partners and collaborators who support project initiatives and share research discoveries through co-publications. The following are the collaborators in Uganda: Makerere UniversityTechnology 4 TomorrowUganda Martyrs UniversityUganda Small Scale Industries AssociationMountains of the Moon University, and Mulago Hospital.

Hand Weaved Wind Turbine Blades

Hand Weaver Wind Turbine Blade

Another project involving hand weaved wind turbine blades is currently being implemented in Uganda and Rwanda. These wind turbine blades were co-designed by Dr. Mechtenberg over the last 10 years and weaved by Ugandan basket weaving women from a mix of papyrus fibers, banana leaf fibers, and raffia. This project involves documenting the weaving process from material collection to weaving the flat blades, as well as studying the mechanical, social, economic, and environmental effects these blades will have on the community. The process starts with traveling to the swamps to gather the papyrus fibers and gathering the banana fibers from the banana plants that are grown in the backyards of the women weavers. These fibers are then laid in the sun to dry. Once the fibers have dried completely, the 3D weaving technique is implemented and continues until a flat blade that meets the design constraints is completed. The flats are then mounted onto airfoils to achieve the desired wind turbine shape. Each blade is tested for yield stress and buckling load to determine the effectiveness of the fiber size and weaving shape.

In the News

Energy E3 to build innovation center, increase access to sustainable energy in low- and middle-income countries

For more information about research efforts in international sustainable development, visit Energy and Sustainable Development + Design and contact Abigail Mechtenberg at 574-631-6285 or