Research

New Global Warming Remedy: Turning Rangelands into Carbon-Sucking Vacuums

Read the full story from UC Berkeley.

Studies conducted on a ranch in the heart of Marin County and led by UC Berkeley researchers and alums seem to confirm what home gardeners have long suspected: Compost really can save the world.

New technology tracks tiniest pollutants in real time

Read the full story from Georgia Tech.

Researchers may soon have a better idea of how tiny particles of pollution are formed in the atmosphere. These particles, called aerosols, or particulate matter (PM), are hazardous to human health and contribute to climate change, but researchers know little about how their properties are shaped by chemical reactions in the atmosphere. Unraveling this chemistry could someday lead to more effective policies to protect human health and the Earth’s climate.

A team of six faculty members at the Georgia Institute of Technology has been awarded a Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) Program grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The award, totaling approximately $700,000 from NSF and Georgia Tech’s office of the Executive Vice President for Research, will allow the research team to purchase a state-of-art, gas-particle high resolution mass spectrometer that can identify the components of gases and aerosol particles in real time.

Environmental Engineers to Study Clean Air, Water, Energy with NSF Grants

Read the full story from Washington University in St. Louis.

Six faculty in Energy, Environmental & Chemical Engineering from the School of Engineering & Applied Science have received nearly $1.8 million in three-year grants from the National Science Foundation to create a cleaner, safer environment.

Young-Shin Jun, PhD, associate professor, received $340,576 to study how arsenic can be mobilized in aquifers during a water reuse technique;

Brent Williams, PhD, the Raymond R. Tucker Distinguished I-CARES Career Development Assistant Professor, and Pratim Biswas, PhD, the Lucy and Stanley Lopata Professor and chair of the department, received $331,438 to study emissions and aerosol formation from coal combustion and co-firing of coal and biomass;

John Fortner, PhD, the I-CARES Career Development Assistant Professor, and Daniel Giammar, PhD, the Harold D. Jolley Career Development Professor, received $329,835 to study nanoscale sorbents to recover contaminants in water;

Yinjie Tang, PhD, the Francis Ahmann Career Development Assistant Professor, received a $486,510 grant to use a new type of analysis to decipher microbial mechanisms, and is co-investigator on a $299,997 grant to use corn stover, or switchgrass, as a feedstock for producing biofuel.

Young-Shin Jun, PhD
Jun, also director of graduate studies in Energy, Environmental & Chemical Engineering, will study how water and arsenic-containing iron pyrite interactions affect the fate and transport of arsenic during managed aquifer recharge (MAR), a process in which excess water is returned to underground storage then recovered in times of high demand.

New York State Pollution Prevention Institute awards $455,000 in research and development projects

The New York State Pollution Prevention Institute (NYSP2I) has awarded approximately $455,000 to fund six research and development projects focused on applied research designed to stimulate solutions that will help New York state companies remain competitive while reducing their environmental footprint.

As part of its ongoing research and development program, NYSP2I annually solicits proposals from faculty and staff at the institute’s partner universities—Rochester Institute of Technology, Clarkson University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the University at Buffalo—that support research intended to develop innovative green technologies for organizations to implement. NYSP2I’s efforts are driven by business and organizational needs and are designed to solve specific issues where the solutions result in transferable practices and technologies.

Current research and development priorities include the elimination or substitution of toxic chemicals, overall waste reduction as well as energy-and-water efficiency opportunities in priority manufacturing sectors around the state.

Projects were selected based on their potential to reduce the environmental footprint of New York state businesses.

“This marks the sixth consecutive year that the New York State Pollution Prevention Institute has funded research and development grants selected through a competitive application process,” said Anahita Williamson, NYSP2I director. “We’re proud to once again advance important research efforts that will further develop innovative solutions in sustainability and pollution prevention.”

The following projects were awarded funding from NYSP2I:

  • “Transforming food waste digestate into fertilizer for controlled environment food production,” Susan E. Powers and Stefan J. Grimberg, Clarkson University
  • “Liquid-phase electrical discharge plasmas for inactivation of pathogens and spoilage organisms in fruit juices and milk,” Selma Mededovic, Clarkson University
  • “Increasing the reliability and efficiency of wind turbines by reducing gearbox friction and wear,” Patricia Iglesias Victoria and Michael Haselkorn, RIT
  • “Performance enhancement of bioplastic blends,” Carlos A. Diaz, RIT
  • “Microbial fuel cells for prevention of food processing wastewater discharge,” Thomas A. Trabold, RIT
  • “Feasibility study of antifouling membranes for wastewater reuse,” Haiqing Lin, UB

About the New York State Pollution Prevention Institute

The New York State Pollution Prevention Institute (NYSP2I) is a partnership between the New York state Department of Environmental Conservation, Rochester Institute of Technology, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, University at Buffalo and Clarkson University, with a statewide reach. The goal of NYSP2I is to make the state more sustainable for workers, the public, the environment and the economy through pollution prevention. Pollution prevention is reducing or eliminating waste at the source by modifying production processes, promoting the use of non-toxic or less-toxic substances, implementing conservation techniques, and re-using materials rather than putting them into the waste stream.

Go to http://www.nysp2i.rit.edu to learn more about NYSP2I and its research and development program.

2014 R&D 100 Award winners announced

The editors of R&D Magazine have announced the winners of the 52nd annual R&D 100 Awards, an international competition that recognizes the 100 most technologically significant products introduced into the marketplace over the past year. Click here to view the full list of this year’s winners.

The R&D 100 Awards recognize excellence across a wide range of industries, including telecommunications, optics, high-energy physics, materials science, chemistry and biotechnology. Some winners are established Fortune 500 companies and others are federally funded research institutions, academia and government labs.

The 2014 R&D 100 Awards Banquet and Awards Presentation will take place on November 7, 2014 at The Bellagio in Las Vegas. For information about the event, please visit www.rd100awards.com. To view a full list of overall winners, please view www.rdmag.com/rd-award-winners-archive.

Engineers turn LEGOs into a scientific tool to study plant growth

Read the full story in R&D Magazine.

Ludovico Cademartiri had what seemed like an impossibly demanding list of requirements for his lab equipment.

The Iowa State University assistant professor of materials science and engineering wants to understand environmental effects on plant growth, specifically how variations in climate and soil characteristics affect root growth. That requires highly controlled environments that expose whole plants to environmental effects such as nutrients, water, oxygen gradients as well as physical obstacles for the roots…

Cademartiri and his research group report their use of LEGO bricks to successfully build engineered environments for plant and root studies in a paper just published by the peer-reviewed, online journal PLOS ONE.

Former state senator Ellen Anderson to head new Energy Transition Lab at the University of Minnesota

Via the University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment.

Our energy system is in the midst of a major transition. Our power sources are shifting from coal to more natural gas and renewables. We need to upgrade our aging grid to accommodate those new sources. As our grid becomes “smarter,” we need it to be responsive and reliable. And new greenhouse gas emissions regulations and the need to make our grid resilient as the climate changes add further complexities.

This energy transition has the potential to spark innovation in business and the public sector, leading to new jobs and better outcomes for the community and our environment. Reaching that potential requires strong leadership. To provide that leadership, the University of Minnesota is launching the Energy Transition Lab with former state senator Ellen Anderson (J.D. ’86), senior advisor on energy and environment to Governor Dayton, as its inaugural executive director.

A strategic initiative of the University’s Institute on the Environment with funding from the Office of the Vice President for Research, the Energy Transition Lab will bring together leaders in government, business and nonprofit organizations to develop new energy policy pathways, institutions and regulations. As executive director, Anderson will work with the lab’s faculty director, Law School professor Hari Osofsky, to build collaborations, establish and monitor projects, and develop the lab into a focal point for innovative solutions.

“Ellen Anderson has been a leader in Minnesota’s energy transition for over two decades, and I cannot imagine someone more qualified to serve as the Energy Transition Lab’s inaugural executive director and help this lab make a major impact,” Osofsky said. “Her experience as a legislator crafting our key renewable energy legislation, as the chair of the Public Utilities Commission regulating energy in the state and as a senior
advisor to Governor Dayton on these issues will be invaluable to this new initiative.”

“We need the University of Minnesota’s great researchers and thought leaders to help our energy system transition to meet the challenges of the 21st century,” Anderson said. “I am thrilled to lead this critical endeavor, and look forward to working with the public, private and community sectors to catalyze innovative solutions.”

The Energy Transition Lab will focus on four core strategies: boosting energy efficiency; increasing use of clean, renewable energy sources; improving systems that move energy to where it’s needed; and advancing energy and environmental justice. The lab will address these by taking on projects in partnership with community leaders, moving from problem to tangible solution through consultations, research, public meetings, and outreach initiatives. An annual conference will bring together business, public policy and thought leaders to report on progress and identify next steps—which could include other high-impact activities. Specific products will include policy reports, legislative testimony, model legislation and regulations, as well as valuable learning opportunities for students, who will participate in shaping solutions through class activities and capstone projects. Public events will build awareness of the energy transition and of the lab’s activities.

According to Osofsky, the Energy Transition Lab aims to become the “go-to” place for experts and leaders beyond the University to work with University faculty, students and staff toward solutions to energy challenges.

“We have already begun the process of collaborating with key leaders in business, government and non-governmental organizations to develop projects that will help advance the energy transition in the Twin Cities, Minnesota, nationally and internationally,” Osofsky said. “We are excited to continue work with these and other leaders to make the Energy Transition Lab’s efforts as helpful as possible. We are aiming to find the leverage points in which our work can fill a gap and make a difference in important law and policy areas.”

The University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment seeks lasting solutions to Earth’s biggest challenges through research, partnerships and leadership development. For more information, visit environment.umn.edu.