Research

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.

R&D Magazine’s 52nd Annual R&D Awards Call for Nominations

How does your innovative new product measure up against other technologies introduced in 2013? Is it worthy of the title “R&D 100 Winner”?

Receive the recognition that your technology and team deserve for developing one of the top 100 innovative technologies of 2013. Nominate your technology for a 2014 R&D 100 Award today.

Benefits of an R&D 100 Award:
The R&D 100 Awards-dubbed the “Oscars of Invention”-can provide your new product with a vital marketing boost:

  • Receives recognition at the 52nd Annual R&D 100 Awards Banquet
  • Provides a mark of excellence known to industry, government, consumers, and academia
  • Brands your product as one of the most innovative ideas of the year
  • Tells potential customers that your product has successfully competed against other new technologies in open competition
  • Validates the innovation of your technology to potential investors

Eligibility:
Products or processes first available for sale or licensing in 2013 are eligible for the 2014 awards. Entries are welcome from industry, academia, and government laboratories, from anywhere in the world.

To Apply:
Click here for complete entry requirements, an application with detailed instructions, and guidelines for submitting the application. Complete and submit the application and supporting information by April 18, 2014.

Environmentally friendly energy discovered in wood biochar

Read the full story in the Daily Illini.

A wood biochar supercapacitor may seem like a burnt piece of wood in a small plastic container at first glance; however, these little devices could be the future of environmentally friendly energy.

For the past two years, Junhua Jiang, senior research engineer, and a team of researchers at the University’s Illinois Sustainable Technology Center have been studying wood biochar supercapacitors as an electrochemical source of power.

Recent biochar research papers

Ke Sun , Mingjie Kang , Zheyun Zhang , Jie Jin , Ziying Wang , Zezhen Pan , Dongyu Xu , Fengchang Wu , and Baoshan Xing (2013). “Impact of De-Ashing Treatment on Biochar Structural Properties and Potential Sorption Mechanisms of Phenanthrene.” Environmental Science and Technology (ES&T), September 11, 2013. DOI: 10.1021/es4026744.

Abstract: Knowledge of the mineral effects of biochars on their sorption of hydrophobic organic contaminants (HOCs) is limited. Sorption of phenanthrene (PHE) by plant-residue derived biochars (PLABs) and animal waste-derived biochars (ANIBs) obtained at two heating treatment temperatures (HTTs) (450 and 600 oC) and their corresponding de-ashed biochars was investigated. The decreased surface polarity and increased bulk polarity of biochars after de-ashing treatment indicated that abundant minerals of biochars benefit external exposure of polar groups associated organic matter (OM). Organic carbon (OC)-normalized distribution coefficients (Koc) of PHE by biochars generally increased after de-ashing, likely due to enhancement of favorable and hydrophobic sorption sites caused by mineral removal. Positive correlation between PHE logKoc by PLABs and bulk polarity combined with negative correlation between PHE logKoc values by ANIBs and surface polarity suggested PLABs and ANIBs have different sorption mechanisms, probably attributed to their large variation of ash content because minerals influenced OM spatial arrangement within biochars. Results of this work could help us better understand the impact of minerals, bulk/surface polarity, and sorption domain arrangement of biochars on their HOCs sorption and predict the fate of HOCs in soils after biochar application.

Liqiang Cui, Jinlong Yan, Yage Yang, Lianqing Li, Guixiang Quan, Cheng Ding, Tianming Chen, Qiang Fu, Andrew Chang (2013). “Influence of Biochar on Microbial Activities of Heavy Metals Contaminated Paddy Fields.” BioResources 8(4). Open source. Available online.

Abstract:

Biochar (BC) amendments might decrease the bioavailability of metals in soils that are contaminated with heavy metals. In general, soil microbial communities are sensitive to changes in soil property changes. Microbial communities were tested in a Cd- and Pb-polluted paddy field in southern China. BC was applied as a basal soil amendment before rice transplantation in 2009. The BC was applied at rates of 0, 10, 20, and 40 tons per hectare. Soil heavy metal fractions with sequential extraction procedure, soil microorganisms, and enzymes were monitored in 2011. The soil pH and soil organic carbon (SOC) were significantly increased by 2% to 5% and 16% to 51% under BC amendment, respectively. Compared to the non-BC treatment, the cadmium (Cd) and lead (Pb) acid-soluble fraction concentrations were significantly decreased by 15.3% to 26.7% and 18.2% to 30.9%. The Cd and Pb reducible fraction were decreased by 13.5% to 25.6% and 21.9% to 23.53%.The Cd and Pb oxidizable fraction by 15.4% to 69.2% and 22.7% to 29.3% with BC application, respectively. The populations of actinomycetes and fungi were increased by 19.0% to 38.5% and 3.7 to 9.3 times, respectively. Meanwhile, BC significantly increased the cellulose, urine enzyme, neutral phosphatase, and sucrase activities by 117.4% to 178.3%, 31.1% to 37.6%, 29.7% to 193.8%, and 36.5% to 328.6%, respectively. BC amendment offers a basic option to reduce Cd and Pb bioavailability and change the fractions. The BC also increases microorganism quantity and soil enzyme activity.

Innovation Isn’t an Idea Problem

Read the full post from the HBR Blog Network.

When most organizations try to increase their innovation efforts, they always seem to start from the same assumption: “we need more ideas.” They’ll start talking about the need to “think outside the box” or “blue sky” thinking in order to find a few ideas that can turn into viable new products or systems. However, in most organizations, innovation isn’t hampered by a lack of ideas, but rather a lack of noticing the good ideas already there.

It’s not an idea problem; it’s a recognition problem.

Thomson Reuters Explores the Impact of U.S. Federal Government Research and Development at Industry Conference

The IP & Science business of Thomson Reuters has posted the sessions from its recent industry conference: “Understanding Federal R&D Impact through Research Assessment and Program Evaluation,” which took place at The National Press Club in Washington, DC.

The conference explored the impact of government research programs and current challenges faced by researchers, information professionals, and administrators. Thomson Reuters hosted panel discussions featuring individuals affiliated with government agencies presenting their best practices for overcoming obstacles related to acquiring and allocating funding, retaining resources, and ensuring the continued success of research programs through evaluation and impact analysis.

JoVE now accepting submissions for new environmental sciences section

JoVE (Journal of Visualized Experiments) is now accepting articles for its new section JoVE Environment. JoVE Environment will launch in September and will be a multidisciplinary section encompassing all aspects of green methodology and environmental sciences. Currently, JoVE is accepting submissions to this section for articles on renewable energy, sustainable materials, environmental engineering, ecological health, marine biology, ecology, agricultural sciences, and geosciences among others.

JoVE is a peer reviewed scientific journal that pairs scholarly text with professional videos. This revolutionary journal allows scientists to publish cutting edge methodologies and innovations in a video-based format that is conducive to new levels of reproducibility and transparency.

“We are especially looking forward to launching JoVE Environment because it is a section that will impact all areas of science,” says Deputy Editorial Director of Physical Sciences Alexa Meehan. “JoVE Environment is long overdue as both academic and industry research have moved towards more environmentally conscientious practices for some time now. This section will give the environmental sciences a platform to effectively present research approaches and will offer an unparalleled forum to disseminate “greener” technology.”

Founded in 2006, JoVE has published over 2200 video articles in seven scientific disciplines. The journal publishes peer-reviewed manuscripts accompanied by professionally made videos. The journal is currently accepting submissions to JoVE Environment; for more information please e-mail environment@jove.com.

About JoVE, the Journal of Visualized Experiments:

JoVE, the Journal of Visualized Experiments, is the first and only PubMed/MEDLINE-indexed, peer-reviewed journal devoted to publishing scientific research in a video format. Using an international network of videographers, JoVE films and edits videos of researchers performing new experimental techniques at top universities, allowing students and scientists to learn them much more quickly. As of April 2013, JoVE has published video-protocols from an international community of nearly 6,000 authors in the fields of biology, medicine, chemistry, and physics.