UK CAER Current News

The Center for Applied Energy Research (CAER) is one of the University of Kentucky's multidisciplinary research centers. Its energy research provides a focal point for environmental, renewable and fossil fuels research in Kentucky.

Congressman Visits UK CAER Algae Demo at Kentucky Power Plant

clock July 24, 2015 10:18 by author Alice
The University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research (UK CAER) recently demonstrated a pilot scale photobioreactor that converts CO2 in flue gas to algal biomass via photosynthesis to U.S. Congressman Thomas Massie of Kentucky’s 4th Congressional District. (See Congressman Massie’s Facebook post on the visit.) The algae demo is a joint project between UK CAER and Duke Energy’s East Bend Power Station in Boone County, Kentucky.

Members of UK CAER Biofuels and Environmental Catalysis research group were on hand to explain the process and equipment to the Congressman. UK CAER Associate Director Mark Crocker outlined the project’s origins and goals, and summarized the various steps involved in cultivating and harvesting algae, as well as processing algae biomass into useful products.

Ms. Stephanie Kesner, UK CAER, is a biological scientist who takes care of the algae organisms. The project specifically works with microalgae, which are single celled organisms around 5 microns in size. Though they do photosynthesize, though they are not plants. Even though they have moving parts, they are not animals nor bacteria. Algae are in their own taxonomic classification, and are actually one of the fastest growing organism on the planet with the ability to double their mass in a day. The particular species of alga we have in our reactor is called Scenedesmus Acutus, a local freshwater species of microalgae which can withstand pretty harsh environmental conditions while utilizing CO2 from flue gas to photosynthesize and grow.

According to Michael Wilson, UK CAER Engineer and project manager, the cyclic flow photobioreactor was developed at the Center for Applied Energy Research to create an optimum, controlled growth environment for microalgae while minimizing energy consumption required. The reactor is composed of off-the-shelf parts including 8’ long, 3.5 inch diameter clear PETG (coke bottle material) tubes integrated with PVC pipe fittings and arranged to maximize photon collection needed to drive photosynthesis. Flue gas is introduced to the bottom of the tubes and sparged for 20 seconds every minute in order to ensure good mixing for mass transfer and increase CO2 conversion efficiency. Periodically, 6 times per day, the tube banks are drained back to a main feed tank, mixed, and sent back out to the phototube array to continue normal operation. This ‘cyclic’ operation ensures limited exposure to dead zones in the reactor (dark zones, places with suboptimal gas introduction, etc) while also preventing biofilm formation. So far this iteration of photobioreactor has outperformed all before it in terms of operational stability, performance, and biomass productivity. The faster the algae grows, the more CO2 is consumed.

UK CAER group member and engineer Daniel Mohler talked about the field analytical equipment used in mass balance experiments in order to determine CO2and NOx reduction. These molecular species are measured in the gas going into the reactor then measured again in the gas coming out of the reactor, allowing for calculations of CO2 and NOx reduction.

The algae need to be harvested regularly as the culture grows and becomes more dense, thus limiting light penetration according to UK CAER Engineer Jack Groppo. To harvest the algae, roughly 80% of the culture volume is diverted into a thickener where the algae cells are flocculated and settled. Clarified water containing soluble nutrients are decanted from the thickener, sterilized with UV light and recycled back into the system to dilute the remaining 20% of the culture volume for another growth cycle. Settled algae is then filtered for utilization as feedstock for bioplastic manufacture and biofuel production. Other products from algae could include livestock feed (as it can be up to 30% protein); dietary supplements and neutraceuticals since it contains Omega 3 fatty acids and carbohydrates.

The UK CAER team is excited about the future possibilities this project presents in developing algae's unique ability to beneficially re-use greenhouse gas emissions. This technology has the potential to drive economic growth, enable food and energy security, while reducing the impact of industrial emissions.

The UK CAER Biofuels and Environmental Catalysis Algae Research Team (L to R): Daniel Mohler, Jack Groppo, Stephanie Kesner, Mike Wilson and Mark Crocker.


UK CAER attends Statewide Wood Energy Team Events

clock July 23, 2015 17:51 by author Alice
Dr. Darrell Taulbee, Industrial Support Coordinator, and Outreach and Technical Assistance Coordinator Greg Copley participated in Kentucky’s Statewide Wood Energy Team (SWET) field trip July 21, 2015. An active timber logging site and a reclaimed surface mine reforestation project were visited. Both sites are in Pike Co. KY. The tours were in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Council of Forest Engineering hosted by the UK Forestry Department. Other participants include bio energy interests, forest managers and state and federal forestry representatives.

Dr. Taulbee, right, with fellow SWET member Bobby Clark of Midwest Clean Energy. Taulbee and Copley have participated in previous events including a tour of RECAST Energy’s biomass boiler in Louisville and the 2014 Bioenergy Day at Murray State University. SWET is an initiative sponsored by the KY Energy and Environment Cabinet.


UK CAER Catalysis Paper is Journal of Catalysis Featured Article

clock July 23, 2015 17:42 by author Alice
A paper authored by scientists from the University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research group - Clean Fuels and Chemicals - is a Journal of Catalysis Editor-in-Chief's Feature Article.

 

Starting this year, the Journal of Catalysis has decided to select one article each week as Featured Article. These articles will be prominently displayed on the Journal’s homepage (http://www.journals.elsevier.com/journal-of-catalysis/featured-articles/) and will be made freely available to the public for 3 months following publication of the respective issue.

 

The paper entitled, "Fischer–Tropsch synthesis: Effect of ammonia in syngas on the Fischer–Tropsch synthesis performance of a precipitated iron catalyst" has been selected as one of the four Featured Articles from the June 2015 issue.

 

The authors of the paper include: Wenping Ma, Gary Jacobs, Dennis E. Sparks, Venkat Ramana Rao Pendyala, Shelley G. Hopps, Gerald A. Thomas, Hussein H. Hamdeh, Aimee MacLennan, Yongfeng Hu, Burtron H. Davis. (Citation: Journal of Catlysis, Volume 326, June 2015, Pages 149-160).

 



UK CAER Staff Co-authors for Paper Featured in COP Highlights

clock July 23, 2015 17:33 by author Alice
UK CAER Scientist Dr. James C. Hower and Mr. Greg Copley, UK CAER Eastern Kentucky Coordinator are co-authors on a paper that the College of Pharmacy Research Advisory Council selected for the May COP Monthly Publications Highlights.

The paper, "Terfestatins B and C, New p-Terphenyl Glycosides Produced by Streptomyces sp. RM-5-8" was recently published in Organic Letters, 2015, 17 (11), pp.2796-2799, (DOI: 10.1021/asc.orglett.5b01203). Organic Letters is an ACS Publications journal.

"A natural product discovery from a Kentucky coal mine fire site that shows promise in battling alcohol dependence is the UK College of Pharmacy Research Publication Highlight for June 2015." Read the rest of the story ...