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.

UK Mining Engineering, CAER Receive DOE Funding for Rare Earth Element Research

clock June 27, 2017 15:13 by author Thomas

The University of Kentucky has received two of three U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) grants for its promising work in the emerging field of rare earth element (REE) research.

DOE's Office of Fossil Energy recently announced that the three projects have been selected to receive approximately $3 million for research aimed at producing salable rare earth elements from domestic coal and coal by-products. UK's Department of Mining Engineering is a partner on one of those projects while UK's Center for Applied Energy Research (CAER) is a partner on another project.

 

 

 

REEs are a series of 17 chemical elements found in the Earth's crust. Due to their unique chemical properties, REEs are essential components of technologies spanning a range of applications, including electronics, computer and communication systems, transportation, health care and national defense. The demand for REEs has grown significantly in recent years, stimulating an interest in economically feasible approaches for domestic REE recovery.

Rick Honaker, chair of UK's Department of Mining Engineering, will oversee a project which will involve conducting laboratory testing and preparing their technical design for a pilot plant to produce salable REEs. They will use by-products from an existing West Virginia coal preparation (coal washing) plant as their raw material for extracting REEs. Their phase 1 design includes recovery and sale of dry, fine, high-quality coal from this raw material as an additional source of revenue.

"Coal and coal by-products have the potential to be the source of a critical national need in the supply of rare earth elements including those that have been identified as strategically important by the U.S. Department of Defence. Researchers at the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) were the first to recognize this fact and, with strong congressional support led by Congressman Hal Rogers, have developed a research and development program to expedite the commercialization of this opportunity," Honaker said. "We are grateful that NETL has selected our team to be one of three to initiate the development of a small, commercial production facility to produce rare earth element concentrates from coal and coal products. If successful, rare earth production facilities in the coalfields could significantly reduce the reliance on imports where nearly 100 percent of the critical materials are obtained, while also positively impacting job creation and the financial stability of mining companies."

Jim Hower, a principal research scientist at UK CAER and a research professor in UK's Earth and Environmental Sciences Department, will oversee the second project, which will utilize by-products from an eastern Kentucky coal preparation plant as their source of REEs. Their phase 1 design will consider recovery and sale of coal from these preparation plant by-products as an additional source of revenue.

"Our rare earth element recovery research is a natural extension of the center's efforts in creating high-value products from coal and coal combustion by-products," Hower said. "We look forward to bringing this knowledge to bear, and the potential for creating new jobs and economic opportunities in Kentucky and across the United States. We are most grateful to DOE for this support, and thankful to Congressman Hal Rogers for his continued leadership in support of UK CAER's coal by-product utilization research and development."

These REE projects speak to the unique and long-standing collaboration between UK Mining Engineering and UK CAER. Jack Groppo, a principal research engineer at CAER and faculty member in UK Mining Engineering, will also provide expertise in physical separation processing and plant design on Honaker's project.

 

 

"The University of Kentucky is engaged in answering Kentucky questions that, often, have global implications," said UK President Eli Capilouto. "These grants underscore the leading role UK's Center for Applied Energy Research and Department of Mining Engineering play in our national energy dialogue. UK faculty and staff researchers are recognized pioneers, and their research and discovery plays an integral role in how we improve, utilize, and enhance the capacity of our energy economy. I want to thank Congressman Hal Rogers for his continued support of the University of Kentucky, and his belief in our people's capacity to address those questions most vexing to the state we serve, together."

"I applaud the University of Kentucky for the continued tireless efforts to secure the future of coal and coal by-products across the country," said Congressman Hal Rogers, who supported federal funding for DOE grant opportunities. "Rare earth elements are utilized in ways you may not know about, from computers, to telescopes, to aircraft engines, to specialized glass, and medical equipment. The ongoing innovative research and development at UK CAER and the Department of Mining Engineering will expand upon potential revenue options in the future, providing more opportunities for Kentucky's coal country."

More information about the projects can be found at:
https://energy.gov/articles/doe-announces-69-million-research-rare-earth-elements-coal-and-coal-byproducts

 



UK CAER Receives $1M Grant for Carbon Fiber Research

clock June 23, 2017 11:55 by author Thomas

The University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research (UK CAER) received a $1 million U.S. Department of Energy grant to continue their leading-edge research in developing low-cost, high-strength carbon fiber.

 

The Center’s Materials Technologies Group received the award for a project entitled “Precursor Processing Development for Low Cost, High Strength Carbon Fiber for Composite Overwrapped Pressure Vessel Applications.” The funding was part of DOE’s strategy to invest in discovery and development of novel, low-cost materials necessary for hydrogen storage and for fuel cells onboard light-duty vehicles.


 

The team will investigate solutions to critical issues in precursor fiber development that significantly contribute to the cost of carbon fiber, namely high polymer cost, inefficient water use and solvent recovery, low fiber throughput, energy intensive conversion, and high coefficient of variation (CV) utilizing their unique expertise and fiber development facility available at UK CAER. The Center is home to the largest carbon fiber spinline at any University in North America.

 

If successful, the project will lower the cost of high quality carbon fibers by over 50 percent, opening opportunities for widespread application of carbon fibers in previously cost-prohibited areas, specifically in composite overwrapped pressure vessels for hydrogen storage.



 

“We appreciate DOE’s confidence in our carbon fiber research and development efforts here at UK CAER,” said Matt Weisenberger, Associate Director of the Materials Technologies Group. “It is our hope that this project will show great promise for the future of carbon fiber for pressure vessels and many other commercial applications. A strong, vibrant and growing carbon fiber industry shows potential for creating new jobs and economic opportunities in Kentucky.”

DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Fuel Cell Technologies Office awarded a total of 30 grants during its annual funding opportunity announcement (FOA) in 2017. The 2017 FOA solicited early-stage materials research to advance the Department’s goals of enabling economic and efficient transportation via fuel cell electric vehicles that use hydrogen fuel produced from diverse domestic resources.

More than 2,000 fuel cell vehicles have been sold or leased in the U.S. since 2015. These consume 95 percent less petroleum per mile than conventional internal combustion engine vehicles, have no tailpipe emissions, and offer quiet operation.



UK CAER Named to RAPID Manufacturing USA Institute

clock December 20, 2016 16:02 by author Thomas

The University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research (UK CAER) has been named a collaborator to the nation’s newest Manufacturing USA Institute. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced that the Rapid Advancement in Process Intensification Deployment (RAPID) Manufacturing Institute of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) will be the tenth Manufacturing USA Institute.

Earlier this year, DOE called for the establishment of a Manufacturing Innovation Institute on Modular Chemical Process Intensification for Clean Energy Manufacturing. AIChE developed the RAPID Institute proposal in collaboration with the Savannah River National Laboratory and the Georgia Institute of Technology. To date, RAPID has enlisted 75 companies, 34 academic institutions, 7 national laboratories, 2 other government laboratories, and 7 non-governmental organizations from all regions of the country. These partners have committed to cost shares that leverage DOE’s $70 million contribution over 5 years, with total project spending exceeding $140 million. RAPID’s partners come from energy-intensive industries and range from small to large enterprises.

This is the third Manufacturing USA Institute in which UK CAER is a member. The Center’s Power Generation Group will be working with RAPID on projects. The Center’s Materials Technologies Group is already a member of The Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI) and the Advanced Functional Fabrics of America (AFFOA).

In making the announcement at the U.S Council on Competitiveness 2016 National Competitiveness Forum, DOE Acting Assistant Secretary of the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy David Friedman said, “Our investment in this cross-cutting technology is an investment in the future of manufacturing in the U.S. As we expand the Manufacturing USA network, we provide greater opportunities for businesses of all sizes to solve their toughest technology challenges and unleash major savings in energy-intensive sectors like oil and gas, pulp and paper-making and other industries.” 

“The RAPID team is thrilled and energized by DOE’s decision,” said RAPID Chief Executive Officer Karen Fletcher. “We are confident we can meet DOE’s goals of reduced energy usage and feedstock waste, and improved productivity, through our focus on integrating unit processes into single modular hardware elements that are cost effective, with high efficiency and scalability.” 

AIChE Executive Director June Wispelwey said that RAPID’s ability to address the process intensification challenge “builds on AIChE’s decades of experience managing technical centers,” such as the Center for Chemical Process Safety. She explained that “our RAPID partners, especially our national laboratory partners like Savannah River, each bring unique areas of expertise in process intensification,” ranging from separations, catalysis and transport processes, to kinetics and reaction engineering, to bear on this important manufacturing challenge.

Wispelwey emphasized that RAPID will work closely with the other Manufacturing USA Institutes, which have common goals but distinct concentrations, to assure cooperation and share approaches to commercializing “step-change” innovations. To that end, she said AIChE will use its substantial educational resources to train students and the workforce in the application of the new modular process intensification tools. She also stressed that, before undertaking this challenge, she made sure that there are solid plans for RAPID to become financially self-sustaining within the five years of DOE’s support.