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.

Summer Partnership with Kentucky State University

clock July 21, 2016 09:49 by author Thomas


Kazi Javed, Associate Professor of Chemistry at Kentucky State University (KSU), has always been committed to bringing science to life for his students. This summer, he is doing just that thanks to a unique partnership with the UK Center for Applied Energy Research (CAER).


Dr. Javed, who teaches an analytical instrumentation class at KSU, is volunteering in the Biofuels and Environmental Catalysis Group here at UK CAER this summer. With a focus in the classroom on instrument design and method development, Dr. Javed is bringing KSU students to UK CAER’s lab this summer to introduce them and train them on instrumentation not available at KSU.

 

Joining Dr. Javed from KSU are four students: Ma’Kaylah Garrett, a biology student from Indianapolis, Indiana; Steven Hall, a mechanical engineering student from Frankfort, Kentucky; Andrew Lentini, a mechanical engineering student from Shelbyville, Kentucky; and Siraj Ramsey, a mechanical engineering student from Hopkinsville, Kentucky. The mechanical engineering students are taking part in KSU and UK’s joint program, where the students attend KSU for three years and UK for two years. Participants receive a bachelor’s in mathematics from KSU and a UK engineering bachelor’s degree.

 

This collaborative work was made possible thanks to National Science Foundation grants entitled “MRI: Acquisition of a Gas Chromatograph with Dual Detection Capabilities to be Used in Sustainable Energy Research” (award number 1531637) and “SusChEM: Promotion of Nickel Catalysts for the Conversion of Biomass-derived Oils to Fuel-like Hydrocarbons” (award number 1437604). 



CAER Hosts Southern Legislative Conference Attendees

clock July 12, 2016 15:55 by author Thomas


The UK Center for Applied Energy Research (CAER) was pleased to host Southern Legislative Conference (SLC) attendees for a center tour on Tuesday, July 12. Lexington is serving as host of the 70th annual SLC Annual Meeting July 9-13 and, as part of the meeting, conference attendees took part in technical tours.

The Southern Legislative Conference of The Council of State Governments was established in 1947 and comprises presiding officers and key legislators from 15 Southern states. The SLC is a non-partisan organization located in Atlanta, Georgia.



Center Featured on UK at the Half

clock January 25, 2016 08:22 by author David Melanson

UK CAER’s story was shared with members of the Big Blue Nation on Saturday. Center Director Rodney Andrews was interviewed for the radio feature, which aired on Saturday, January 23 during the UK men’s basketball game versus Vanderbilt. Listen to the radio interview here: http://uknow.uky.edu/sites/default/files/ukath-2015-16-34_mixdown.mp3.



Seed Projects Starting to Blossom

clock January 13, 2016 11:49 by author David Melanson

The success of the University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research’s seed grant program was on full display Wednesday, as UK CAER investigators presented early-stage research projects to fellow CAER colleagues.

CAER’s seed grant program was created to bridge the divide between internal creative ideas and large government grants and/or industrial funding, with the objective being to develop a process of converting new research concepts into competitive proposals.

The success of the program can best be illustrated by the results. Since January 2013, CAER has invested $430,000 into seed projects. Those same projects have generated more than $940,000 in external funding and seven published papers. In fact, of the five external proposals submitted on behalf of seed projects, all five have received funding.

“The results are pretty obvious,” said Andrews. “We knew that CAER investigators had some novel concepts that simply needed some start-up funding to get off the ground, and this program allowed us to fund those innovative, early-stage ideas. It is exciting to see these concepts grow and receive support from external agencies, as they move into the next phase of discovery.”

On Wednesday, the following projects were spotlighted during the seed grant poster presentations event at CAER. These projects were all funded in 2015.

 

  • Michael Wilson, Stephanie Kesner, and Daniel Mohler - Integrating Algal Based CO2 Utilization and Waste Water Treatment

Photosynthetically grown microalgae have the potential to recycle many waste streams, including CO2 emissions and municipal, agricultural, or industrial waste water.  Samples were obtained from the Lexington Fayette Urban County Government Division of Water Quality to evaluate the suitability of waste water as a nutrient source and habitat to culture microalgae.  Ion chromatography was used to evaluate various waste water streams from the Town Branch wastewater treatment plant and to track nutrient uptake of algae cultures. Although the waste streams sampled did not contain high values of usable nutrients, it’s suitability as an industrial scale habitat was verified.

 

  • Tristana Duvallet and Anne Oberlink - Sulfate-Activated Class C Fly Ash Based Cements

Recent research in the Environmental and Coal Technologies (ECT) group has determined that Wyodak coal source Class C fly ash can be activated through a sulfation mechanism with anhydrite to produce the fly ash equivalent of a “super-sulfated cement.” This constitutes a discovery that is of significance. Concretes and mortars produced with high levels of coal combustion products (CCPs) or supplemental cementitious materials (SCMs), such as fly ash or slag, in place of Portland cement can develop strength by the activation of the alumina and silica phases of the materials using strong alkalis (i.e. alkali activation, aka “geopolymer”). The alkali that is used as the activator is typically sodium or potassium silicate in combination with sodium or potassium hydroxide, and various alkalis, e.g. borates, citrates, sulfonates, etc. Drawbacks to this approach include: erratic setting, either lack of, or very slow setting or flash setting; slow strength development that may require curing at elevated temperatures; rheological problems with the concrete or mortars themselves, i.e. they become “sticky”; worker safety issues since high levels of sodium hydroxide exposure are dangerous; and long-term issues with surface efflorescence. Sulfation activation was thought to be a phenomenon restricted to ground granulated blast furnace slag (GGBFS) cement. The observation that a supersulfated cement can be based entirely on Class C fly ash instead of GGBFS, overcoming the drawbacks of alkali activation, has the potential to lead to a new generation of low energy, low CO2 concretes and mortars.

  • Robert C. Pace - Biomass Fractionation via a Semi-continuous Method: Lignin Extraction with Ionic Liquids

Ionic Liquids (ILs) are highly adaptable organic salts which are liquid at room temperature. As a consequence of these properties, ILs are enormously effective in the dissolution of lignocellulosic biomass.  Given the tremendous interest in the production of renewable fuels and chemicals from lignocellulose, these solvents present a novel pathway toward the fractionation of lignocellulose into its three primary components; cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin. Fractionation of these compounds is necessary for the use of the whole of the biomass, a requirement for cost-effective production from these feedstocks. To date, nearly all biomass fractionation using ILs has been conducted in batch processes. Since continuous extraction systems are often more energy efficient and economical, this project will set out to construct a semi-continuous extraction system which is capable of overcoming the high viscosities of ILs. In order to discern the effects of various functionalities as well as the impact of cation/anion effects, five ILs will be examined as extraction solvents. The products of these fractionation experiments will also be analyzed by various means, including thermogravimetric analysis, pyrolysis-GCMS and gel permeation chromatography.  This work will lead not only to valuable data which can be utilized in publications and future grant proposals, but will also generate an apparatus which is capable of producing unique IL extracted biomaterials which could be sold as commodity products and utilized by students in their own research projects within the BEC group.

  • Chad Risko, Adam Rigby and Karl Thorley, - A Computational, Shape-Based Approach to Crystal Engineering

Organic semiconductors (OSC) are experiencing rapid application growth in consumer electronics, with OSC poised to serve a key role in next generation flexible, conformable, and wearable electronics. However, the reliance on largely Edisonian discovery processes results in significant development and production costs – in terms of personnel, materials, characterization equipment, and time – for new, molecular-based OSCs. High-performance computing, when combined with the tool set and know-how of the synthetic chemist, offers a means to overcome many of these costs. Through a joint collaboration between the Anthony and Risko groups, we are developing an innovative computational approach to determine how the interplay between of molecular shape and explicit chemical functionality drive molecular packing in the solid state, a key determinant of OSC performance. The development of the computational platform will allow for rapid approximations of molecular packing structures, with relevant solutions arriving within days and weeks rather than the months required for synthesis and characterization, along with the ability to screen varied and unusual molecular designs that may otherwise go untried. Through the course of the work, the research team has improved understanding as to how solid-state molecular conformations impact the intermolecular electronic coupling, a key parameter directing charge-carrier transport in these materials. The project introduced a new concept, the disordermer, into the crystal engineering lexicon, and shown how changes in chemical composition can be manifest on crystalline order and the resulting charge-carrier transport properties. The lab has also made considerable headway in terms of developing a model that reveals how adjustments in the overall molecular shape and volume direct solid-state packing. The work has resulted in three peer-reviewed publications (two published and one submitted) and one proposal submitted to the National Science Foundation.

  • Rafael Franca and John Craddock - A New Approach to Novel Zeolite Hollow Fiber Membranes for Dewatering and Enrichment Separations in CO2 Capture Process

Zeolite membrane-based technology for dewatering of aqueous amine-based CO2 sorbents, has the capability to significantly decrease the energy required for CO2 capture from coal-fired power plants. Membrane enabled dewatering of CO2 saturated amine solvent, reduces the thermal energy required by the stripper during solvent regeneration by commensurately reducing the volume of water to be heated. The hollow fiber membrane (HFM) geometry provides high surface area to volume and high permselectivity. These membranes have the potential to increase selectivity and flux in membrane-based dewatering processes when compared to conventional tubular membranes. In this work, we introduced the preparation of a novel, polymer-assisted processing of a Y Zeolite HFM support. The preparation method proposed is based on air-gap solution spinning of a polymer (polyethersulfone (PES)) solution containing highly dispersed mullite particles, followed by thermal treatment to pyrolize the polymer and sinter the mullite particles into an HFM form. It is expected that this new design (HFM) would greatly increase flux and selectivity of Y zeolite membranes for the dewatering of carbon-loaded amine solvents. Preliminary results indicated that mullite based hollow fiber supports did not present enough mechanical resistance after the sintering process. Zeolite Y crystals have been successfully grown on the outside surface of PES hollow fiber supports, however some level of degradation was observed when the support was exposed to the carbon loaded amine solvent. It is not clear if the degradation process affects the porosity of the PES hollow fiber support. Further tests will be conducted with PES hollow fibers to analyze the viability of using PES as a support for Y-zeolite hollow fibers.

  • Christopher Swartz, "Hybrid Redox Flow Battery for Stationary Energy Storage Applications

The capability to store electricity is on track to become an integral component of the future electrical grid. Emerging technologies found in the grid storage portfolio include pumped hydro energy storage, compressed air energy storage, thermal and flywheel energy storage, and various electrochemical energy storage options, including redox flow batteries. Redox flow batteries share many similarities with fuel cells, and are rechargeable, modular battery systems where energy storage and power performance can be decoupled from one another due to the battery architecture. The all-vanadium redox flow battery represents the current state-of-the-art in flow battery technology, and numerous demonstration units have been installed worldwide, ranging from kW, kWh to MW, MWh capabilities. The relatively high cost of these systems has prevented widespread adoption of flow battery technology, and new flow battery systems featuring lower cost chemistries and ion exchange membranes (when compared to vanadium and Nafion®, respectively) remain highly attractive candidates to move flow batteries along on a forward trajectory to the commercial marketplace. The Electrochemical Power Sources Group proposes to develop a low-cost hybrid redox flow battery as an alternative to the all-vanadium system, based on aqueous iron and zinc electrochemistry. The cathode will feature plating and stripping of Zn metal during cell charge and discharge. The anode will feature the Fe2+/Fe3+ redox couple, with the addition of various ligands or chelating agents which will bind to iron, and lead to higher operating cell voltage and energy density.

For the full story and photos...



UK CAER Team Publishes in the ACS Journal Chemistry of Materials

clock December 4, 2015 15:58 by author David Melanson

John Anthony and Chad Risko have joined forces in a recent publication in the ACS Journal Chemistry of Materials titled "Dynamics, Miscibility, and Morphology in Polymer:Molecule Blends: The Impact of Chemical Functionality.” Drs. Anthony and Risko are based in Lab 2 at UK CAER and also hold faculty appointments in the UK College of Arts & Sciences Department of Chemistry.

Based on a series of acceptors constructed from trialkylsilylethynyl-substituted pentacenes designed and synthesized in the Anthony laboratory, the study presents a computational chemistry investigation of polymer:molecule blends with the polymer donor poly(3-hexylthiophene) (P3HT). Essential connections are made between the chemical structure of the acene acceptor and the nanoscale properties of the polymer:molecule blend, which include polymer and molecular diffusivity, donor–acceptor packing and interfacial (contact) area, and miscibility. The results point to the very significant role that seemingly modest changes in chemical structure play during the formation of polymer:molecule blend morphologies, and how molecule design can be used to control critical aspects of thin-film morphology.

Citation: Chem. Mater. 2015, 27, 7643-7651. DOI: 10.1021/acs.chemmater5b02983



UK CAER Hosts Local Elementary Students for Annual Energy Fair

clock January 16, 2015 11:35 by author Alice

 

Last month, the UK Center for Applied Energy Research once again hosted its annual Energy Fair. The event brings in classes of 4th and 5th graders from local elementary schools. The students get to meet and interact with scientists and engineers, learn about different forms of energy and how they're used, and participate in hands-on experiments and demonstrations.

Over 250 students attended the fair, which had over a dozen demonstrations from CAER, BCTC, KGS, Bluegrass Energy and other local energy groups.

The full article can be read at UKNow.



Jim Hower, UK CAER Scientist, Quoted in WLEX18 Story

clock January 16, 2015 11:14 by author Alice

In an investigative reporting piece on coal fires near Berea, Dr. Jim Hower was contacted for comment:

Jim Hower, a University of Kentucky researcher who studies Kentucky's underground fires, said the smoke can produce carcinogens. However, he said it likely doesn't present a health risk as long as people stay away from the plumes.


“In the course of being outside, walking by these fires, you want some protections, but they're also probably not in the concentration, or the length of exposure and intensity of exposure that are going to cause an immediate danger to somebody,” he said. “They smell bad, and it's certainly something you don't want to be living with.”


The full story can be viewed here on LEX18's website.



Tekcrete Fast Demonstration

clock November 13, 2014 10:27 by author Alice

Tekcrete applied to two portland cement beams and one water pipe.On Wednesday, November 5, 2014, the University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research, along with their commercialization partner Orica USA, headed down to College Station, Texas to demonstrate the commercial product, Tekcrete Fast, and its delivery system. This research was supported by funding provided by the U. S. Department of Homeland Security, Science & Technology Directorate, through a technology development and deployment program managed by The National Institute for Hometown Security. 

Tekcrete Fast is a rapidly setting, high strength gunite mix that can be used by rescue personnel to help protect them as they work at a disaster site. It also affords protection to victims trapped in damaged buildings, guarding them against potential collapse and additional harm.

The system is composed of a delivery vehicle capable of concreting or grouting prepackaged fiber reinforced cements, mortars and micro- aggregated concretes that are strong and rapidly setting. A range of compositions of cements have been tested that demonstrate high compressive and bonding strengths after only five hours of curing and structural strength in as little as 15 minutes.    

The demonstration consisted of three damaged Portland concrete beams set in the ground in a vertical manner, to replicate damaged structural beams, as well as a damaged water pipe. Tekcrete Fast was sprayed to repair those damaged items, and then tested three hours later. The beams were placed in a compressive strength machine, and compressed until a failure point was reached. It was concluded that the Portland concrete beams broke outside of the damaged areas where the Tekcrete Fast was sprayed, meaning the Tekcrete Fast was stronger than the actual Portland concrete beams themselves.

The UK CAER Environmental and Coal Technologies research group scientists involved in the demo were Tom Robl, Anne Oberlink, and Bob Jewell.



CAER 101 Project Brings Scientists into the Classroom

clock April 7, 2014 18:39 by author Alice

 

The CAER 101 project is bringing together scientists and children in a classroom setting. The scientists create lessons for 4th and 5th graders which allows the students have fun while learning sound energy science concepts in hands-on demos and lessons.

 

Tammy Lane, web editor from the Fayette County Public School System, does a great job of explaining the concept in an article posted today, April 7, 2014 on the FCPS web site:

 

- CAER 101 pairs scientists, fourth-graders in mutual exchange


Topics in Catalysis Issue Dedicated to Burt Davis Now Published

clock March 12, 2014 10:10 by author Alice
A special issue of the journal, Topics in Catalysis, has been published by Springer publisher. The issue includes a collection of papers authored by many of the speakers who attended a three-day awards symposium to honor Burtron H. Davis at the American Chemical Society (ACS) Spring National Meeting in New Orleans on April 8-10, 2013. Additionally, other authors who were unable to attend, but wanted to make a contribution are included.

 

"The presentations reflected an array of catalytic reactions for a wide range of energy applications ranging from traditional reactions in petroleum refining to alternative fuels research (including Fischer–Tropsch synthesis, methanol synthesis, hydrogen production and storage, and the upgrading of chemicals derived from biorenewable resources) to catalytic applications in rocket propulsion. The scope of the presentations and discussions reflects the far-reaching impact that Burt Davis has had on the catalysis and fuels research community".

 

Guest editors, Uschi Graham and Gary Jacobs, two scientists that work with Dr. Davis from the University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research Clean Fuels & Chemicals research group, wrote the foreword for this special issue.

 

Dr. Davis, Associate Director of the CFC group at the UK CAER, is the recipient of the prestigious 2013 American Chemical Society’s Distinguished Researcher Award in Petroleum Chemistry.

 



LG&E/KU Consumer Advisory Panel Tours UK CAER

clock March 12, 2014 09:45 by author Alice
A group from the LG&E/KU Consumer Advisory Panel toured UK CAER labs in order to view the work conducted that positively influences the future success of the electric utilities industry. Stops included CO2 Capture Process; Algae/biofuels CO2 capture project; battery storage/energy; solar research; carbon and coal combustion by-products materials research, as well as catalysis synthetic gas process research.

 



Coal Combustion Products Workshop to be held April 2014

clock March 12, 2014 09:35 by author Alice

The Center for Applied Energy Research (CAER) and the American Coal Ash Association (ACAA) will host a workshop on coal ash utilization in Lexington, KY. The workshop will offer a comprehensive overview of coal combustion products (CCP) from the point of generation to inclusion in buildings, agriculture, infrastructure, and environmental remediation projects. The event is targeted at those who wish to increase their knowledge of the materials and the opportunities for recycling. Generators, marketers, consultants, public officials and students will find this workshop valuable in understanding the scope of CCP use and issues related recycling.

Date: April 29-30, 2014 at the Hilton Hotel in downtown Lexington, Kentucky.

Website: http://www.caer.uky.edu/ash2014/home.shtml

Topics/Speakers:

  • Dry FGD Systems and Products - Anne Oberlink, UK CAER
  • Wet FGD Systems – Gypsum Characteristics and Uses - Lamar Larrimore, Southern Company
  • Recovered Ash - Tom Robl, UK CAER
  • Geopolymers - Stephen Bryan, Ecocem Materials
  • CCPs and Sustainability - LEED - Lionel Lemay, National Ready Mixed Concrete Association
  • Testing Methods - LEAF - John Daniels, UNC Charlotte
  • Ash Regulations - Tom Adams, American Coal Ash Association
  • CCP Recycling Challenges - Lisa Bradley, AECOM
  • Fly Ash Basics - Bob Jewell, UK CAER
  • Fly Ash Characterization and Mineralogy - Bob Rathbone, Boral
  • Fly Ash Uses and Applications - Jack Groppo, UK CAER
  • Ponds Management, Conversion and Abandonment - Gary Brendel, GAI Consultants


CAER Connects with Children at UK's Engineering Day

clock February 26, 2014 17:01 by author Alice

 

CAER was one of many exhibitor participants at the 2014 University of Kentucky's Engineering Day event held on the UK Campus on February 22nd.

 

Jack Groppo, a long-time CAER engineer, interacted with a lot of youngsters, even high school students hailing all the way from Harlan, Kentucky. The CAER and the UK Energy Club teamed together to use a bicycle to demonstrate energy conservation. Each child could ride the bike and see how much work it took to light up different types of light bulbs.

 

The CAER supports STEM educational outreach in many ways, including the CAER101 project - a "scientists in the classroom" approach using hands-on demos that support 4th grade curriculum.


What's Up with this Winter Weather? Trent Garrison Discusses topic on WEKU

clock February 21, 2014 17:31 by author Alice
Trent Garrison, a PhD student at UK Earth and Environmental Sciences under the direction of Jim Hower EES Adjunct Professor and UK CAER Geologist, spoke on the WEKU radio show on February 15th. Trent discussed the current weather patterns from a geologist's point of view on the program titled: Eastern Standard: What's Up with this Winter Weather? - Listen to that program.


Podcast of CAER Fuel Seminar Speaker - Max Ball

clock February 21, 2014 17:22 by author Alice

The University of Kentucky's Center for Applied Energy Research has published another podcast for individuals interested in energy issues.

It explored the topic of Carbon Capture and Storage by  Mr. Max Ball of SaskPower.  

- Podcast and PPT File

SaskPower's Boundary Dam Integrated CCS Demonstration will be the world's first full application of Post Combustion Carbon Capture to a coal fired power generating unit. An avalanche of learnings will come with start-up of this unit later in 2014. SaskPower 's Carbon Capture Test Facility, now under construction at Shand Power Station, will add another dimension to the operating experience beginning in 2015. Knowledge coming from these initiatives will pave the way for a second generation of clean coal projects.



UK CAER Hosts Workshop for Targeting Ideas to Foundations

clock February 18, 2014 17:46 by author Alice

The UK Office of Proposal Development prepared a workshop for CAER scientists regarding how to locate funding opportunities.

 

Using the SPIN Database to Find Funding Opportunities - This session provided information about the Sponsored Projects Information Network (SPIN) funding database, UK’s primary tool for detailed funding searches of both federal and private agencies. Participants will be introduced to the features of SPIN and will learn how to conduct their own advanced funding searches.

 

Targeting ideas to Foundations - This talk described the types of foundations that might be good targets for CAER research and how they differ from federal agencies.  We will identify some strategies for finding appropriate foundations and talk about the elements in a letter of inquiry, a common first step in approaching foundations.



Podcast of Dr. Wesley Burnett - CAER Seminar Speaker

clock February 17, 2014 18:54 by author Alice

The University of Kentucky's Center for Applied Energy Research has published another podcast for individuals interested in energy issues. It explored the topic of Sustainable Energy Development: An economic perspective by Dr. Wesley Burnett from the University of West Virginia, USA.

- Podcast and PPT File

Economics is a social science concerned with the allocation of scarce resources for satisfying unlimited wants. Given the exhaustibility of fossil fuels and concerns over global climate change, economic science provides an approach to better understand energy markets. The burning of fossil fuels result in economic and environmental consequences that are not always reflected in the prices of the resources. These “hidden costs” or externalities result in market failure, as the market fails to generate the efficient level of pollution control. In the case of stock pollutants, externalities can be particularly severe, arguably resulting in costs to future generations. Government intervention is often necessary in the presence of market failure.

Cost-benefit analysis (CBA) is an economic tool used to evaluate the equivalent value of benefits and costs of a particular project for a community. CBA is useful to establish whether such a project is worthwhile.

In this discussion, I shall address basic economic concepts including energy economics as a science, externalities, market failure, property rights, and cost-benefit analysis. The purpose of the discussion is to educate non-economist about these basic economic principles in attempt to bridge the gap between science and engineering.



UK College of Design Senior Project at UK CAER

clock February 17, 2014 17:25 by author Alice
UK CAER is working with a UK College of Design student to create educational stations for use at various research site locations through the CAER campus. Jessica Neiser, a UK CoD interiors student, will be conducting her senior thesis project by designing a "system" that can be followed to develop these potential educational materials or "stops" throughout the center.


UK CAER Begins Work on the Local Government Energy Retrofit Program

clock February 17, 2014 17:21 by author Alice

The UK CAER recently received a Local Government Energy Retrofit Program grant. The scope is to work with local governments around the state to help them through the process of contracting with Energy Service Contractors to improve the efficiency of their facilities. Greg Copley is the contact person for this service.



Centre College Freshman Students Tour UK CAER

clock January 29, 2014 09:24 by author Alice

A group of Centre College freshman and their professor, Marie Nydam, recently toured the UK Center laboratories. Their course is on the effects of coal mining and the students are always interested in solutions to the environmental and economic problems they see as they tour Eastern Kentucky. Ms. Nydam felt that CAER would be a great place to visit to see research being completed so that it may become the basis of future solutions.

The students toured the coal combustion research lab; saw a briqetting demo; heard details about coal mine fires; talked with researchers about CO2 capture; learned a great deal about biofuels potential; heard a discussion about energy storage options and toured the CAER's energy efficient laboratory.