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.

UKCAER Graduate Student Participates in East Asia and Pacific Summer Institutes Program

clock March 15, 2017 15:04 by author Thomas

Ryan Loe, a graduate student at the University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research, recently visited Australia as part of the National Science Foundation's East Asia and Pacific Summer Institutes Program.

This program, according to the NSF's website works like this: "NSF and selected foreign counterpart science and technology agencies sponsor international research institutes for U.S. graduate students in seven East Asia and Pacific locations."

"It allows you to partner with a research institute for about a three-month period to work... with a researcher of your choice," Ryan explained. "My project in Australia was working with converting plant oils and animal fats into diesel fuel. ... My main goal in Australia was to generate new supports [for catalysts] that are unique and have different morphologies that will hopefully have a positive effect [on that]."

The video below, posted on UK CAER's youtube channel, is Ryan explaining not only how useful the experience was professionally, but also how enriching and enjoyable it was from a cultural standpoint.

Ryan Loe is a native of Columbus, Ohio. He received his Bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Muskingum University in Ohio. He is currently a graduate student working in UK CAER’s Biofuels and Environmental Catalysis Group under his faculty mentor, Mark Crocker. Ryan’s research is focused on converting liquids to a renewable fuel.



UK CAER Helping Fayette County Recycle Cooking Oil this Thanksgiving

clock November 21, 2016 13:46 by author Thomas

The UK Center for Applied Energy Research is partnering with several Kentucky organizations to help turn left-over Thanksgiving cooking oil into biofuel. 

The Gobble Grease Toss will be held Friday, November 25 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Redwood Cooperative School. The school is located on the same campus as Chapel Hill Presbyterian Church at 3534 Tates Creek Rd. Cooking oil will be used by the UK’s Center for Applied Energy Research (CAER), with additional cooking oil recycled by Kelley Green Biofuel.

“Redwood Cooperative School is very excited to host the annual Gobble Grease Toss and to provide a way for our community to recycle another common household item,” said Sarah Cummins, event coordinator at Redwood Cooperative School. “We embrace this opportunity to be environmental stewards and support renewable energy science."

Eduardo Santillan-Jimenez with UK CAER explains that they will use the oil for “a project sponsored by the National Science Foundation in which a novel technology to convert vegetable oils and animal fats to diesel and jet-fuel is being developed.” 

“Anytime we can give a waste product new life, we are interested,” said Dr. Santillan-Jimenez, who works in UK CAER’s Biofuels and Environmental Catalysis Group. “We also know that pouring grease down drains can cause real damage to sewer lines. This project helps us remove that waste product from homes and it allows Kelley Green Biofuel in Louisville to use that oil to power vehicles.” 

The Gobble Grease Toss is free for all Fayette County residents (no businesses, please). Citizens should bring the oil in a disposable container with a lid. 

For more information on the Gobble Grease Toss, call LexCall at 3-1-1 or 425-2255 or visit www.LexingtonKY.gov/LiveGreen.



CAER Researcher Presents at Biorefining Conference

clock November 16, 2016 10:56 by author Thomas

John Jennings, a scientist working in the University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research's Environmental Catalysis Group, recently presented a poster at the "Frontiers in Biorefining 2016" conference. Held at St. Simons Island, GA, Frontiers in Biorefining is the 4th International Conference on Chemicals and Products from Renewable Carbon, hosted by the University of Tennessee Center for Renewable Carbon and the Southeastern Regional Sun Grant Center. Mr. Jenning's poster focused on the use of lignin, and was titled "Tin Beta Zeolite for Regioselective Baeyer-Villiger Oxidation of Lignin Model Compounds".



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). 



UK CAER Undergraduate Researcher Presents Research at Kentucky State Capitol

clock February 25, 2016 14:48 by author David Melanson

Courtney McKelphin, an undergraduate researcher at the University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research, was one of 29 UK undergraduate researchers selected to showcase their research to the Kentucky state legislature on Thursday, February 25. Read the full story.



UK CAER Algal Research Hitting the Ground in China

clock February 15, 2016 12:05 by author David Melanson

Algae research at the University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research (CAER) is going global.

The Algae and Biofuels Laboratory at UK CAER is partnering with Lianhenghui Investment Company to construct a 5-acre algae production facility in Zhengzhou, China. The facility will feature the Center’s novel photobioreactor technology for growing algae. The algae will be used for the production of nutraceuticals, bioplastics and fuels. The company is also constructing a second, smaller facility in Zhengzhou (2.5 acres), which will employ the same technology to grow algae for the production of nutraceuticals.

Microalgae have attracted considerable interest in recent years as a high-yield renewable feedstock for the production of fuels and chemicals. In addition, algae have been proposed as a means to capture and utilize power plant emissions, since photosynthetic algae can use the CO2 in flue gas as a carbon source.

UK CAER’s Algae and Biofuels group, led by Dr. Mark Crocker, is a worldwide leader in this research. The group has extensive expertise in this area, specializing in photobioreactor design, construction and operation; photobioreactor integration with power plants; and algae cultivation, harvesting and dewatering.

“This is an exciting development for our lab and the next phase of our research,” said Dr. Crocker. “Getting to see our innovations go from the lab to practice at Duke Energy’s East Bend Station in Boone County, Kentucky and now on to an international market is gratifying. We look forward to learning more from our partners at Lianhenghui Investment Company.”

The initial funding for the photobioreactor development was provided by the Kentucky Department of Energy Development and Independence, as part of a project to investigate the potential of algae for the capturing and recycling of power plant CO2 emissions.  After years of research, the lab partnered with Duke Energy’s East Bend Station to install a photobioreactor at that site in late 2012.

“This is an exciting achievement for Mark Crocker and the entire Biofuels group here at CAER,” said Rodney Andrews, Director of UK CAER. “They have been persistent in their efforts to improve the technology, constantly refining their process and improving our understanding of how the biology and engineering systems interact. We look forward to seeing the results of this partnership with Lianhenghui."

In June 2014, the UK CAER licensed its photobioreactor technology to Lianhenghui. Together, UK and Lianhenghui have patented the first and second generation photobioreactor technology in China, and they are in the process of patenting the second generation reactor technology in the United States.

Biofuels – fuels derived from biomass – are promising alternatives to fossil fuels since they are renewable and carbon neutral (the CO2 generated during biofuel use is consumed by plants through photosynthesis, closing the carbon cycle). CAER has considerable experience on the catalytic conversion of different forms of biomass to fuels and chemicals.

For the full story and photos...



UK CAER Makes Splash at UK Sustainability Forum

clock December 3, 2015 11:30 by author David Melanson

 

The University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research (CAER) made quite the splash at the 2015 University of Kentucky Sustainability Forum and Research Showcase Tuesday. Two members of the CAER presented posters during the showcase, and two of the seven UK Sustainability Challenge Grants were awarded to UK CAER projects.

Courtney McKelphin, a undergraduate student researcher at the Center, received Best Poster Award for her project entitled on “Improving the Economics of Algae Biofuels through Optimized Extractions from Wet Algae.”

UK CAER staff member Michael Wilson presented a poster highlighting the engineering achievements in support of the 2014 Challenge Grant Project “Development of Sustainable Bus Stops” along with team members from the College of Design. The project also received 2015 grant funding.

In addition to the poster presentation portion of the event, the President’s Sustainability Advisory Committee awarded nearly $200,000 to campus sustainability projects that focused on the creation and implementation of ideas that promote sustainability by advancing economic vitality, ecological integrity and social equity, now and into the future.

This program is a collaborative effort of the President’s Sustainability Advisory Committee, The Tracy Farmer Institute for Sustainability and the Environment and the Office of Sustainability. Funding for the program was provided by the Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration, the Provost, the Vice President for Research and the Student Sustainability Council.

CAER projects receiving funding included:

Point of Departure - Awarded $49,991

CAER and the College of Design are partnering to construct critically-placed transit shelters—plugging into campus transportation to physically manifest UK’s sustainability and transportation agendas. The designs integrate sustainable site strategies, context specificity, high-performance architectural skins, sustainable materials, photovoltaic systems, storm water management, high-efficiency lighting and infographic displays to reimagine what a shelter can be. This grant will catalyze the integration of sustainability and educational aspects within the design as it transitions toward real world implementation, leveraging the impact of campus research to engage students in a dialogue about sustainability, alternate transportation, the value of design, and the possibilities of collaborative research at UK.

Team Members: Martin Summers, College of Design-School of Architecture; Michael Wilson, CAER; Regina Hannemann, College of Engineering-Electrical Engineering; Owen Duross, College of Design-School of Architecture; Thompson Burry, College of Design-School of Architecture.

From SEE(E)D to (S)STEM - Awarded $25,184

In this project, UK science, engineering, entrepreneurship, education and design – SEE(E)D – students, faculty and staff will work together to develop a system for the production of didactic tools to be used in outreach efforts designed to promote sustainability, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics – (S)STEM – to underserved K-12 students. This will be done utilizing as a case study a game that has been conceived and used to teach K-12 students about complex and often misunderstood energy and sustainability issues. While the science behind this game and the relationship between the latter and the K-12 curriculum are solid, the presentation can be improved to make the game more effective. The game will be improved by having educators and designers strengthen the graphical and pedagogical aspects of the game to ultimately facilitate and deepen the understanding of K-12 students of the important sustainability issues presented. In addition, this effort will be made sustainable from an economic standpoint through a business plan – to be developed by UK student entrepreneurs – in which any profits from the game constituting the case study can be reinvested in the development of additional didactic tools, thus translating this work into a sustainable model through which other tools can be developed. Notably, this work will also serve to advance social equity not only because the K-12 institutions involved have high percentages of minority and/or free and reduced lunch students, but also because minority engineering students will be involved in taking the didactic tool to be developed to these K-12 institutions.

Team Members: Eduardo Santillian-Jimenez, CAER; Rebekah Radtke, College of Design-Department of Interiors; Margaret Mohr-Schoeder, College of Education-Department of STEM Education.

“It was a wonderful forum for showcasing the sustainability efforts at UK, and how our Center is playing a leading role in transforming sustainability education, research and outreach here in Kentucky,” said Courtney Fisk, President’s Sustainability Advisory Committee Co-Chair, and Assistant Director for Facilities and Operations.



UK CAER Students Take a "Green" Turn with Algae

clock August 20, 2014 11:01 by author Alice
Engineers normally get their hands dirty … but green? Ask any of the five UK students working with the Center for Applied Energy Research Biofuels and Environmental Catalysis group and you might get a surprising answer. They are all part of a student team from the University of Kentucky Engineering Department and the College of Design that have been working on design issues associated with the CAER algal-based carbon capture and utilization demonstration project based at Duke’s East Bend power plant located in Northern Kentucky.

In an effort to drive down capital and operating costs the CAER “outsourced” the design problems to this group of students to see what could be developed, with the end result to be working prototypes or models that could be incorporated into the Center’s day-to-day carbon utilization research.

The students were recently on-hand during a Channel 12 News interview of Michael H. Wilson, UK CAER Senior Research Engineer. Each created a poster focusing on their specific project highlighting what aspect of the process needed work and a solution of how to resolve that problem.

Katelyn Yohe, UK Electrical Engineering Senior - UK CAER Duke Algae Demo Katelyn Yohe, UK Electrical Engineering SeniorLow Cost Control System - (Poster) - A low cost control system was developed to control the input of carbon dioxide, as flue gas, and air in a photobioreactor in order to maintain healthy algae growth conditions. The system regulates pH and dissolved oxygen based on parameters set by the user. Live, weekly, stored data, and setting parameters can all be viewed and changed on a network computer through the web or through the on-board LCD. Based on the current system used, this new prototype is roughly an eighty-seven percent reduction of cost.

Landon Caudill, UK Mechanical Engineering Junior - UK CAER Duke Algae Demo Landon Caudill, UK Mechanical Engineering JuniorAlgae Harvest and Processing – (Poster) - I focused on how to improve the efficiency of our low-cost/low energy harvesting and dewatering process. In order to recover algal byproducts a low dosage (3-5 ppm) of chemical flocculent is added as the algae is pumped into a setting column. After 20 minutes the biomass has settled to the bottom of a small diameter and conical base to allow most (>95%) of the water to be decanted and recycled to the growth system. The thickened biomass is then transferred to a gravity dewatering belt and then to a solar drier to complete the low-cost/low-energy method of algae biomass recovery. These improvements have made the processing of harvested algae more efficient and consistent.

Chase M. Cecil, UK Chemical Engineering Senior - UK CAER Duke Algae Demo Chase M. Cecil, UK Chemical Engineering Senior - Optimizing Carbon Input to Maximize Efficiency – (Poster) - My work focused on modeling the CO2 utilization efficiency of the photobioreactor system. The model determined a CO2 input regimen that optimized the CO2 usage and maximized the efficiency of the reactor system. This method also highlighted the most important factors to improve the performance and efficiency of the system moving forward.

Thomas E. Grubbs, UK Architecture Senior - UK CAER Duke Algae Demo Thomas E. Grubbs, UK Architecture SeniorDesign, Development, and Documentation – (Poster) – My role at CAER has been primarily on the documentation side of the photobioreactor design process. I was brought aboard to lend a designer’s perspective to the work being carried at out at the Center, specifically the algae project. To that end, I have worked on the design and development of the PBR tube cleaning ‘pigs’, including the use of a CO2 laser cutting system in order to optimize pig construction, as well as the East Bend PBR.

Travis Jarrells, UK Chemical Engineering Junior - UK CAER Duke Algae Demo Travis Jarrells, UK Chemical Engineering JuniorCarbon Dioxide Compression Model – (Poster) – My work focused on the introduction of carbon dioxide, as flue gas, to the photobioreactor system. Different methods such as compression and bubbling and using eductors were compared based on an energy consumption basis. I also worked on improving smaller (8 liter) airlift reactors for use in the greenhouse. Improvements made include air introduction, as well as changes in geometry to improve longevity and maintenance.

The UK CAER has a long history of offering experiential learning opportunities to undergraduate engineering and science students in areas including: biofuels, carbon materials, carbon capture, industrial byproduct beneficiation, batteries, solar, and catalysis. The students get an opportunity to work on real world problems and apply the lessons they learn in their coursework to immediately reinforce their learning, often in a hands-on-manner. Michael Wilson sums it up by saying, “Working with these students has been a great experience. Although the experience they are getting is undoubtedly valuable, I’m not sure we can repay them for the amounts of enthusiasm and creativity they bring to the table. I am continually impressed with the level of talent present at the University of Kentucky”. With opportunities like these, the contributions that undergraduate researchers can make will only continue and ultimately contribute to the vitality of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

*Follow up questions can be directed to Michael.Wilson@uky.edu or alice.marksberry@uky.edu