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 CAER Receives International Grant for CO2 Capture Research

clock September 5, 2017 10:53 by author Thomas

The University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research has received a $300,000 grant from the Shanxi Science and Technology Department through the Shanxi Research Institute for Clean Energy of Tsinghua University in China to scale-up its hybrid technology for post-combustion CO2 capture in a coal-fired power plant.


The project is a continuation of the CO2 capture research that has been taking place between the two institutions since 2011. The collaboration between UK CAER and Tsinghua University launched thanks to the United States-China Clean Energy Research Center (CERC). CERC was created in 2009 by U.S. Department of Energy, the China Ministry of Science and Technology and the China National Energy Administration to facilitate joint research and development on clean energy by teams of scientists and engineers from the US and China.


UK CAER is a founding member of CERC’s Advanced Coal Technologies Consortium. The consortium’s purpose is to advance American and Chinese leadership and collaboration in advanced coal technologies, particularly as directed to carbon capture and utilization, advanced combustions systems and geological sequestration.


The project is entitled “Demonstration Project for Post-Combustion CO2 Capture Process for Coal-Fired Power Plant,” and the research will take place in China’s Shanxi Province.


Technology being utilized at the large-pilot project was first developed thanks to the Carbon Management Research Group (CMRG) consisting of Duke Energy, Electric Power Research Institute, LG&E and KU and former members - Kentucky Power, East Kentucky Power Cooperative, Big Rivers Electric Corporation, and the Kentucky Department for Energy Development and Independence. CMRG is an industrial-governmental-academic consortium that seeks to develop cost-effective technologies for reducing and managing carbon dioxide emissions in coal-fired power plants. UK CAER’s innovative post-combustion project was supported by a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory.

UK CAER and MIT Researchers Study Large-scale Energy Storage Battery

clock July 21, 2017 11:03 by author Thomas

A team of scientists at the University of Kentucky and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have been awarded a $200,000 National Science Foundation grant to develop a prototype of a battery utilizing chemical components prepared at UK.

UK chemistry professors Susan Odom and John Anthony -- who both have appointments at the Center for Applied Energy Research -- synthesized new organic compounds as donors and acceptors for a type of battery called a redox flow battery (RFB), currently of great interest for large-scale energy storage. In collaboration with James Landon (UK CAER) and Fikile Brushett (MIT), the team will investigate the operation of the new materials in a prototype.


This PFI: AIR-TT (Partnerships for Innovation: Accelerating Innovation Research-Technology Translation) project focuses on incorporating high concentration organic electrolytes for redox flow batteries (RFBs) into functional, high-voltage, stationary batteries. RFB have advantages for electrical grid-scale energy storage options, including peak leveling and frequency regulation, which would reduce overall energy consumption when linked with an electrical grid. RFBs are inherently well-suited for large applications such as these because they scale more cost effectively (power and energy capacities are decoupled) than most battery technologies.

This project investigates nonaqueous RFBs containing organic electro-active species. This proposed type of RFB has the following unique features relative to other RFB designs: higher operating voltages, noncorrosive electrolytes, smaller size, and use of scalable organic active materials (more environmentally friendly and potentially lower cost). The potential customer benefit would stem from more affordable options for stationary energy storage, enabling a greater reliance on renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power, and improving energy efficiency of the electric grid, which together can reduce the anthropogenic generation of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel combustion.

Under this project, a prototype full-cell RFB with high concentrations of promising organic electro-active materials will be built and tested. To date, the lack of a demonstration of a high-concentration full cell has prevented an analysis of the performance and identification of the potential advantages and limitations of electro-active organic compounds. Moreover, performance-limiting factors associated with cell design or component failure are difficult to distinguish for active material decay. Full cell testing, at near practical conditions, is required to complete a thorough performance assessment.

The project engages United Technologies Research Center to provide additional testing assessments and to guide commercialization aspects in this technology translation effort from research discovery toward commercial reality.

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UK Eclipse Ballooning Team Conducts Practice Session at UK CAER

clock April 25, 2017 11:40 by author Thomas

A multidisciplinary University of Kentucky College of Engineering student team spent the morning of April 24 at the UK Center for Applied Energy Research preparing for a once in a generation scientific opportunity.

The students are members of the UK Eclipse Ballooning Team and they were conducting a practice launch leading up to this summer’s total solar eclipse on August 21. It will be the first total solar eclipse to cross the Pacific and Atlantic coasts in 99 years and the first to be visible in the southeastern United States since 1970.

The UK Eclipse Ballooning Team is comprised of about 30 UK students. During the eclipse, the student researchers will launch two high-altitude latex balloons equipped to take pictures and record video of this rare event. The UK effort is part of a nationwide scientific effort led by NASA. NASA Space Grant, a program of the NASA Office of Education that develops the U.S. aerospace STEM workforce and aerospace research, is conducting a nationwide cooperative eclipse event with over 50 teams live-streaming video from the edge of space.

Monday’s practice session allowed the team to test systems and procedures that will be used during the eclipse launch. As part of the eclipse launch, the team will fly several payloads – including equipment to livestream video – from an approximate altitude of 80,000-100,000 feet. The UK Eclipse Ballooning Team is supported by NASA Kentucky’s Space Grant Program, which provides aerospace-related experiential learning opportunities at colleges and universities across the state.

The project is guided by faculty coordinator Suzanne Weaver Smith, Donald and Gertrude Lester Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Director of NASA Kentucky.

“Today was our first double balloon launch in preparation for the eclipse,” said Virginia Smith, Mission Control Team Leader and a UK mechanical engineering student. “While not all of the technology we flew was eclipse ready, this was a fantastic milestone for testing tracking capabilities, video transmission range, and our team's set-up, launch, and recovery operations. I am extremely proud of how our team performed today, especially when the wind was throwing our balloon around, but everyone remained quick on their feet stopping the balloon from hitting the pavement right before launch."

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.