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.

Federal Funding to Expand UK CAER Carbon Capture Research

clock May 2, 2018 11:39 by author Thomas

The University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research was one of nine organizations selected to receive Phase I funding of a three-phase project as part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Fossil Fuel Large-Scale Pilot program.

UK CAER will receive over $940,000 from DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy and the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) to advance its world-renowned carbon dioxide capture research and development.

According to principal investigator Kunlei Liu, this Phase I funding will allow UK CAER to advance its four-pronged CO2 capture system to a 10 megawatt scale. UK CAER’s Power Generation Research Group is a global leader in building, developing and demonstrating post-combustion carbon capture systems. In fact, UK CAER’s current 0.7 megawatt small pilot CO2 capture facility operates at Kentucky Utilities’ E.W. Brown Generating Station in Burgin, Kentucky has led to scientific and engineering breakthroughs in the field.



This new federal funding will allow UK CAER to advance that research by nearly ten times, leaving the technology only one step away from commercialization. 

“This project will allow us to leverage the unique carbon dioxide capture expertise we have developed at UK CAER over the past decade to tackle a new and exciting next step in its implementation,” said Heather Nikolic, a Principal Research Engineer at UK CAER.

The Center’s post-combustion system features modular equipment and free-standing columns with built-in advanced controls to continually minimize the CO2 capture energy penalty while responding to a dynamic external demand. The new system will combine several facets to simultaneously address capital cost, energy consumption, load change, and environmental impact.

“I often remind our team that this project would not be possible without the many partners who have assisted us and collaborated with our researchers over the years,” said Dr. Liu, Associate Director for Research at UK CAER and Associate Professor in UK’s Department of Mechanical Engineering. “This project is another great example of that. In addition to our colleagues at DOE, we will be partnering with several institutions and industry partners to ensure success.”

Project collaborators include LG&E and Kentucky Utilities, Carbon Clean Solutions, University of Texas-Austin, Membrane Technology Research, Electric Power Research Institute, Huaneng Clean Energy Research Institute, Koch Modular Process Systems, Worley Parsons, and Smith Management Group.

“UK CAER has made many contributions to the scientific and engineering community, including through efforts to advance clean coal and carbon capture technologies, which are very important to Kentucky,' said Senator McConnell. 'The University of Kentucky, under the leadership of President Eli Capilouto, continues to do impressive work on this issue, and I've been told its current carbon capture project is already producing results. I look forward to seeing what UK CAER is able to accomplish with these new federal resources.”



UK CAER Receives More Rare Earth Element Research Funding

clock September 26, 2017 15:56 by author Thomas

The University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research (UK CAER) received yet another federal grant to broaden its burgeoning rare earth element research and development portfolio.

Funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, the $1.5 million project is entitled “Rare-Earth Elements in US Coal-Based Resources: Sampling, Characterizations, and Round-Robin Inter-laboratory Study.” The grant represents a collaborative effort between the University of North Dakota’s Energy and Environmental Research Center (EERC), UK CAER, and the Kentucky Geological Survey.

As part of the project, UK CAER will collect samples from four regions across Appalachia to determine the concentration of rare earth elements in those coalfields. The sites include: Pennsylvania anthracite; Castleman Basin, Maryland to Clearfield County, Pennsylvania; Eastern Kentucky; and Alabama.

"We are pleased to be working with the University of North Dakota EERC on this project,” said Jim Hower, a principal research scientist at UK CAER and a research professor in UK’s Earth & Environmental Sciences Department. “While the emphasis in the project is western US sampling, there is an Appalachian component to the study. More than just being a way to round out the coverage of sample location, this gives the UK CAER and Kentucky Geological Survey an opportunity to better understand the distribution of rare earth elements within coals in some of the most promising portions of the Appalachian coalfields."

Data collected from this project will supplement extensive REE data already collected from Kentucky’s Fire Clay coal.  



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.

UK CAER has become a global leader in REE research and development in recent years. In fact, UK has received 17 awards for REE research from six funding agencies since 2012. In addition to Hower, UK CAER’s Jack Groppo, a principal research engineer at CAER and faculty member in UK Mining Engineering, has received several awards for REE R&D efforts. Rick Honaker, a faculty member in UK Mining Engineering and a member of the UK CAER Advisory Board, has also received several REE grants.



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.