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.

Safety Takes Center Stage at UK CAER Event

clock March 16, 2018 11:58 by author Thomas


The University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research (UK CAER) hosted its first-ever Lab Safety Carnival Wednesday, March 14.

The program shared tips, advice, and best practices on maintaining a healthy and safe work environment. All UK CAER employees were invited as were several other UK departments and units at nearby facilities.

“No matter your role or responsibilities at UK, we know that maintaining a safe workplace is critical to our mission,” said Ruthann Chaplin, UK CAER’s Lab Safety Coordinator, who spearheaded the safety carnival. “We wanted this program to reflect that. The carnival offered a little bit for everyone. Whether you wanted to learn how to create a more ergonomic work environment, learn more about first aid and our AED machines, or talk to UK and external vendors about lab safety products, you could do that at the Lab Safety Carnival.”

Several companies served as event sponsors including: AWG, Forberg Scientific Inc., KPrime Technologies, Red Wing Shoes, Swagelok, and VWR.

Appalachian Radio Station Covers UK CAER Rare Earths Efforts in the Region

clock February 22, 2018 11:32 by author Thomas

Allegheny Front, a Pennsylvania-based public radio station, recently reported on the efforts to explore rare earth element extraction and research in the Appalachian region. It focused on, among others, the work of Dr. James Hower from the University of Kentucky's Center for Applied Energy Research. From the article:

Hower says that in order for a rare earths industry to be successful in the region the industry will need to be headquartered in the region that produces the material.

“You don’t want to transport this material too terribly far,” Hower explained, “because you have a lot of material that is not rare earths that you have to then put back somewhere. Ideally we want to be working at source landfills, do initial processing there, and then send more finished products somewhere else for further polishing.”

The full article can be found here.

New UK CAER Grant Seeks to Improve Industrial Water Treatment Technology

clock February 19, 2018 12:11 by author Thomas

The University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research (UK CAER) received a $740,000 grant from the United States Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (DOE NETL) that seeks to lower the cost for and improve the efficiency of industrial water treatment.


The grant – entitled “Intensified Flue Gas Desulfurization Water Treatment for Reuse, Solidification, and Discharge” – will help advance UK CAER’s impressive portfolio of water treatment research, a critically important project for Kentucky companies.


“This grant will strengthen our wastewater research program,” said Kunlei Liu, Associate Director for Research at UK CAER. “Our team is developing and demonstrating cost-effective and practical technologies for reducing and managing wastewater, benefitting Kentucky companies and strengthening Kentucky’s industrial sector.”


Flue-gas desulfurization (FGD) technology is used to remove sulfur dioxide from exhaust flue gas at fossil fuel power plants. FGD technology is an important environmental mitigation process, as it also captures portion of heavy metals created during power generation, including selenium, arsenic and mercury.


UK CAER’s project seeks to intensify the traditional water treatment process, thereby lowering the cost for industry, said Xin Gao, Senior Research Engineer at the Center, and the principle investigator for the funded project.


“This next-stage technology currently being developed at UK CAER has a potential to intensify and/or integrate the conventional wastewater treatment process,” said Gao. “If successful, this technology would significantly lower the cost for water treatment.”


This UK CAER project seeks to utilize electrocoagulation, flotation and nanofiltration – via membranes – to remove as many heavy metals and soluble salts from the water as possible, and then recycle that water into the system. This process will reduce the amount of fresh water needed and make landfilling those particulates easier.


As part of the project, the UK CAER research team will be evaluating the effectiveness of electrocoagulation and long-term operation of membrane filtration as well as the ability to consistently create “landfillable solids” while meeting government regulations.

Chad Risko Named 2018 Cottrell Scholar

clock February 15, 2018 15:29 by author Thomas

Chad Risko, an assistant professor of chemistry and researcher at the Center for Applied Energy Research, has been named a 2018 Cottrell Scholar by the Research Corporation for Science Advancement. Started in 1994, Risko is the first recipient of the award at UK, a designation that recognizes top early-career scholars in chemistry, physics and astronomy. The Correll Scholar program focuses on individuals who fulfill the dual role of researcher and teacher.


Full story can be found on UKNow.

UK CAER Outreach Featured in The Ledger Independent

clock February 12, 2018 14:57 by author Thomas

UK Center for Applied Energy Research's Outreach Program Coordinator, Greg Copley, was featured in an article about his energy efficiency outreach to local governments around Kentucky. Specifically, the article focuses on the successes at the Mason County governmental offices, especially the detention center.

Full article can be accessed here.

UK CAER Research Covered in Newsweek

clock January 30, 2018 15:39 by author Thomas

How can we harvest more energy from the sun? UK CAER researcher and Chemistry Professor John Anthony and international colleagues used an innovative approach to improving solar energy production. 

UK CAER Hosts College of Design Students

clock January 30, 2018 15:31 by author Thomas

UK CAER hosted students from UK College of Design faculty member Anne Filson’s graduate studio on Monday, January 29. The focus of the studio is the design of a bioplastics factory within a 100 acre algae photobioreactor array that’s adjacent to one of Kentucky’s coal-fired power plants. Working with the Biofuels and Environmental Catalysis group, the students have a chance to learn more about the Center’s biofuels and sustainability research program as well as the CAER Lab #2, the first LEED-designed research laboratory in Kentucky.

UK CAER, ACAA to Host Ponded Ash Workshop in Richmond, Virginia

clock January 25, 2018 08:24 by author Thomas

The two organizations that created the World of Coal Ash – the largest and most successful meeting in the coal ash industry – are teaming up again. The American Coal Ash Association (ACAA) and the University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research (UK CAER) are hosting the 2018 Workshop on Current Issues in Ponded Coal Combustion Products (CCPs) on March 20-21 in Richmond, Virginia.

Attendees will hear from and interact with some of the world’s leading experts in the following technical areas:

  • Seismic Issues
  • Regulatory Design Issues – Closure in Place
  • Response of Ash to Dewatering
  • Sampling and Instrumentation
  • Legal View of Current Environmental Issues
  • Ground Water Quality Changes after Closure in Place
  • Utility Specific Monitoring Strategies and Requirements
  • Groundwater Remediation Options

“If you work, consult, or contract in this marketplace, this is the meeting for you,” said Tom Adams, Executive Director of ACAA. “The depth and breadth of topics covered over these two days is truly impressive and will provide attendees with new information and tactics to help companies continue to compete in this ever-changing industry.”

The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) is a co-organizer and sponsor of the Current Issues in Ponded CCPs workshop. Other sponsors and exhibitors include Watershed Geo, Charah, Waste Connections, and the University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science.

Registration is now open at, and you can find a detailed agenda on that same website. The workshop will be held at the Omni Richmond Hotel. Hotel accommodations are available at and attendees must make their reservation by February 12 to ensure the group rate.

Professional development hours (PDH) will be available. 


UK CAER Hosts Undergraduates in NSF's Broadening Participation in Engineering Program

clock January 11, 2018 11:05 by author Thomas

On Tuesday, UK's Center for Applied Energy Research was happy to welcome the incoming group of undergraduates in the Broadening Participation in Engineering program. The program, a joint venture by UK CAER and UK's College of Engineering, was formed due to the disproportionately low fraction of minority students that graduate with engineering degrees going on to become faculty.




The program is available to incoming African American, Hispanic, or Native American engineering students at both the undergraduate and graduate level, and has three main goals:

  • To encourage African American, Hispanic and Native American students to choose engineering and help them graduate with engineering degrees
  • To help these students acquire the skills they need to become engineering professionals, academics, leaders and role models
  • To investigate if mentoring in research centers offers advantages over mentoring in traditional engineering departments

These students are matched with research mentors at UK CAER and academic and faculty advisors at UK College of Engineering. They are given access to a number of university resources in order to develop skills needed for a successful entry into the field of engineering: study, research, and communication skills, management and outreach expertise.

Their visit to CAER allowed them to hear from principal researchers and group leads about the work done at the center, meet possible mentors, and tour the facilities.

UK CAER, Hazard Partnership Seeks to Improve Rural Power Generation

clock January 10, 2018 09:32 by author Thomas

The University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research (UK CAER) received a $1.6 million U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) grant to develop an innovative partnership in Hazard, Kentucky that could serve as a model for future energy projects in rural Eastern Kentucky communities.

DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) funded the project, which is titled Gasification Combined Heat and Power from Coal Fines. Funding for twenty percent of the project cost is provided by the University of Kentucky Research Foundation, Arq Coal Technologies LLC, and Beijing Baota Sanju Energy Science and Technology Co, Ltd. The grant will allow UK CAER and its community partners to complete a front end engineering design (FEED) study for a 5-megawatt electric equivalent polygenerating unit utilizing waste coal fines and biomass as feedstocks.

 “This project could be a first step to a mid-west regional partnership for research, development and deployment of energy-related innovation,” said Kunlei Liu, the project’s principal investigator and Associate Director at UK CAER. “This type of project, involving many partners across Kentucky and beyond, shows great promise for testing and demonstrating new energy technology.”

UK CAER will be recycling two eastern Kentucky products – sawdust and coal fines – to help create localized power generation in Perry County.

“I’ve always believed that localized and regional power generation would work well in many Kentucky communities – particularly throughout rural Kentucky,” said Jack Groppo, a principal research engineer at UK CAER and faculty member in UK Mining Engineering, who is working on this project. “We have a tremendous amount of coal fines left over throughout Kentucky coal fields as well as a strong, vibrant lumber industry that has industrial waste as well. This project will allow us to combine those two products to create fuel that will help power rural Kentucky communities for years to come.”

As part of the project, UK CAER will partner with several businesses based in Hazard, including Gay Brothers Lumber, Blackhawk Mining, and the Hazard-Perry County Economic Development Alliance.

UK CAER will use biomass (sawdust) from Gay Brothers Lumber and will utilize waste coal fines from Blackhawk Mining. The model location will be located at the Coal Fields Regional Industrial Park in Hazard.

The Center will also collaborate with Beijing Baota Sanju Energy Science and Technology Co, Ltd. in China to conduct a preliminary design on the 5-megawatt gasifier, as the project seeks to find out how best to optimize how much heat and power can be generated. The grant will fund a cultural impact study in the region to help determine the community and financial benefits of local, gasified power generation.

Smith Management Group of Lexington will contribute to the FEED study, along with Trimeric Corporation from Texas.

WFPL covers UKCAER's Rare Earth Elements Projects

clock December 21, 2017 00:10 by author Thomas

Louisville Public Radio's station, WFPL, ran a feature on the US's burgeoning rare earth elements program on Monday, December 18. This piece included an interview with Dr. Jim Hower from the UK Center for Applied Energy Research.


The full article can be found here.

WKYT covers UK CAER's Gobble Grease Toss

clock November 29, 2017 11:51 by author Thomas

Yesterday, WKYT, Lexington's CBS affiliate, covered UK CAER's efforts to recycle used Thanksgiving cooking oil. The full story can be found here.

UK CAER to Take Part in Gobble Grease Toss 2017

clock November 21, 2017 19:36 by author Thomas

The University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research (UK CAER) and other community partners will once again be taking a Thanksgiving leftover and giving it new life as a renewable fuel.

Fayette County’s annual Gobble Grease Toss will be held Friday, November 24 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Redwood Cooperative School, which is located at 166 Crestwood Drive, Lexington. Cooking oil will be used by UK’s Center for Applied Energy Research (CAER), with additional cooking oil recycled by Kelley Green Biofuel.

UK CAER’s Biofuels and Environmental Catalysis Research Group utilizes the grease to support its novel biofuel research program. Kelly Green Biofuel recycles some of the cooking oil to power vehicles here in Kentucky.

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

New UK CAER Undergraduate Research Award Named for Lee Todd, Will Train Energy Entrepreneurs

clock November 9, 2017 07:56 by author Thomas

The University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research (UK CAER) has created a new program to help train the next generation of Kentucky’s energy entrepreneurs. Named in honor of former UK President Lee T. Todd, Jr., the program will support undergraduate research and student entrepreneurship at the University.

The Lee T. Todd, Jr. Student Innovation Award will provide undergraduate student entrepreneurs with an opportunity to develop their ideas alongside UK CAER scientists and engineers in a collaborative environment.

“This program will allow us to provide a unique research and development experience,” said Rodney Andrews, Director of UK CAER. “Students who have a big idea – an idea they hope to commercialize – will have a chance to develop, test and prove their concepts alongside energy research and development experts.”  

Awardees will have full access to UK CAER laboratories and equipment and will receive a stipend for their work. Students also will have an entrepreneurial mentor to assist them in the commercialization aspect of their project. Todd said what attracted him most to the UK CAER program was the intentional focus on entrepreneurial mentorship.

“I was flattered that UK CAER named this program in my honor,” said Lee T. Todd, a native of Earlington, Kentucky. “I have long admired UK CAER, their researchers, and commitment to strengthening the Commonwealth’s energy economy.”

Todd created two global technology companies – Projectron and DataBeam – in Lexington. Both companies were based on University-generated intellectual property, with 56 of the 70 DataBeam engineers being UK graduates.

“When you think about University-driven innovation and commercialization here in Kentucky, the first person most of us think of is Lee Todd,” said Andrews. “He inspired a generation of Kentuckians to think differently – to realize that they too could compete in the global, high-tech economy.”

The Lee T. Todd, Jr. Student Innovation Award will be funded through private donations. UK CAER has received a lead gift for the project and are actively raising funds to endow the program. Those interested in supporting the program can do so online:

“The UK Center for Applied Energy Research is to be commended for naming and establishing its student innovation award in honor of the University of Kentucky’s 11th president, Dr. Lee Todd,” said Mike Richey, vice president for philanthropy.  “Not only is Dr. Todd fondly remembered as a dynamic university president, but continues to be highly regarded as a leading visionary, entrepreneur, strategic thinker, inventor and innovator.

“The Lee T. Todd, Jr. Student Innovation Award is a most appropriate way to recognize this leader’s legacy: To help train and educate the next generation of energy entrepreneurs.”

Wayne Pettit awarded Marybeth McAlister Outstanding Staff Award

clock October 11, 2017 08:24 by author Thomas

UK CAER's Wayne Pettit was one of several University of Kentucky employees recognized at the 2017 Outstanding Staff Award program. Wayne has worked at UK CAER for nearly 39 years - having served with great professionalism and kindness. Congratulations, Wayne!

Here's How UK is Making Kentucky a World Leader in Manufacturing

clock October 10, 2017 10:53 by author Thomas

Manufacturing Day, which occurs on the first Friday in October, is a celebration of modern manufacturing meant to inspire the next generation of manufacturers. As the University of Kentucky joins participating manufacturing industries and academic institutions in this year’s observance, UK is proud to share how the College of Engineering is embarking on a strategy for growth to better serve industry, the state economy and the citizens of Kentucky.

With several automotive and aerospace manufacturers, suppliers and many other manufacturing companies located within a 100-mile radius from the university, the college is strategically placed to promote manufacturing growth in the Commonwealth. As a result, the college leads Kentucky’s manufacturing in three key ways: education, research and technology development.

The college educates leaders who transform community through its master’s degree in manufacturing systems engineering — a degree that is entirely available online. The flexibility offered by this program enables Kentuckians already employed in manufacturing to take further steps in their career and utilize their knowledge to design and manage sustainable products, processes and systems. At the undergraduate level, the brand new Automotive Production Engineering Certificate introduces students to automotive manufacturing core processes. Students are motivated through the integration of knowledge and creative thinking by solving real-world engineering problems.

The UK College of Engineering's manufacturing research contributes to product and process development that promotes economic growth with an eye to sustainability. The Institute for Sustainable Manufacturing (ISM) comprises faculty from nearly every engineering department, and its primary objectives are to develop and advance sustainable manufacturing principles and practices in Kentucky, the nation and the world. ISM’s predictive modeling tools for total lifecycle-based product designs reduce material/energy consumption and develop tools and practices to improve performance at the manufacturing systems and supply chain levels.

Additionally, UK’s Center for Applied Energy Research (UK CAER) also remains committed to advancing Kentucky and the nation’s manufacturing industry. The center is a member of three of 10 Manufacturing USA Institutes — Advanced Functional Fabrics of America (AFFOA), Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing (IACMI) and Rapid Advancement in Process Intensification Deployment (RAPID). UK CAER is a global leader in next-generation carbon fiber research, home to the largest carbon fiber spinline at any institution in North America. The center also continues its research in low-energy, low-CO2, high-value concrete products.

As for technology development, the Institute of Research for Technology Development (IR4TD) is a unique engineering research center dedicated to research, education, outreach and service. IR4TD believes companies want more than mere survival in today’s economy; they want to prosper and grow. IR4TD helps companies accomplish their goals through their research and development and lean systems programs. Further, academic enhancements such as the Scholars in Engineering Leadership and Engineering Scholars in Entrepreneurship programs train students to become leaders and change agents who can disrupt business as usual with new innovations and technology.

No matter how the world changes, the need for high-quality, sustainable, advanced manufacturing persists. The UK College of Engineering looks forward to partnering with industry and government to make Kentucky a world leader in this vital area.

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 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.

CAER hosts Wichita State University Professor's talk on Spectrometry

clock August 16, 2017 15:59 by author Thomas

On Wednesday, August 16, UK CAER invited Professor Hussein H. Hamdeh, from the Wichita State University Department of Physics to present "Materials characterization by Mössbauer Spectrometry".



Mossbauer Spectrometry is often used to characterize the structural, electrical and magnetic properties of materials.  This technique is particularly effective in the study of non-equilibrium disordered and nanoscale structures where it provides information unobtainable by diffraction and other techniques.  The presentation covered the fundamentals of the Mossbauer Effect, the spectrometer, the measured hyperfine parameters and few applications in applied physics/materials and chemistry.

UK CAER’s Biofuels Group Receives $2M to Support Novel Emissions Research

clock August 15, 2017 08:53 by author Thomas

The University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research’s (CAER) Biofuels and Environmental Catalysis Group has received a $2 million U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) grant to develop new emissions technology for low-temperature gasoline.

The project is entitled “Research and Development of Novel Adsorber Technology to Address Hydrocarbon and Nitrogen Oxide Emissions for Low Temperature Gasoline Applications.” As part of the grant, UK CAER will be partnering with the University of California, Berkeley, Purdue University, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and the Ford Motor Company.

This research project seeks to solve a problem with vehicle emissions. As internal combustion engines become more efficient, their exhaust gas becomes cooler. However, catalytic converters need to be warm to start efficiently removing pollutants (specifically nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons).

With national emission standards for vehicles becoming more stringent, it is increasingly important to remove these pollutants from exhaust gas when a vehicle is first started, in other words, when the exhaust gas is still cold.  

“To accomplish this goal, we are conducting research on a class of materials (zeolites) that can effectively trap pollutants until the vehicle’s catalytic converter is warm enough to convert them to harmless products,” said Mark Crocker, Associate Director of UK CAER’s Biofuels and Environmental Catalysis Group and Professor of Chemistry. “If successful, this technology will play a critical role in creating cleaner and more efficient vehicles.”

The grant was funded by DOE’s Vehicle Technologies Office, and reasserts DOE’s commitment to advanced, energy efficient transportation technologies. Work of this type will improve our nation’s energy security, help consumers and businesses save money on transportation energy costs, and strengthen U.S. economic competitiveness. All told, DOE invested $19.4 million in 22 new cost-shared projects across the nation.