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.

25 Elementary School Science Teachers Learn from CAER Science Lab Tour

clock November 17, 2013 20:16 by author Marybeth McAlister

For several years CAER havs been part of KYNEED's bigger area tour for science teachers. The two day travels include power plants, mines, Locust Trace Elementary, etc.  The group gets a close up view and explanation of carbon dioxide capture, biofuel energy, and how coal ash can be recycled into useable products instead of land filled at CAER. 



Acclaimed Energy Documentary to be Shown at Student Center

clock November 17, 2013 20:04 by author Marybeth McAlister

Every energy resource — fossil, nuclear and renewable — is undergoing profound changes. This sweeping transition is the subject of Switch, an acclaimed new documentary where Dr. Scott Tinker travels the world, exploring leading energy sites from coal to solar, oil to biofuels, most of them highly restricted and never before seen on film. But rather than advocate for how it should happen,Switch travels the world to discover how it most likely will happen.

It will be shown at the UK student center’s Worsham Theatre on November 20th at 5:00 pm. Tickets are free. For more on the documentary, go to: http://www.switchenergyproject.com/about/the-film orhttp://uknow.uky.edu/content/switch-documentary-exploring-our-energy-future



Keeping Power Plants in Line with Federal Emission Regulations

clock November 17, 2013 19:20 by author Marybeth McAlister
Credit engr.uky.edu

 

Kentucky lawmakers were briefed about ongoing technological developments to make the state's coal-fired power-plants more in line with new federal emissions standards.  But, the effort may be more about keeping coal a viable source of energy for the state than it is about fixing the environment.

 

Rodney Andrews is the director for the University of Kentucky’s Center for Applied Energy Research. The Center's work is largely centered on what to do with the carbon dioxide that’s created as a result of burning fossil fuels like coal and contributes to climate change.

But Andrews says it’s not quite ready for prime time.

“These technologies take time to develop. They also take, unfortunately, a lot of money. So we are looking at projects going out as far as 2020,” said Andrews.

That troubled energy subcommittee co-chair Rep. Richard Henderson and other fellow Eastern Kentucky lawmakers, who criticized the EPA and Obama Administration for new emission regulations.

“Do we wait, and hope that we have a less radical administration the next time, and we can move forward with carbon capture? What do we do, what do we need to do as a body to help move East and West Kentucky forward?” asked Henderson.

Andrews’ answer? Continue funding research.

But even in the best-case scenario, he said, energy costs across the state will continue to climb in the years to come.

A version of this article was first produced by WEKU.



Geological Society of America Honors CAER Graduate Students

clock November 12, 2013 14:43 by author Marybeth McAlister

 Two UK students from the UK Earth & Environmental Sciences Dept. received awards recently. M.S. student Michelle Johnston received the GSA Coal Division's Antoinette Lierman Medlin Lab/Analytical Research Award. Trent Garrison, Ph.D. student, received awards from the GSA's Coal Geology Division and has been selected as the recipient of the 2013 Bernadine Meyer Memorial Scholarship from the Kentucky Society of Natural History. Both are performing long term research in the CAER coal petrology lab of Jim Hower, who has mentored hundreds of students in his career.

 


 

 



CAER Works with UK Pharmacy to help discover new medicines

clock November 12, 2013 08:52 by author Marybeth McAlister

 

In their ongoing quest to develop the latest and most effective drugs for disease treatment, researchers in the University of Kentucky's Center for Pharmaceutical Research and Innovation (CPRI) are looking deep — as in, deep underground.

 

It's all part of a new UK-based bioprospecting initiative, which involves a collaboration between CPRI, the Center for Applied Energy Research (CAER), and the Kentucky Geological Survey (KGS). The idea behind the program is to collect samples from unusual environments throughout the Commonwealth, with the goal of finding new, unique organisms that produce natural products that could potentially be used to develop new drugs with an initial focus on treatments for cancer, infectious disease and inflammation.

 

Many of our existing effective drugs are made by microbes. For example, erythromycin — an antibiotic used to treat a range of infections — is a natural product formed by bacteria found in soil. The anticancer agent doxorubicin is also another example of a microbial-produced natural product.

 

CPRI Director Jon Thorson and his 11-member lab team are part of a large consortium of investigators at UK focused upon the discovery and development of natural product-based drug leads from unique sources including bacteria, fungi and plants. Thorson also serves as the co-director of the Markey Cancer Center’s Drug Discovery, Delivery and Translational Therapeutics Program and co-director of the Drug Discovery and Development Core in the UK Center for Clinical and Translational Science.

 

"The University of Kentucky is a remarkably rich and highly collaborative community for natural products-based research. As part of this effort, we are looking for new microbes that can produce novel bioactive molecules," Thorson said. "Instead of looking in places where other people have already been, we're trying to access new frontiers. The collaboration with CAER and KGS allows us to sample unexplored environments in the context of natural products discovery."

 

The most recent "new frontier" that Thorson's lab is exploring has very deep roots in the Commonwealth — literally and figuratively. Through the collaborations with CAER and KGS, his team has the opportunity to study products taken from Kentucky underground and surface coal mines, thermal vents from underground coal mine fires, mining reclamation sites and deep-well core drilling operations for carbon sequestration.

 

The initial collaboration with CAER involved studying emissions, and the corresponding microbes, associated with underground coal fires. The heat of the fires combines with the varying flora and mineral makeup of each site to create a distinctive environment for sampling.

 

"We decided that the coal fire sites were a very good starting point, because they are fairly unique," said Jim Hower, principal research scientist for Applied Petrology in Environmental and Coal Technologies at CAER. "They're really a prime target for sampling."

 

CAER has further helped drive the success of this project by introducing CPRI to new contacts in the Commonwealth, Thorson said. Hower and Greg Copley of CAER introduced CPRI to additional collaborators within the CAER as well as leaders of Licking River Resources, a subsidiary of US Coal, and the Kentucky Division of Abandoned Mine Lands, both of which have facilitated CPRI access to additional unique collection sites.

 

Through KGS' core drilling operation, Thorson's team has also accessed samples from deep underground — in fact, during drilling in the Eastern Kentucky Coal Field earlier this year, more than 40  samples of drill cuttings from depths ranging from 100 feet to nearly one mile underground were collected and sent to Thorson's lab.  Drill cuttings are ground rock that are continuously pumped out of a well during the drilling process.

 

“Once you drill below about 2000 feet, the salt concentrations in the water found in pores in the rocks are about three to five times that of the ocean,” said Rick Bowersox, a research geologist with KGS and part of the carbon sequestration research team.  “As might be expected in a  subsurface environment, the microbes are very different from those in a typical surface soil environment. These microbes have adapted to an environment of extremes in water chemistry, pressure and temperature.”

 

Once samples are collected, Thorson's team places the material on media plates and begins the painstaking process of purifying and growing each individual strain of bacteria. The team looks for organisms that are capable of producing novel molecules, and then isolates and characterizes the new compounds from these organisms. The compounds are housed in a repository and are made available to researchers across UK's campus to be entered into studies. As an example, Markey Cancer Center researcher Qing-Bai She recently discovered a class of molecules from the new repository that invoke a novel anticancer mechanism, setting the stage for further anticancer lead development studies.

 

Thorson's program has only been up and running for just over a year, but his team has already deposited over 75 compounds in the new UK natural products repository— and all have come from microbes that were found in the Commonwealth. Could Kentucky's natural landscape potentially yield the next big cancer drug? Thorson has high hopes.

 

"Natural products have been and continue to be a driving force in drug discovery," Thorson said. "And the hope is that some of tomorrow’s therapies may come from the coal mines here in the Commonwealth."


This first appeared in UKNOW.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VglEEjMviVA

 



Catalyis Expert Meets Another Milestone and is Honored

clock November 7, 2013 12:03 by author Marybeth McAlister

 

 

Associate Director Burt Davis is being honored by a Special Issue of Topics in Catalysis on “Catalysis for Energy Applications”.  The guest editors are CAER researchers Uschi Graham and Gary Jacobs, and the Chief Editors are Professor Gabor Somorjai (University of California, Berkeley, USA) and Professor Hans-Joachim Freund (Fritz Haber Institut der Max Planck, Gessellschaft, Germany).  The 39 papers, including 10 co-authored by at least one group member from CAER,  have been accepted and are being prepared by Springer Publishing for early 2014 publication. The prolific group also has two most-cited articles in Journal of Catalysis and Applied Catalysis A: General over the last five year period. 


Burt Davis



Zeolite Membrane Development PostDoc Position Available

clock November 5, 2013 13:47 by author Alice

The University of Kentucky, Center for Applied Energy Research (CAER) is seeking to fill an immediate postdoctoral scholar opening. The successful candidate will develop a zeolite membrane/membrane reactor for gas/liquid separation/reaction.

The position requires a Ph.D. in materials science, chemical engineering, chemistry, or a related field from an accredited college or university. Prior experience in any field of synthesis of zeolite membranes, zeolite catalyst synthesis, or heterogeneous catalysis is highly desirable. Prior industrial experience in the production of zeolite catalysts, such as FCC or hydroprocessing catalysts, is also highly valued.

 



Founders and Innovators of Catalysis Science - Energeia Vol 24 - 2013

clock October 22, 2013 11:10 by author Alice

The next issue of the University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research's newsletter, Energeia, (vol 24, issue 3, 2013) is now available.  Articles include: 

  • The Founders and Innovators of Catalysis Science, Part 2 by Dr Burt Davis
  • Why EPSCoR Matters by Jeff Mossey
  • News items including:
  • Record Breaking Catalysis Conference Organized by CAER Researchers.li>
  • Institute for Briquetting and Agglomeration 33rd Biennial Technical Conference
  • CAER selected for National Energy Technology Laboratory $3 million project


CAER Shows its Stuff at KY EPSCoR Conference

clock October 18, 2013 10:08 by author Marybeth McAlister

Alice Marksberry and Jeanne Hartinger represented the CAER at the 2013 Annual statewide EPSCOR Research Innovation Education conference, October 17th.  It was hosted by the University of Louisville, Shelby Campus. Some of the more interesting general talks included "A cinematic arts approach to communicating research - Developing alternate ways of telling the story of science."

CAER administers the KY NSF Program. http://www.kynsfepscor.org/



CAER Exhibits at Environmental Conferences

clock October 10, 2013 08:58 by author Marybeth McAlister

Showcasing our environmental and energy research, CAER participated in the recently held Governor's Conference on the Environment and the UK Big Blue Goes Green Event. At BBGG researcher Mike Wilson displayed a mini-photobioreactor demonstrating algae use in mitigating CO2 from power plants and using the alage afterwards.



Great Video on #CAER's Algae Research

clock October 3, 2013 09:57 by author Marybeth McAlister

 

http://uknow.uky.edu/content/using-algae-lock-away-greenhouse-gas



CAER Receives $3 million for Carbon Capture Research

clock October 1, 2013 10:31 by author Marybeth McAlister

CAER is working to advance technology to capture carbon dioxide from new and existing coal-burning power plants, funded by a major grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.

The National Energy Technology Laboratory, part of the DOE Office of Fossil Energy, has selected the UK Center for Applied Energy Research for the three-year, $3 million project.

The announcement comes on the heels of regulations proposed Sept. 20 by the Environmental Protection Agency to sharply reduce carbon emissions from new power plants. This development presents serious challenges to the coal industry, which currently lacks cost-effective technology that would enable it to comply with the proposed lower limits.

"Technologies for carbon capture, utilization and storage will be crucial in sustaining coal as a viable fuel under increasing carbon constraints," said CAER Director Rodney Andrews. "The technology is feasible, but it is not yet ready for full-scale implementation. That's why this project is so important." 

The CAER project will advance the DOE's goal of having technology available by 2020 that can achieve a 90-percent carbon dioxide capture rate, at a cost of $40 per metric ton of carbon dioxide captured.

A major cost associated with commercial carbon dioxide capture is the size of the "scrubber" needed to handle the volume of flue gas produced by a power plant. CAER has developed a catalyst to speed up the absorption rate of the solvent used, so the scrubber can be much smaller. Overall, the CAER technology could reduce the cost of carbon dioxide capture by 56 percent, compared to the current DOE reference case.

Research and development by CAER will enable efficient, cost-effective implementation of carbon capture throughout the power generation sector and ensure that the United States and other nations will continue to have access to safe, reliable, and affordable energy from fossil fuels, Andrews said.

"These essential factors of production, in turn, have and will continue to drive industrial growth, raising personal incomes, higher standards of living, and an improved quality of life," he said.

DOE's investment is $2,966,957, in addition to cost share of $242,615 from UK and $499,675 from the Carbon Management Research Group, an industry-based research consortium with membership consisting of AEP, Duke, EPRI, LGE-KU and the state’s Department of Energy Development and Independence. Kunlei Liu, CAER associate director for research, will serve as the university’s principal investigator.

UK President Eli Capilouto commended researchers at CAER for tackling head-on the "questions of efficiency, sustainability and utilization," raised by the global energy debate.

“Our researchers, in partnership with the Department of Energy and the Carbon Management Research Group, are reaching new discoveries that can transform the Kentucky and national energy economy,” he said.



Several Job Positions Available at UK CAER

clock September 23, 2013 11:53 by author Alice

The University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research has posted 8 job descriptions that are now available.  Please review the Power Generation page for details.

  • CO2 Capture Process Modeling Post Doctoral Researcher
  • CO2 Capture Process Data Analysis Post Doctoral Researcher
  • Environmental Gas Sample Collection Technologist
  • Amine Aerosol Emissions from CO2 Post Doctoral Researcher
  • Solvent Degradation and Emissions Post Doctoral Researcher
  • Zeolite / Zeolite Membrane Development / Liquid Separation Post Doctoral Researcher
  • Electrochemical Development for Thermal Energy Generation Post Doctoral Researcher
  • Catalysis / Develop Catalysts to Enhance CO2 Capture Processes Post Doctoral Researcher


CAER Researcher Seeks Safer Batteries for Underground Mine Use

clock September 9, 2013 11:30 by author Marybeth McAlister

 

Dr. Steve Lipka, CAER Associate Director for Electrochemical Power Sources, has been awarded a 2 year, $389,000 grant from The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).  The title of the project is “Evaluating the Inherent Safety of Lithium-ion Batteries in Portable Electronics Used in Underground Mine Environments.”

 This project will help to understand the safety of Li-ion battery chemistries used in portable electronic devices such as hand-held gas detectors, cap lamps, hand tools, communications devices, and tracking devices and their potential risk as an ignition source in an underground mine where there is a mixture of methane and air.  In a catastrophic event, the battery can sustain mechanical damage, resulting in reactions between active battery materials and the highly volatile and flammable organic electrolyte.  These reactions can result in rising cell temperatures which accelerate further chemical reactions in the battery causing heat and gas generation. The project will evaluate the ignition potential of various Li-ion battery chemistries in both cylindrical and prismatic cell formats in a simulated underground mine environment under mechanical damage. 

Lipka’s group will recommend safer lithium-ion battery chemistries and use in portable devices. The researchers will also develop strategies to stop or reduce potential ignition for lithium-ion batteries used in underground mines.

Professor Thomas Novak of UK’s Department of Mining Engineering will serve as a project consultant.



Video on Kentucky EPSCoR Series Features VOEIS Project

clock August 13, 2013 12:40 by author Marybeth McAlister

The CAER administered Ky NSF EPSCoR program is featured in this video about a cyberinfrastructure system to monitor, analyze, model, and forecast the consequences of environmental changes in freshwater ecosystems. http://uknow.uky.edu/content/second-video-kentucky-epscor-series-features-voeis-project.



CAER's Steve Hampson Discusses Paducah Site Groundwater Model

clock August 5, 2013 14:31 by author Marybeth McAlister

 

Steve Hampson of the University of Kentucky, West Kentucky Community & Technical College President Dr. Barbara Veazey, Paducah Junior College Board of Trustees member Ken Wheeler, and Buz Smith of the Department of Energy examine a DOE Paducah Site groundwater model exhibit created by the UK College of Design at the WKCTC Emerging Technology Center.



CAER Algae Project in Algae-Biomass Industry Project Book

clock August 5, 2013 12:57 by author Marybeth McAlister

A demonstration scale photobioreactor (PBR) is being operated and expanded at Duke Energy’s East Bend Station located in Union, KY. The PBR converts the CO2 in flue gas to algal biomass, via photosynthesis.


The biomass is then periodically harvested to supply feedstock for upgrading into value added products. The low energy harvesting system recycles water and unused nutrients. Partners include: KY Department of Energy Development and Independence; US-China Clean Energy Research Center-Advanced Coal Technology Consortia; ENN Group; and Pittsburgh State University.



Swagelok Training Takes Place at UK CAER

clock August 1, 2013 15:11 by author Alice

 

Swagelok Indiana representatives Mike Sallee and Tim Shine gave a hands-on seminar for the UK Center for Applied Energy Research's Biofuels and Environmental Catalysis research group.  The presentation was very informative and discussed proper usage, specifications, economical techniques and most importantly safety practices when using their products.  The talk also highlighted common misuses and the information was well received.  




CAER Student doing Research at University of Witsatersrand, South Africa

clock July 29, 2013 09:04 by author Alice

 

Michelle Johnston, an MS student in the University of Kentucky's Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences and a part-time employee of the CAER's Applied Petrology Laboratory working under the direction of Jim Hower, recently completed several weeks of study under the direction of Nikki Wagner at the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa.  Michelle studied the petrology of a suite of coals from  Botswana.  Nikki Wagner was on sabbatical leave at the CAER in the second half of 2011.




CAER Student Recipient of Spackman Research Grant

clock July 29, 2013 09:01 by author Alice

 

Trent Garrison has been busy this summer!

He was recently named the 2013 recipient of The Society for Organic Petrology's Spackman Research Grant.  Trent will officially receive the $1000 award at the time of TSOP's annual meeting in Sosnowiec, Poland.  This award will be used for his field expenses while doing his research on coal mine fires in eastern Kentucky.  Trent is a PhD student in the University of Kentucky's Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences, working under the direction of Jim Hower of the CAER.