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.

Governor Conference Attendees Tour UK CAER

clock October 16, 2014 09:55 by author Alice
The University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research recently offered a tour to attendees from the 2014 Governor's Conference on Energy and the Environment. CAER investigates energy technologies to improve the environment. Researchers contribute to technically sound policies related to fossil and renewable energy.

Tour participants learned about coal beneficiation, utilization and conversion process technologies; fuel use; coal combustion by-products; engineered fuels; derivation of high added-value materials and chemicals; and renewable energy such as biofuels and bioenergy, electrochemistry, solar energy and environmental remediation.



UK CAER Staffers Learn How to More Efficiently Use Swagelok

clock October 2, 2014 18:21 by author Alice

Swagelok Indiana representative Mike Sallee gave a hands-on seminar for the UK Center for Applied Energy Research's Biofuels and Environmental Catalysis (BEC) research group on Thursday September 25th . The presentation was entitled “Swagelok Tube Fitting Installation and Safety” and was the second annual event hosted by the BEC group. These events are as valuable to expert Swagelok users as researchers working with Swagelok for the very first time. The goal is that we use their products correctly to optimize safety as well as economics.


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


UK CAER Algae "Put to Work" - Channel 12 Newscast

clock August 18, 2014 10:34 by author Alice


UK CAER's very own engineer, Mike Wilson, was recently interviewed by Josh Knight of Channel 12 News about how a CAER experimental algae demonstration unit at the Duke Energy East Bend power plant can reduce carbon emissions. The University of Kentucky CAER and Duke Energy have partnered on this project to capture flue gas, which is ten percent CO2 (carbon dioxide) from the plant in order to grow algae in a tube display.

At this time, the amount of gas being processed by the algae is a small amount that is sent out the stack but this pilot project proves that the system is functional and has definite possibilities. Per Mike Wilson, "They call it research for a reason, there's "re" in research, so you're going to do it over and over again until you find a way that works".

With continued research and efficiencies improvement, the project investigators and Duke would like to scale up the project to utilize all the flue gas which would result in tube arrays covering hundreds of acres. Potentially covering square miles with algae tubes is due to the growth factor of this Kentucky algae - microscopic organisms that grow and make food using carbon dioxide, sunlight and water through photosynthesis. Algae biomass can be used to make anything from biofuel to bio-plastics, foods and pharmaceuticals.

Watch the video and read more at Local 12 News site.


Ky NSF EPSCoR Program Receives Major Track 1 Funding from National Science Foundation

clock August 12, 2014 10:51 by author Alice

The Kentucky NSF EPSCoR received a Research Infrastructure Improvement (RII) Track-1 award from the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR). The Kentucky track 1 award is generally an energy-related theme that will provide funding to various Kentucky universities and colleges to do research in the fields of electrochemical energy storage; study of membranes; and chemical inspired biology/lignin research. Rodney Andrews, UK CAER Director, is the Ky NSF EPSCoR Director.

From UKNOW News:

Kentucky faces significant challenges as the energy economy transitions from traditional coal mining to renewable resources. Kentucky's RII award, "Powering the Kentucky Bioeconomy for a Sustainable Future," will focus on bio-inspired nanocomposite membranes, biomass feedstocks and electrochemical energy storage. The project will drive and accelerate the growth of the emerging bioeconomy within Kentucky through statewide multi-institutional interdisciplinary collaborations that incorporate elements of chemistry, biology, physics and engineering. Strong ties between academic research and industry will confront the Green Grand Challenge, help train students and create jobs for an increasingly larger and diverse science, technology, engineering and mathematics educated workforce. The project provides a STEM-based educational framework that will encourage meaningful participation of under-represented and minority student populations in the emerging knowledge-based economy. Kentucky — University of Kentucky Research Foundation, PI: Rodney Andrews. More ...



Members of Utilities Services Tour UK CAER

clock August 5, 2014 18:00 by author Alice


The East Kentucky Power Cooperative DSM steering committee met recently on the UK CAER energy campus and afterwards took a tour around the CAER energy labs including stops in the renewables building including the solar and biofuels research groups. Additionally they reviewed carbon materials lab; minerals/environmental lab; greenhouse; and the power generation unit . The DSM members include members in the distribution co-ops that deal directly with electric consumers.


UK CAER Scientists Collaborate with UK Engineering Capstone Senior Design Teams

clock July 11, 2014 15:00 by author Alice
The UK Center for Applied Energy Research, a non-degree granting UK energy research center, strives to provide and work with students via various experiential learning opportunities. For the past four years, the CAER's biofuels engineers have been working closely with the Mechanical Engineering's Capstone Senior Design project. The capstone project is a one-semester course within the UK College of Engineering college taken by students in their senior year. The students are divided into teams and the additional time allows for more comprehensive projects to be completed. This is where the CAER comes into the picture.

 

In an effort to drive down capital costs associated with algal-based carbon capture and utilization, the CAER "outsourced" design problems to the capstone student-based project teams so they could "dig a little deeper" to see what could be developed, with the end result to be working prototypes that could be incorporated into the Center's day-to-day biofuels research. In addition to campus work, the students worked about 10 hours per week at the Center to build their prototypes.

 

With input from the research staff at CAER, an electrical engineering (EE) team was tasked with developing a low cost control system while the mechanical design (ME) team was focused on reducing costs of the photobioreactor support frame.

 

Both student teams completed critical design reviews for their project, finalized their designs, and moved into the prototyping phase. The ME team met with a VERY aggressive cost reduction on the photobioreactor while the EE team was tasked with designing, building, and testing a control system capable of growing algae. "The end result is really cool", states Mike Wilson, CAER Biofuels Engineer, "because now the Center will be able to build and deliver a complete low-cost system to other research groups/companies".

 

Mike went on to say, "Put simply, we get professional engineering consulting for almost free, a working prototype of needed equipment, and the students get access to a modest budget (~$1000) for prototyping as well as a clearer picture of what goes on here at the Center. Getting to work with CAER researchers like Roger Perrone, Jack Groppo, Nick Rhea and myself gives them a unique experience that the other teams simply don’t get."

 

2014 EE team: George Villanueva, Cassie Cox, Chase Adams, Katelyn Yohe, Supreme Aryal

 

2014 ME team: Nathan Richardson, Tyler Craddock, Aaron Bottoms, David Trembula, Alison Dixon

 



STEM CAMP 2014 Rocks ... Bounces, Clanks, Gurgles ... at UK CAER

clock June 30, 2014 15:03 by author Alice
UK CAER hosted 144 eager, young, potential scientists - incoming 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th graders - at the Spindletop Energy campus on June 24 and 25, 2014. The students were participating in the See Blue Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Camp being held at the University of Kentucky. The week-long day camp is designed to help students explore and integrate the STEM disciplines through authentic hands-on projects and real world applications.

These potentially future engineers, geologists and chemists spent the day at CAER involved in rotating between six hands-on experiments, demos and activities generally related to energy. The stops included (see below picture, left to right):

  • Jeanne Hartinger, CAER Staff: Students used engineering concepts to create balloons to compete for the highest bounce by using any of the various materials provided (rubber bands, tape, paper clips, washers) to make the balloon the correct shape, weight, diameter, or mass.
  • Jack Groppo, CAER Engineer: Students learned the basic concepts for water treatment (flocculation) by adding chemicals to suspensions of fine particles to cause rapid settling and produce clear water for recycling.
  • Mike Wilson, CAER Engineer: An outdoors "Energy Walk" combined physical activity with experiential learning by clarifying how much energy it takes to use various household electrical appliances in a typical home.
  • Robert Pace, CAER Scientist: A look at the energy dashboard of the CAER's renewable energy lab was part of the Newton's Cradle activity which utilizes a device that demonstrates conservation of momentum and energy via a series of swinging spheres.
  • Eduardo Santillan-Jimenez, CAER Scientist: The fossil fuels and biofuels race taught kids about the conversion of different starting materials – such as biomass and petroleum – to fuel, while at the same time making them aware of the economic and environmental costs associated with these transformations.
  • Anne Oberlink, CAER Scientist: A visit to the CAER minerals laboratory provided children a hands-on experience utilizing cement, and learning about coal ash, an energy-related by-product, to create a personalized paving stone.


UKNOW's CAER 101 Article and UK REVEAL Video

clock June 4, 2014 15:18 by author Alice
UK Scientists Energize Lessons for Local Fourth Graders - UKNow Campus Article - The "CAER 101" education program, which UK's Center for Applied Energy Research started 12 years ago in partnership with Russell Cave Elementary School, was expanded this year to include Liberty and Yates elementary schools as well. More ...

 

UK CAER Scientists making their contribution to the education mission of the University of Kentucky includes Jack Groppo, Ashley Morris, Mike Wilson, Eduardo Santillan-Jimenez, Robby Pace, Anne Oberlink, Bob Jewell, Lisa Richburg, and Andy Placido. They developed a dynamic education program for the 4th graders at three Lexington local elementary schools. The scientists along with Marybeth McAlister (and later Alice Marksberry) worked with the scientists and teachers in developing the education modules and spending time with those inquiring young minds.

 

Marybeth, the CAER communications manager, developed the initial educational outreach program efforts over 10 years ago at the Russell Cave School. In January 2014, she died unexpectedly and the CAER and FCPS teachers have continued with the project in part as a tribute to her.

 



UK CAER Works with Deep Springs Elementary

clock June 4, 2014 10:35 by author Alice

CAER reseachers Andy Placido and Stephaine Kesner recently spent time at the Deep Springs Elementary school to bring one of the CAER 101 modules - Using Motors to Make Electricity -  to the students during their review day prior to testing.  Demonstration of mini-wind turbine was used to show when blades spin, an LED bulb is lit.  Changing speeds of the fan at a set distance shows how this can change energy production. 



CAER 101 Project Brings Scientists into the Classroom

clock April 7, 2014 18:39 by author Alice

 

The CAER 101 project is bringing together scientists and children in a classroom setting. The scientists create lessons for 4th and 5th graders which allows the students have fun while learning sound energy science concepts in hands-on demos and lessons.

 

Tammy Lane, web editor from the Fayette County Public School System, does a great job of explaining the concept in an article posted today, April 7, 2014 on the FCPS web site:

 

- CAER 101 pairs scientists, fourth-graders in mutual exchange


Visiting Scientist from China to Spend Year at CAER

clock December 6, 2013 11:08 by author Marybeth McAlister

 Please welcome Shuli Bai to Mark Crocker’s group. He is a visiting scientist in environmental engineering from Taizhou College in China, who received his Ph.D. from the Chinese Academy of Science.



Congratulations to Liz Ware for Receiving Ph.D.

clock December 5, 2013 13:20 by author Marybeth McAlister

Liz Ware passed her doctoral defense on November 18th. Her dissertation is titled "Application of Pyrolysis-GC/MS to the Study of Biomass and Biomass Constituents." Her advisor is CAER Associate Director, Mark Crocker and co-advisor is Dr. John Selegue, UK Dept. of Chemistry. Liz began working at the CAER in Spring of 2009 and officially joined the Biofuels and Environmental Catalysis group as a graduate student in Jan. 2010. She has been offered a post-doctoral position at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and will be moving to the Denver Area soon to start her new job, where she will be working on biomass cell wall analysis.



Algae for Carbon Dioxide Capture at Power Plants used by Duke Energy

clock November 19, 2013 11:09 by author Marybeth McAlister

Researchers from the University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research (CAER) are demonstrating a system that uses algae to absorb carbon dioxide emissions at Duke Energy's East Bend power station in Northern Kentucky. Go to: http://uknow.uky.edu/content/caer-scientists-duke-energy-demonstrate-algae-based-carbon-capture-system

(from left) Mark Crocker, Stephanie Graham, Mike Wilson, and Jack Groppo



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. 



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 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.  




Girls Learn from Female Mentors

clock June 12, 2013 11:06 by author Marybeth McAlister

 

CAER researchers Anne Oberlink and Liz Harman-Ware reached out to high school girls at the EKU Girls’ STEM Day recently. The scientists were accompanied by two high girls who recently toured CAER. STEM practitioners and educators led girls through activities that mirror real-world STEM tasks and highlight creative and innovative problem solving.  Anne and Liz exhibited and served as mentors.

Anne (left) and Liz