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's Jim Hower is Interviewed by WLEX18

clock July 15, 2014 10:38 by author Alice
Dr. Jim Hower, UK CAER Geologist/Scientist and Dr. Jen O'Keefe, Geologist/Scientist at Morehead State University were interviewed by WLEX 18 for Mystery Monday: Mystery Of Underground Coal Fires.

From WLEX: Scientists say there are at least 30 underground coal fires in Eastern Kentucky, mostly in old abandoned mines. One of these burns under Highway 80 in Perry County. It's known as the Ruth Mullins fire and scientists are concerned that most people don't know how dangerous these fires can be.

Watch the video.



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.


WUKY Radio Does Story about Coal Fires which includes UK CAER Jim Hower and Greg Copley

clock June 30, 2014 11:50 by author Alice
WUKY NPR @91.3 recently broadcasted a story about "WHAT LIES BENEATH: Researchers Turning Attention to Underground Coal Fires".

 

The story discusses how coal fires can start and how researchers at the UK Center for Applied Energy Research are gathering information on such fires in Kentucky. Some of the coal fires in the US have been burning for decades and they're tough to put out.

 

Jim Hower has been investigating these fires since 2007 and says that conditions like amount of smoke and ground temperatures change from one visit to the next. A number of things can start the fires, from forest and grassland fires igniting exposed coal beds, to arson, … even spontaneous ignition under some conditions. According to Hower, thousands of uncontrolled coal fires are burning beneath the surface around the world.

 

Go to the WUKY website to listen to this coal fires story.


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.

 



New Ph.D "In the House" at UK CAER!

clock May 12, 2014 16:06 by author Alice
Ms. Tristana Duvallet, a recent UK CAER graduate student, earned her Ph.D in Materials Science and Engineering from the UK Engineering College. Her dissertation was "Influence of Ferrite Phase in Alite-Calcium Sulfoaluminate Cements".

 

Tristana is now a Post Doctoral Scholar at CAER and is continuing her work in sulfoaluminate cements in the Environmental and Coal Technologies research group.

 

Tristana is one of the CAER's former ESIREM Exchange Program students. In 2008, she finished her materials engineering degree by doing senior experimental work at UK CAER and then returned to France to present her work before faculty members.

 

The Center has hosted materials engineering students from the University of Burgundy's ESIREM program in Dijon, France since 1999. This is part of a larger university-wide partnering program with the French school that includes UK's Colleges of Agriculture and Business.

 



UK CAER and KGS Organize New Unconventional Oil and Gas Symposium

clock May 6, 2014 15:32 by author Alice


EUOGS will address a broad range of upstream and downstream issues related to energy production from emerging resources. The Kentucky Geological Survey and Center for Applied Energy Research at the University of Kentucky are joining together to initiate an annual Eastern Unconventional Oil & Gas Symposium to be held November 5-7, 2014 at the Hilton Hotel in Lexington, Kentucky. It will rely on expertise from a number of disciplines including horizontal drilling, fracture stimulation, regulations, water issues, pipelines, induced seismicity, geology, regulated utilities, natural gas vehicles, sustainability, environmental impacts, and other focus areas. Target audience includes the oil and gas producing areas of the states in the northeast comprising the Appalachian, Illinois, and Michigan Basins.

 

More information can be found on the EUOGS Website - www.euogs.org


UK CAER Hosts another Successful Ash Workshop

clock May 6, 2014 15:11 by author Alice
CAER in conjunction with the American Coal Ash Association, co-hosted and CAER organized the 2014 Coal Combustion Products Utilization and Management workshop held in Lexington, Kentucky on April 29-30, 2014. The workshop offered a comprehensive overview of the CCP industry from the point of generation to inclusion in buildings, agriculture, infrastructure, and environmental remediation projects. The workshop was attended by 60 individuals from across the US and the instructors hailed from both industry and academia.



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


Coal Combustion Products Workshop to be held April 2014

clock March 12, 2014 09:35 by author Alice

The Center for Applied Energy Research (CAER) and the American Coal Ash Association (ACAA) will host a workshop on coal ash utilization in Lexington, KY. The workshop will offer a comprehensive overview of coal combustion products (CCP) from the point of generation to inclusion in buildings, agriculture, infrastructure, and environmental remediation projects. The event is targeted at those who wish to increase their knowledge of the materials and the opportunities for recycling. Generators, marketers, consultants, public officials and students will find this workshop valuable in understanding the scope of CCP use and issues related recycling.

Date: April 29-30, 2014 at the Hilton Hotel in downtown Lexington, Kentucky.

Website: http://www.caer.uky.edu/ash2014/home.shtml

Topics/Speakers:

  • Dry FGD Systems and Products - Anne Oberlink, UK CAER
  • Wet FGD Systems – Gypsum Characteristics and Uses - Lamar Larrimore, Southern Company
  • Recovered Ash - Tom Robl, UK CAER
  • Geopolymers - Stephen Bryan, Ecocem Materials
  • CCPs and Sustainability - LEED - Lionel Lemay, National Ready Mixed Concrete Association
  • Testing Methods - LEAF - John Daniels, UNC Charlotte
  • Ash Regulations - Tom Adams, American Coal Ash Association
  • CCP Recycling Challenges - Lisa Bradley, AECOM
  • Fly Ash Basics - Bob Jewell, UK CAER
  • Fly Ash Characterization and Mineralogy - Bob Rathbone, Boral
  • Fly Ash Uses and Applications - Jack Groppo, UK CAER
  • Ponds Management, Conversion and Abandonment - Gary Brendel, GAI Consultants


What's Up with this Winter Weather? Trent Garrison Discusses topic on WEKU

clock February 21, 2014 17:31 by author Alice
Trent Garrison, a PhD student at UK Earth and Environmental Sciences under the direction of Jim Hower EES Adjunct Professor and UK CAER Geologist, spoke on the WEKU radio show on February 15th. Trent discussed the current weather patterns from a geologist's point of view on the program titled: Eastern Standard: What's Up with this Winter Weather? - Listen to that program.


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. 



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

 



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.



CAER Student Receives Bernadine Meyer Memorial Scholarship

clock July 25, 2013 14:58 by author Alice

 

Trent Garrison, a PhD student in the University of Kentucky Earth & Environmental Sciences (EES) under the direction of Jim Hower, has been selected as the recipient of the 2013 Bernadine Meyer Memorial Scholarship from the Kentucky Society of Natural History.  This will help to support his research on emissions from coal fires. 

As a requirement of the scholarship, Trent will make a presentation at a meeting of the society.  Trent has been a part-time employee in the Applied Petrology Laboratory since January 2012 and also has been teaching introductory geology classes at Bluegrass Community and Technical College and at Eastern Kentucky University.  In the 2013-2014 academic year, he will be a teaching assistant in EES.



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



CAER Graduate Students Receive Awards from Geological Society of America

clock May 6, 2013 10:53 by author Marybeth McAlister

Michelle Johnston and Trent Garrison, MS & PhD students, respectively, in Earth & Environmental Sciences and doing their research in the CAER's Applied Petrology Lab, received awards from the Geological Society of America's Coal Geology Division.  Michelle is the recipient of the GSA Coal Division’s Antoinette Lierman Medlin Lab/Analytical Research Award.  The selection is for her work to characterize the coal macerals and ultimately understanding of peat accumulation and depositional environment for the Leatherwood coal. The amount of the award is $1,500.


Trent is the recipient of the GSA Coal Division’s Antoinette Lierman Medlin Field Award for his work to examine water quality impacts in area of coal fires.  The amount of the award is $1,000. This is the second time that CAER petrology students have won both Medlin Awards.  Jen O'Keefe and Sarah Mardon swept the awards in 2006.



CAER and UK Pharmacy Join in Medicine Development Efforts

clock April 18, 2013 12:11 by author Marybeth McAlister

 

 Petrologist Jim Hower and Eastern Kentucky Regional Coordinator Greg Copley are assisting Jon Thorson, UK Pharmacy, in locating and sampling extreme environments in Kentucky.  Such sites include soils associated with coal mine fires; waters associated with swamps, sulfur springs, acid mine drainage; and the spoils from lead and zinc mining.  Thorson’s research group is hoping to isolate previously unknown antibiotics and other drugs from microorganisms in the environment. Recent sampling took place in Owen and Henry Counties.

Here Madan Kharel (Pharmacy) is obtaining a sample while CAER's  John Hiett stands ready to assist.



Former Student Wins Award

clock April 15, 2013 10:19 by author Marybeth McAlister

 

Congratulations to Rachel Hatch, M.S. candidate, who was just awarded a $2,000 graduate student grant from the Geological Society of America for her proposal entitled: “Effects of petroleum hydrocarbon exposure following the Deepwater Horizon spill on tidal marsh sedimentary and biological processes: An investigation using radioisotopes and benthic foraminifera.” 

Rachel worked in the petrology lab for two years as an undergraduate.