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.

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.




BAE Mid-West Regional Rally Tours UK CAER

clock March 1, 2013 16:11 by author Alice

The 2013 BAE Mid-West Regional Rally - attended by various BAE student branches from such states as Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin and others - toured the UK CAER facilities and met with research scientists on March 1, 2013.  They spoke with Rodney Andrews, UK CAER Director and then toured the new CAER Lab #2 Renewables Building.  They spoke with scientists from the Biofuels research area as well as a tour of the CAER Greenhouse.  They also toured the Minerals Processing and Carbon SpinLine Buildings and finished with a tour of the Power Generation lab.  

The Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering Mid-West Rally is held each year in a different state to promote networking by holding meetings and tours to allow the students to learn about various engineering-related activities in the host state.  UK BAE Professor, Dr. Czarena Crofcheck, organized the tour.



UK CAER Collaborative Scientist Supports Graduate Student via NSF EPSCoR Grant

clock February 19, 2013 14:11 by author Alice
Dr. Jennifer O’Keefe of Morehead State University was just awarded an NSF EPSCoR Regional Research Enhancement Grant (R-REG). Dr. O'Keefe is a collaborating researcher with Dr. James Hower, in the UK CAER Petrology Laboratory. The grant will provide summer support for EES grad student Michelle Johnston, who also works at the UK CAER Petrology Lab. In addition to Dr. O'Keefe mentoring Michelle; Michelle will, in turn, be helping to mentor two of Jennifer’s female undergrad students.

 

The project will study the development of ancient organic sediments through palynology/mycology, organic petrography, geochemistry, and stratigraphic relationships, allowing them to explore past climate systems and predict future events. Beyond characterizing past and predicting future climate systems, they will explore small-scale (and sometimes large scale) perturbations of the carbon cycle through the interactions of plants with their decomposers.


CAER's Recent Workshop on CCBs a Success

clock October 19, 2012 08:26 by author Marybeth McAlister

Experts from around the world (and here at CAER) taught a two day short course on ash use and management. The attendees learned the most up to date news on beneficiation, ccbs in the construction environment, current regulatory issues, and much more.



UK CAER Hosts Coal Combustion Products Utilization and Management Workshop

clock September 20, 2012 17:18 by author Alice

Coal Combustion Products (CCP) are beneficially used for a wide variety of applications.  Understanding how there materials are generated and managed can help maximize their value while improving the environment. 

This new workshop, co-sponsored by the University of Kentucky’s Center for Applied Research and the American Coal Ash Association, will provide a comprehensive overview for people seeking to expand their understanding of CCP and the markets for these materials.

For more information, including a newly updated agenda, or to register for the workshop, visit the workshop website.