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.

Spring 2016 Tours at the UKCAER

clock May 24, 2016 14:06 by author Alice

The University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research has hosted two recent tours - a group from the Kentucky Geological Survey and a group from the Kentucky Association of Manufacturers organization. Both groups had to dodge a few raindrops but came away from the tour with more insight into the scientific energy research conducted at CAER.

Some of the stops included:

  • Algae Greenhouse (CO2 capture with algae) and Biofuels (fuels, chemicals and other products created from harvested algae)
  • Minerals Processing (utilization of coal ash by-products used to produce UKCAER/Minova's Tekecrete products, use in concrete and other building materials)
  • Carbon Materials processing (creation of carbon fibers used in the automotive and airline industries)
  • Electrochemical Power Sources (creation and/or testing of batteries used in autos, retail products, etc.)
  • Coal/Biomass-to-Liquids Pilot Facility (gasification of CBTL to synthetic fuels)
  • Solar/Organic Materials (creation of new, advanced thin-film technologies from organic compounds).


Seed Projects Starting to Blossom

clock January 13, 2016 11:49 by author David Melanson

The success of the University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research’s seed grant program was on full display Wednesday, as UK CAER investigators presented early-stage research projects to fellow CAER colleagues.

CAER’s seed grant program was created to bridge the divide between internal creative ideas and large government grants and/or industrial funding, with the objective being to develop a process of converting new research concepts into competitive proposals.

The success of the program can best be illustrated by the results. Since January 2013, CAER has invested $430,000 into seed projects. Those same projects have generated more than $940,000 in external funding and seven published papers. In fact, of the five external proposals submitted on behalf of seed projects, all five have received funding.

“The results are pretty obvious,” said Andrews. “We knew that CAER investigators had some novel concepts that simply needed some start-up funding to get off the ground, and this program allowed us to fund those innovative, early-stage ideas. It is exciting to see these concepts grow and receive support from external agencies, as they move into the next phase of discovery.”

On Wednesday, the following projects were spotlighted during the seed grant poster presentations event at CAER. These projects were all funded in 2015.

 

  • Michael Wilson, Stephanie Kesner, and Daniel Mohler - Integrating Algal Based CO2 Utilization and Waste Water Treatment

Photosynthetically grown microalgae have the potential to recycle many waste streams, including CO2 emissions and municipal, agricultural, or industrial waste water.  Samples were obtained from the Lexington Fayette Urban County Government Division of Water Quality to evaluate the suitability of waste water as a nutrient source and habitat to culture microalgae.  Ion chromatography was used to evaluate various waste water streams from the Town Branch wastewater treatment plant and to track nutrient uptake of algae cultures. Although the waste streams sampled did not contain high values of usable nutrients, it’s suitability as an industrial scale habitat was verified.

 

  • Tristana Duvallet and Anne Oberlink - Sulfate-Activated Class C Fly Ash Based Cements

Recent research in the Environmental and Coal Technologies (ECT) group has determined that Wyodak coal source Class C fly ash can be activated through a sulfation mechanism with anhydrite to produce the fly ash equivalent of a “super-sulfated cement.” This constitutes a discovery that is of significance. Concretes and mortars produced with high levels of coal combustion products (CCPs) or supplemental cementitious materials (SCMs), such as fly ash or slag, in place of Portland cement can develop strength by the activation of the alumina and silica phases of the materials using strong alkalis (i.e. alkali activation, aka “geopolymer”). The alkali that is used as the activator is typically sodium or potassium silicate in combination with sodium or potassium hydroxide, and various alkalis, e.g. borates, citrates, sulfonates, etc. Drawbacks to this approach include: erratic setting, either lack of, or very slow setting or flash setting; slow strength development that may require curing at elevated temperatures; rheological problems with the concrete or mortars themselves, i.e. they become “sticky”; worker safety issues since high levels of sodium hydroxide exposure are dangerous; and long-term issues with surface efflorescence. Sulfation activation was thought to be a phenomenon restricted to ground granulated blast furnace slag (GGBFS) cement. The observation that a supersulfated cement can be based entirely on Class C fly ash instead of GGBFS, overcoming the drawbacks of alkali activation, has the potential to lead to a new generation of low energy, low CO2 concretes and mortars.

  • Robert C. Pace - Biomass Fractionation via a Semi-continuous Method: Lignin Extraction with Ionic Liquids

Ionic Liquids (ILs) are highly adaptable organic salts which are liquid at room temperature. As a consequence of these properties, ILs are enormously effective in the dissolution of lignocellulosic biomass.  Given the tremendous interest in the production of renewable fuels and chemicals from lignocellulose, these solvents present a novel pathway toward the fractionation of lignocellulose into its three primary components; cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin. Fractionation of these compounds is necessary for the use of the whole of the biomass, a requirement for cost-effective production from these feedstocks. To date, nearly all biomass fractionation using ILs has been conducted in batch processes. Since continuous extraction systems are often more energy efficient and economical, this project will set out to construct a semi-continuous extraction system which is capable of overcoming the high viscosities of ILs. In order to discern the effects of various functionalities as well as the impact of cation/anion effects, five ILs will be examined as extraction solvents. The products of these fractionation experiments will also be analyzed by various means, including thermogravimetric analysis, pyrolysis-GCMS and gel permeation chromatography.  This work will lead not only to valuable data which can be utilized in publications and future grant proposals, but will also generate an apparatus which is capable of producing unique IL extracted biomaterials which could be sold as commodity products and utilized by students in their own research projects within the BEC group.

  • Chad Risko, Adam Rigby and Karl Thorley, - A Computational, Shape-Based Approach to Crystal Engineering

Organic semiconductors (OSC) are experiencing rapid application growth in consumer electronics, with OSC poised to serve a key role in next generation flexible, conformable, and wearable electronics. However, the reliance on largely Edisonian discovery processes results in significant development and production costs – in terms of personnel, materials, characterization equipment, and time – for new, molecular-based OSCs. High-performance computing, when combined with the tool set and know-how of the synthetic chemist, offers a means to overcome many of these costs. Through a joint collaboration between the Anthony and Risko groups, we are developing an innovative computational approach to determine how the interplay between of molecular shape and explicit chemical functionality drive molecular packing in the solid state, a key determinant of OSC performance. The development of the computational platform will allow for rapid approximations of molecular packing structures, with relevant solutions arriving within days and weeks rather than the months required for synthesis and characterization, along with the ability to screen varied and unusual molecular designs that may otherwise go untried. Through the course of the work, the research team has improved understanding as to how solid-state molecular conformations impact the intermolecular electronic coupling, a key parameter directing charge-carrier transport in these materials. The project introduced a new concept, the disordermer, into the crystal engineering lexicon, and shown how changes in chemical composition can be manifest on crystalline order and the resulting charge-carrier transport properties. The lab has also made considerable headway in terms of developing a model that reveals how adjustments in the overall molecular shape and volume direct solid-state packing. The work has resulted in three peer-reviewed publications (two published and one submitted) and one proposal submitted to the National Science Foundation.

  • Rafael Franca and John Craddock - A New Approach to Novel Zeolite Hollow Fiber Membranes for Dewatering and Enrichment Separations in CO2 Capture Process

Zeolite membrane-based technology for dewatering of aqueous amine-based CO2 sorbents, has the capability to significantly decrease the energy required for CO2 capture from coal-fired power plants. Membrane enabled dewatering of CO2 saturated amine solvent, reduces the thermal energy required by the stripper during solvent regeneration by commensurately reducing the volume of water to be heated. The hollow fiber membrane (HFM) geometry provides high surface area to volume and high permselectivity. These membranes have the potential to increase selectivity and flux in membrane-based dewatering processes when compared to conventional tubular membranes. In this work, we introduced the preparation of a novel, polymer-assisted processing of a Y Zeolite HFM support. The preparation method proposed is based on air-gap solution spinning of a polymer (polyethersulfone (PES)) solution containing highly dispersed mullite particles, followed by thermal treatment to pyrolize the polymer and sinter the mullite particles into an HFM form. It is expected that this new design (HFM) would greatly increase flux and selectivity of Y zeolite membranes for the dewatering of carbon-loaded amine solvents. Preliminary results indicated that mullite based hollow fiber supports did not present enough mechanical resistance after the sintering process. Zeolite Y crystals have been successfully grown on the outside surface of PES hollow fiber supports, however some level of degradation was observed when the support was exposed to the carbon loaded amine solvent. It is not clear if the degradation process affects the porosity of the PES hollow fiber support. Further tests will be conducted with PES hollow fibers to analyze the viability of using PES as a support for Y-zeolite hollow fibers.

  • Christopher Swartz, "Hybrid Redox Flow Battery for Stationary Energy Storage Applications

The capability to store electricity is on track to become an integral component of the future electrical grid. Emerging technologies found in the grid storage portfolio include pumped hydro energy storage, compressed air energy storage, thermal and flywheel energy storage, and various electrochemical energy storage options, including redox flow batteries. Redox flow batteries share many similarities with fuel cells, and are rechargeable, modular battery systems where energy storage and power performance can be decoupled from one another due to the battery architecture. The all-vanadium redox flow battery represents the current state-of-the-art in flow battery technology, and numerous demonstration units have been installed worldwide, ranging from kW, kWh to MW, MWh capabilities. The relatively high cost of these systems has prevented widespread adoption of flow battery technology, and new flow battery systems featuring lower cost chemistries and ion exchange membranes (when compared to vanadium and Nafion®, respectively) remain highly attractive candidates to move flow batteries along on a forward trajectory to the commercial marketplace. The Electrochemical Power Sources Group proposes to develop a low-cost hybrid redox flow battery as an alternative to the all-vanadium system, based on aqueous iron and zinc electrochemistry. The cathode will feature plating and stripping of Zn metal during cell charge and discharge. The anode will feature the Fe2+/Fe3+ redox couple, with the addition of various ligands or chelating agents which will bind to iron, and lead to higher operating cell voltage and energy density.

For the full story and photos...



UK CAER Team Publishes in the ACS Journal Chemistry of Materials

clock December 4, 2015 15:58 by author David Melanson

John Anthony and Chad Risko have joined forces in a recent publication in the ACS Journal Chemistry of Materials titled "Dynamics, Miscibility, and Morphology in Polymer:Molecule Blends: The Impact of Chemical Functionality.” Drs. Anthony and Risko are based in Lab 2 at UK CAER and also hold faculty appointments in the UK College of Arts & Sciences Department of Chemistry.

Based on a series of acceptors constructed from trialkylsilylethynyl-substituted pentacenes designed and synthesized in the Anthony laboratory, the study presents a computational chemistry investigation of polymer:molecule blends with the polymer donor poly(3-hexylthiophene) (P3HT). Essential connections are made between the chemical structure of the acene acceptor and the nanoscale properties of the polymer:molecule blend, which include polymer and molecular diffusivity, donor–acceptor packing and interfacial (contact) area, and miscibility. The results point to the very significant role that seemingly modest changes in chemical structure play during the formation of polymer:molecule blend morphologies, and how molecule design can be used to control critical aspects of thin-film morphology.

Citation: Chem. Mater. 2015, 27, 7643-7651. DOI: 10.1021/acs.chemmater5b02983



UK CAER Makes Splash at UK Sustainability Forum

clock December 3, 2015 11:30 by author David Melanson

 

The University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research (CAER) made quite the splash at the 2015 University of Kentucky Sustainability Forum and Research Showcase Tuesday. Two members of the CAER presented posters during the showcase, and two of the seven UK Sustainability Challenge Grants were awarded to UK CAER projects.

Courtney McKelphin, a undergraduate student researcher at the Center, received Best Poster Award for her project entitled on “Improving the Economics of Algae Biofuels through Optimized Extractions from Wet Algae.”

UK CAER staff member Michael Wilson presented a poster highlighting the engineering achievements in support of the 2014 Challenge Grant Project “Development of Sustainable Bus Stops” along with team members from the College of Design. The project also received 2015 grant funding.

In addition to the poster presentation portion of the event, the President’s Sustainability Advisory Committee awarded nearly $200,000 to campus sustainability projects that focused on the creation and implementation of ideas that promote sustainability by advancing economic vitality, ecological integrity and social equity, now and into the future.

This program is a collaborative effort of the President’s Sustainability Advisory Committee, The Tracy Farmer Institute for Sustainability and the Environment and the Office of Sustainability. Funding for the program was provided by the Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration, the Provost, the Vice President for Research and the Student Sustainability Council.

CAER projects receiving funding included:

Point of Departure - Awarded $49,991

CAER and the College of Design are partnering to construct critically-placed transit shelters—plugging into campus transportation to physically manifest UK’s sustainability and transportation agendas. The designs integrate sustainable site strategies, context specificity, high-performance architectural skins, sustainable materials, photovoltaic systems, storm water management, high-efficiency lighting and infographic displays to reimagine what a shelter can be. This grant will catalyze the integration of sustainability and educational aspects within the design as it transitions toward real world implementation, leveraging the impact of campus research to engage students in a dialogue about sustainability, alternate transportation, the value of design, and the possibilities of collaborative research at UK.

Team Members: Martin Summers, College of Design-School of Architecture; Michael Wilson, CAER; Regina Hannemann, College of Engineering-Electrical Engineering; Owen Duross, College of Design-School of Architecture; Thompson Burry, College of Design-School of Architecture.

From SEE(E)D to (S)STEM - Awarded $25,184

In this project, UK science, engineering, entrepreneurship, education and design – SEE(E)D – students, faculty and staff will work together to develop a system for the production of didactic tools to be used in outreach efforts designed to promote sustainability, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics – (S)STEM – to underserved K-12 students. This will be done utilizing as a case study a game that has been conceived and used to teach K-12 students about complex and often misunderstood energy and sustainability issues. While the science behind this game and the relationship between the latter and the K-12 curriculum are solid, the presentation can be improved to make the game more effective. The game will be improved by having educators and designers strengthen the graphical and pedagogical aspects of the game to ultimately facilitate and deepen the understanding of K-12 students of the important sustainability issues presented. In addition, this effort will be made sustainable from an economic standpoint through a business plan – to be developed by UK student entrepreneurs – in which any profits from the game constituting the case study can be reinvested in the development of additional didactic tools, thus translating this work into a sustainable model through which other tools can be developed. Notably, this work will also serve to advance social equity not only because the K-12 institutions involved have high percentages of minority and/or free and reduced lunch students, but also because minority engineering students will be involved in taking the didactic tool to be developed to these K-12 institutions.

Team Members: Eduardo Santillian-Jimenez, CAER; Rebekah Radtke, College of Design-Department of Interiors; Margaret Mohr-Schoeder, College of Education-Department of STEM Education.

“It was a wonderful forum for showcasing the sustainability efforts at UK, and how our Center is playing a leading role in transforming sustainability education, research and outreach here in Kentucky,” said Courtney Fisk, President’s Sustainability Advisory Committee Co-Chair, and Assistant Director for Facilities and Operations.



Bluegrass GreenSource Teachers Tour the UK CAER

clock November 12, 2015 15:56 by author Alice
Scientists from the University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research spent the morning talking with fourth grade and junior high teachers from various locations across Kentucky. UK CAER engineers and chemists talked about the various energy projects that are currently being pursued at the Center.



The teachers were part of a professional development program sponsored by Bluegrass GreenSource and DEDI Coal and Energy Education section (DEDI is the Department for Energy Development and Independence part of Kentucky's Energy and Environment Cabinet) of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.


Utilitiy Economic Group Tours UK CAER

clock February 5, 2015 11:13 by author Alice

THE LG&E/KU Economic Analysis group tour UK CAER on the afternoon of February 4th.  They toured several research areas in the renewables Lab 2; minerals and carbon labs; and the algae greenhouse. 



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.



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.


KY Organic Electronic Materials Symposium is a Success!

clock July 11, 2014 16:01 by author Alice
The Kentucky Organic Electronic Materials Symposium - An Introduction to Materials and Applications was organized by Dr. John Anthony, long-time CAER faculty associate, and hosted at the UK CAER Spindletop facility, and was a definite hit among the symposium's 40+ attendees. The KY NSF-EPSCoR provided funding for the majority of the symposium costs and provided travel funds for attendees from EPSCoR states which helps to build future EPSCoR research collaborations.

Symposium Summary: Progress in the development of new functional organic materials has accelerated in recent years, leading to a host of design rules for a variety of applications that are not necessarily enumerated in current chemical literature. This Symposium is designed to introduce researchers from EPSCoR states to the latest in organic electronics materials design and characterization, as well as present the current state-of-the-art in the performance of polymeric, blended, and pure small-molecule semiconductors in applications such as photovoltaics, thin-film transistors, sensors and other applications. A corresponding poster session and ample discussion opportunities will help build links between EPSCoR researchers with complementary research interests.

More Symposium Information.


Editors of Nature Ask John Anthony to Highlight Progress in Organic Electronics

clock July 11, 2014 15:53 by author Alice
Nature, the prestigious international weekly journal of science, recently asked Dr. John Anthony, UK Professor with solar lab facilities located at the CAER, to "highlight" progress in organic electronics within a set of papers given at a recent Materials Research Society session. The article's title is "Organic electronics: Addressing challenges". A short blurb from the Nature website:

Although promising, the use of organic semiconductors has not yet revolutionized consumer electronics. Synthesis of high-performance materials, enhanced control of morphology and smart exploitation of unique photophysical phenomena are the way forward to overcome the technological hurdles of this field.

It is now available online.



John Anthony's Organic Letters Paper is an ACS Editors' Choice Selection

clock June 30, 2014 14:18 by author Alice
UK Professor John Anthony, a longtime CAER collaborator whose labs are located at the Center, has been selected to be featured in ACS Editors' Choice, in addition to be published in Organic Letters journal. The American Chemical Society's ACS Editors' Choice is a new initiative wherein, based on recommendations from Editors, one article from across the portfolio is selected each day of the year and upon publication is made immediately available as open access sponsored by ACS Publications. ACS Editors' Choice articles aim to exemplify the Society's commitment to improving people's lives through the transforming power of chemistry.

Dr. Anthony's manuscript is titled, "Synthesis and Optical Properties of Dioxolane-Functionalized Hexacenes and Heptacenes". Less than 1% of articles published in an ACS journal are selected for the ACS Editor's Choice.


UK Professor John Anthony Mentors Ky Senior to Intel Science Talent Search

clock January 30, 2014 13:25 by author Alice
From the Lexington-Herald Leader: Valerie Sarge, a senior at Paul Lawrence Dunbar High School, has been named one of the 300 semi-finalists in this year's Intel Science Talent Search, the nation's most prestigious pre-college science competition. She was the only student chosen from Kentucky.

 

Valerie, whose topic was Synthesis of Benzodifuran Derivatives for Solar Cells, will receive a $1,000 award for her research. Dunbar also will receive $1,000 to further her education in science, math and engineering.

 

Forty finalists will be invited to Washington, D.C. in March to participate in final judging, display their work to the public, meet with notable scientists and compete for monetary awards.

 

John Anthony, University of Kentucky Hubbard Professor of Chemistry, Organic Synthesis and Materials Chemistry has been Valerie's mentor during her science project. Additionally Dr. Anthony was able to provide financial assistance for equipment and supplies to support Valerie's research from an Office of Naval Research grant.

 



UK Chemistry Professor John Anthony Hosts Meeting

clock November 22, 2013 13:44 by author Marybeth McAlister

 

CAER held the annual program review for the Office of Naval Research, Basic Research Challenge: Carbon Molecular Electronics project.  John Anthony, a longtime CAER collaborator whose labs are located at the Center, hosted and presented. The theme was the development of routes to well-defined and tunable graphene nanoriibbons for high-speed computing applications.  This basic research challenge offers no specific application, but a goal of determining if these ribbons can be made, and if so, what their properties are. 

Other speakers included Mike Crommie, Alex Zettl, Jeff Bokor and Felix Fischer (all faculty at U. C. Berkeley), Vincent Meunier from RPI, Roman Fasel from EMPA in Zürich, Hermann Sachdev from the Max Planck Instutute in Mainz, Selvam Subramaniyan (representing Prof. Sam Jenekhe) and Francois Baynex from U. Washington, Alon Gorodetsky from U.C. Irvine, Paul Sheehan from Naval Research Laboratories, and Chagaan Baatar and Paul Armistead from the Office of Naval Research. 



John Anthony is Featured in Videos for Science Works for U.S.

clock March 10, 2013 19:02 by author Alice

UK Now Story about training the next generation of highly skilled professors and industrial scientists include UK Chemistry Professor John Anthony in the story.  He joined other academics across the country who made videos for Science Works for U.S., a website of the Association of American Universities, the Science Coalition and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. 

More about the story can be found at UK Now Site -

UK Researchers Speak Out: Sequester Will Squelch Scientists-in-Training.

Dr. Anthony's solar group laboratories are housed in the UK CAER Lab 2 Renewables Building.



UK CAER Scientists Present at First-Ever SEC Symposium

clock February 4, 2013 15:30 by author Alice

Three University of Kentucky faculty members will present at the first-ever Southeastern Conference Symposium which will be held in Atlanta February 10-14, 2013.

John Anthony, UK's Gill Professor of Chemistry will present at a session about advanced materials for energy applications Dr. Anthony's laboratories are housed at the UK Center for Applied Energy Research Lab #2 Renewable Energy building.

Mark Crocker, associate director of UK CAER's Biofuels and Environmental Catalysis research group and Dr. Burt Davis, associate director of UK CAER's Clean Fuels and Chemicals research group will also present at the SEC Conference.Dr. Crocker will speak in a session about technologies for producing biopower, biofuels and biomaterials. Dr. Davis will present in an energy advances in transportation sector session.

More information can be found in UK's UK NOW news article.



Video Released on John Anthony's Research

clock October 23, 2012 14:04 by author Marybeth McAlister

UK Chemistry Professor, and CAER faculty associate's solar energy work is highlighted in a recent video.