Discoveries at CAER
The University of Kentucky CAER has many research stories to tell. Here are a few of the recent highlights. In a world where energy is - and will remain - a major economic player, the energy research performed by CAER is relevant to all who turn on a light or drive a car. These exciting findings are important to all of us.
Scientific research conducted at universities throughout the nation is helping to make our country safer and more secure. These are technologies and policies that aim to keep us safe.
The Science Coalition is a group that encourages congress to strengthen the federal government's investment in university-based scientific research) recently highlighted examples of U.S. university research including CAER scientist Darrell Taulbee's blast mitigation work in a newsletter to congress. Taulbee is using by-products from coal-burning power plants to take the blast out of ammonium nitrate fertilizer.
Ammonium nitrate (AN) fertilizer has been used in a number of malicious attacks like the Alfred P. Murrah Federal building in Oklahoma City (1995) and more recently, in many of the roadside bombs used in Iraq and Afghanistan. When mixed with fuel oil this fertilizer makes 'ANFO,' which is often a weapon of choice for acts of terrorism because it is cheap, readily available, easy to assemble, and very powerful when detonated. However, AN is also a critical component in American agriculture, where it has been used for decades as a high-nitrogen fertilizer.
Funding provided by the National Institute of Homeland Security allowed Taulbee to develop a way to reduce the potential to misuse this vital fertilizer for acts of terrorism with minimal disruption to its intended use and with little cost increase to farmers. The approach he used was to coat the AN with coal-combustion by-products produced when coal is generated for electricity. The coating process is very simple. Coal-combustion by-products are cheap, widely available, non-hazardous, and potentially beneficial to agriculture.
He is using a waste material that is otherwise destined for landfill disposal or impoundment at significant costs. At the same time, he is using the material to address an issue of concern to our nation's security.
Darrell Taulbee - Email