University of Kentucky CAER Home
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Energy has been described as one of the future's Grand Challenges. How will we satisfy our insatiable appetite for energy that fuels the global economy and our way of life? The world employs a mix of energy resources - oil and gas, coal, sun, wind, hydro, geothermal, biomass, and nuclear. We harness, burn, produce heat and electricity, liquid fuels, chemicals and gases from these energy resources. In turn, they contribute to our quality of life, health, nutrition, comfort, convenience, leisure, transportation, communication and productivity.

Electric Power Tower

The University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research serves these higher purposes. Among our most important aims is to assure that the benefits of investigations, research and study are applied, made available to the public and brought into the widest possible use. The Center, through its technology innovation and service to the community, contributes to improving the lives of Kentuckians by creating jobs and economic opportunities; by sustaining vital industries and public services; and by improving energy efficiency and protecting the environment.


What does Energy Research mean for the Commonwealth of Kentucky?

Airplanes in formation





Through our research we are bringing technologies into practices, which are needed to:


  • Position the coal industry, electric utilities and heavy industry to respond to a carbon-constrained economy and the technical challenges of capturing and storing carbon dioxide.
  • Extend the life and improve the environmental performance of the state's fleet of coal-fired electric power plants, which provide some of the lowest-cost electricity found anywhere in America.
  • Address problems associated with the accumlation of coal by-products and support a growing industry devoted to the use of these materials for sustainable construction.
  • Develop a coal-to-liquids and coal-to-gas industry in Kentucky as an alternative to transportation fuels, chemicals, and gases derived from imported petroleum.
  • Enable a developing biofuels industry to benefit from the strength of Kentucky's agriculture and forest-product industries for cleaner, renewable fuels and chemicals.
  • Advance distributed power generation and storage technologies to harness the sun and wind; and for cleaner alternative fueled vehicles (fuel cells, batteries, and capacitors).
  • Develop higher value-added carbon materials derived from coal (pitch, coke, binders, fibers and composite materials) that serve the nation's defense, aerospace, automotive, and manufacturing industries.
  • Advance the monitoring, clean-up, and remediation of legacy radioactive and chemical wastes associated with the nation's nuclear power and weapons industries.


UK Center for Applied Energy Research - What We Do ...

Services and Solutions for the Commonwealth of Kentucky

CAER Researchers

UK CAER goes to great efforts in engagement, public service and outreach for Kentucky's people, communities and industries through:

  • Engaged research, technical consulting, and analytical and testing services that are applied, problem-focused, and solution-driven.
  • Technology transfer, new-business development and job creation associated with emerging and advanced technologies.
  • The provision of vital public information services.
  • Targeted labor-force development and community-based learning, such as adult professional and experiential education for K-12.
  • Service in areas of professional expertise on community/company boards, commissions, study panels, and advistory committees.
  • A commitment to environmental stewardship and social responsiblity for the people and communities we serve.

Applied Research, Engineering, and Service to Industry

Successive deployment of pioneering energy technologies creates a "learn-by-doing" or "learn-by-using" scenario. Experience leads to improvements in operating efficiencies and reductions in cost. CAER pursues its niche as an applied research institution by putting things into practice. Our focus is on engineering scale-up, cost reduction, and production efficiencies; and on supporting at-scale demonstrations, technology maturation, and deployment. Our work often takes us to the field, the mine, the plant or refinery.

Test Tube

CAER's private sector interactions can also be measured by the extent of testing, consulting, and analytical services provided to industry. The Industrial Support program extends the Center's analytical capabilities to include near-term, problem-solving research and testing for industry. Experienced professionals, along with cutting edge instrumentation and analytical services, combine to provide exceptional problem-solving capabilities tailored to specific client needs. Each year we service over 150 requests for basic analyses, technology evaluations, product tests and field studies.

From Ideas to Reality: Technology Transfer and Business Development

Among our most important aims is to ensure that the benefits of investigations, research and study are made available, applied, and used. Therefore, technology transfer and our business development, along with the job creation that comes with it, are paramount objectives. The Center promotes UK's objective of developing and benefiting from its intellectual property (IP) - its patents, inventions and trade secrets, which are the tangible results of CAER's research.

Patent Plaques

Developing and commercializing IP involves several steps, from an invention disclosure, to establishing proprietary rights through patents and trade secrets, to a license to use or practice the know-how. Finding licensees and demonstrating the efficacy of a particular innovation requires wide ranging technical discussions with client-industries. Samples and materials are often exchanged for testing, prototyping and cost-engineering. The licensee often requires collaboration in the early stages of process scale-up and product qualification. By common measures of technology transfer - invention disclosures, patents, licenses, and business start-ups - CAER's performance ranks well among peer institutes. A continuing effort to pursue collaborations with industry is also illustrated by the large number of companies that work with CAER under confidential disclosure, research, service and testing, and materials transfer agreements.

Vital Public Information Services


The Mine Map Repository (and its public GIS) has over 185,000 'paper' coal mine maps dating to 1884, and is believed to be the largest collection of coal mine maps in the world. For over 25 years CAER has operated the repository for the Kentucky Office of Mine Safety and Licensing. The group helps to avoid disturbing oil and gas wells, aquifers, and other hazards below the surface, as well as buildings, highways and transmission lines above ground. They also support mine safety and rescue, blasting, abandoned mines, reclamation, and environmental issues.

CAER staff also supports the Kentucky Division of Oil and Gas' Risk Based Data Management System - a nationwide database serving oil and gas industry and regulatory agencies. The system, which was conferred DOE's prestigious "Energy 100 Award", is intended to better focus domestic oil and gas exploration and production; safeguard the environment; and streamline permitting and reporting.

Workforce Development and Community-based Learning Experiences

CAER Energy Fair

In addition to performing research, Center staff members teach, train, and provide experiential education for students at all levels - pre-college to post-graduate. At collegiate and post-graduate levels, we are interested in targeted labor force development to address our nation's critical shortage of scientists and engineers; skilled operators; and industrial specialists that will be needed to sustain energy industries. Our professional staff contributes to teaching; serves on advising committees; and mentors students. We are proud that our laboratory has served as the proving ground for hundreds of today's best trained and skilled professionals.

WOCA Presentation

We are keenly interested in the pipeline of tomorrow's professionals. We are all about community-based learning experiences for adult professional development, and experiential education for K-12 and groups traditionally underrepresented in STEM disciplines. CAER offers a wide range of extended campus and specialized learning activities from short courses and conferences, to educational web sites and energy learning materials, to experienced-based internships and co-ops. Our employees are involved in their communities and professional organizations in programs to intest young people in science and to support vocational guidance and training. The staff is also involved in the local schools through participation on school councils, as organizers and judges of science fairs, and other extra-curriculum activities.

Energy Efficiency and Sustainability

CAER Renewables Building.

It is important that we practice what we preach. Our 30+ year-old laboratory was not built with energy conservation in mind, but efforts are underway to examine the Center's energy consumption and find ways to reduce it. We are investigating a range of energy conservation measures (ECMs) including:

  • inexpensive motion sensor-controlled light switches;
  • re-lmaping with more efficient lighting;
  • switching to advanced motors, pumps, and electrical systems
  • and improvements in the building shell.

Our new laboratory building, which will be devoted entirely to renewable and distributed energy and energy storage, will be constructed to satisfy minimum LEED-certified.

We are also working to "green" the central downtown campus through efforts to advance SmartGrid deployment, other ECMs, wind and solar demonstrations, and cleaner-burning engineered fuels for the campus' steam boilers. These interests have led to collaborations with the university's Colleges of Design, Agricultre, and Engineering for, among other projects, the design of energy-efficient manufactured homes and model communities; re-use of CCBs in furniture; and UK's 9th place winning entry in teh national 2009 Solar Decathlon.

Management and Stewardship of Our Research Complex

CAER manages the research complex where our buildings are located, - some 125 acres located in northern Fayette County (Kentucky). Tenants include CAER, the Kentucky Geological Survey Well Sample and Core Library, the Asphalt Institute, the Council of State Governments, and teh 2010 World Equestrian Games Foundation. It is also home to the headquarters and laboratory facilities of the Kentucky-Argonne Battery Manufacturing R&D Center. Our vission is that one day other energy, environmental, and geosciences institutes will occupy the park, as it is further developed by the state and university.

Pond with catails and ducks

CAER manages the property commensurate with its Bluegrass setting to affect a mix of land uses, including research, office and light industrial, agricultural, and recreational uses (soccer, hiking and fishing). The site includes a five-acre lake which has been nominated for the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commission's Fishing in Neighborhoods program. If added, the lake will see important restorations and restocking. The site is included in the Wellhead Protection Plan for Royal Spring. Conservation plants and stream protection measures are being incorporated along Cane Run Creek watershed, which runs through the property.

The University Advantage

UK Memorial Hall

CAER's research is applied and developmental, yet we pursue essentially the same objectives as UK's colleges and departments: to encourage scholarship and a spirit of inquiry; generate knowledge and contribute to the body of literature; advance the state-of-the-art; and support the training and education needs of students. We pursue a multidisciplinary approach to research, and benefit from a wide range of university, faculty, resources and departments throughout the physical and life sciences, and the applied sciences of agriculture and engineering. Among our most important objectives is to assure that research and inventigations are carried out with a high degree of integrity, independence and objectivity that is expected of a first class academic institution.

There is a continuing effort to foster collaborations throughout the nation and internationally. CAER sponsors a number of study-abroad and other exchange programs for students, post-doctoral scholars, and visiting scientists from unverisities and research institutions spanning the globe, including participants from South America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Australia and Asia.