Yale U Researches Advance Solar Power Efficiency, Affordability

A team of researchers at Yale University (CT) has developed improvements in basic solar power technology that could result in lower-cost, higher-efficiency photovoltaic systems. The research has yielded a new way of guiding and channeling electrons within hybrid organic-inorganic photovoltaic devices by better controlling the structure and alignment of the materials in the system. This improves efficiency by maximizing the amount of light that is successfully converted into electricity. Support for the research was provided by the National Science Foundation.

U California System Gifted 4,584 Acres of Research Forest

The University of California system has received a land donation of 4,584 acres of forest in the Shasta and Nevada counties. The donation will allow the system to nearly double its research forests, conserving a swath of the Northern California watershed to investigate how forest ecosystems respond to climate change, increased fire risk and invasive species. Students and the public will also be able to access the areas.

SMU Research Reveals 3 M MW of Geothermal Resources in U.S.

New research from Southern Methodist University's Geothermal Laboratory (TX) has revealed significant geothermal resources across the U.S. capable of producing more than 3 million megawatts of green power, equal to 10 times the installed capacity of coal power plants today. Funded by a grant from Google.org, the research confirms and refines locations capable of supporting large-scale commercial geothermal energy production under a wide range of geologic conditions.

NY Times: Competition Hot for New Engineering Graduate School

As part of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's contest to create a new graduate school of engineering, competing universities are going all out to "out-green" one another, reports a recent New York Times article. Cornell University's (NY) proposal, which includes four acres of solar panels and 500 geothermal wells on Roosevelt Island, is emerging as a top contender as is Stanford University's (CA) proposal, which includes a marsh to filter water on the island and recycle water from storm run-off and sinks.

Clemson U Awarded $1 Mil for Sustainable Vehicle Systems Center

As part of its Graduate Automotive Technology Education (GATE) division, the U.S. Department of Energy has awarded $1 million to Clemson University (SC) to create a center for sustainable vehicle systems research and education. Students will study the vehicle life cycle, energy use and emissions, reliability and manufacturing. The GATE division is focusing on the development of automotive hybrid propulsion, energy storage and lightweight materials.

Portland State U Combines Solar Panel Production with Green Roofs

With a $600,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, researchers at Portland State University (OR) have begun looking into the effects of combining single-cell silicon photovoltaic solar panels with green roof technology. Focusing on energy production and biological issues, the research includes photovoltaic panels that are partially shading the back half of four green roof pans.

5 Universities Receive DOE Grant for Offshore Wind Study

Researchers from Indiana University Bloomington, Case Western Reserve University (OH), Arizona State University, Risoe Danish Technical University (Denmark) and Clarkson University (NY) have been awarded $700,000 by the U.S. Department of Energy to study Lake Erie wind resources. The study will perform a detailed evaluation of remote sensing technologies for wind resource estimation and will measure offshore wind and turbulence to develop best practices for instrumentation operations.

U Iowa Wins NSF Grant for Sustainability Implementation Study

An associate professor in the University of Iowa's School of Urban and Regional Planning has been awarded a three-year, $389,987 grant from the National Science Foundation to study the hurdles that stand in the way of local sustainability initiatives and how communities can address the snags. Because of New Zealand's success in sustainable local governance, planning and development agencies in randomly selected, mid-sized cities in the country will be compared with similarly selected agencies and cities in the U.S.

NSF Invests $18.5 toward Urban Water Engineering Research Center

With an investment of $18.5 million over five years, the National Science Foundation has selected a multi-university team from New Mexico State University, Stanford University (CA), Colorado School of Mines and the University of California, Berkeley to implement an Urban Water Engineering Research Center. With the aim of reinventing America's water infrastructure, the center's research will combine fundamental investigations and applied research in engineered systems, natural systems and urban water management.

U New Hampshire, China Partner to Study Agriculture and Climate

The University of New Hampshire has partnered with the Chinese Academy of Agriculture Sciences for a project that could yield research valuable to understanding the environmental impact of large scale agricultural projection against the backdrop of global climate change. The new CAAS-UNH Joint Laboratory for Sustainable Agro-Ecosystems Research will conduct academic exchanges and cooperate in science and technology research. Graduate students and faculty will perform research and work together on problems related to better understanding the biogeochemistry of agricultural settings during climate change.

RIT Researcher Recognized for Sustainability Innovation

The research of an assistant professor at Rochester Institute of Technology (NY) to reduce the footprint of the information and communication technology industry was recently honored with the AT&T Technology and Environment Award. The $25,000 award will go toward developing a combined research and curriculum initiative that explores the sustainable design of information and communication technology products. Now in its 15th year, the AT&T award recognizes university and college research focused on how information and communications technology affects the environment. It is intended to stimulate research surrounding environmental issues, engineering, science and other disciplines.

Canadian Research Teams to Study Climate Change Adaptation

Five teams made up of Canadian institutions and universities in developing countries will participate in the International Research Initiative on Adaptation to Climate Change (IRIACC). Each team will receive $2.5 million over five years to study how best to protect people, communities and vital economic sectors, like agriculture and tourism, that are most at risk from the effects of climate change. Two teams will focus specifically on vulnerable indigenous populations. Together, the research projects, which will take place in Canada and in developing countries across four continents, aim to address how to anticipate, manage and reduce climate risk vulnerability through adaptation.

U Texas Conducts Solar Panel Research

A University of Texas mechanical engineering research team will study the output of three different types of solar panels from three different manufacturers under the same conditions. Research on the new solar panels will show how they respond to different temperatures, partial dirtiness and aging. The project is being funded by a $195,000 grant from federal funds.

Chron of Higher Ed: Energy, Water Dominate Int'l Research

Water and energy took center stage as the top research topics discussed at the International Exhibition and Conference on Higher Education in April, according to an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education. King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (Saudi Arabia) is concentrating its research on energy, food, and water and believes that universities around the world should tackle the same problems as geography and climate lead to different solutions based on local needs. Energy is also leading the research agenda at the University of Groningen (Netherlands).

Nanyang Technical U to Create New Solar and Clean Energy Center

Nanyang Technological University (Singapore) has announced plans to invest close to $3 million over three years in a new research center that will pioneer the development of solar cells that are expected to be highly efficient, cheaper and easier to manufacture. The center will also develop new systems to harvest solar energy. The center will operate jointly with the university’s School of Materials Science and Engineering and School of Physical and Mathematical Sciences.

Arizona State U Research: Employers Favor Sustainability Skills

Recent research from the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University shows that a considerable percentage of employers are giving positive weight to job candidates with sustainability skills. The same research indicated that job applicants also need professional training in existing fields to push them over the top in the hiring process. An analysis of about 100 job postings related to sustainability, interviews with several corporate sustainability managers, and a survey of about 200 managers and executives from small, medium and large companies revealed that 65 percent of small company respondents said they would consider a sustainability concentration when making a hiring decision; 87 percent of the large firm respondents agreed; and 97.5 percent of the large firm executives said they valued the concentration. Participants said that corporate social responsibility, sustainability strategy, measuring sustainability, sustainability-related product and process improvement, and environmental and health policy as it relates to business should be taught to all managers and executives.

U British Columbia Researches How to Make Green Roofs Greener

A student and professor at the University of British Columbia have partnered to research ways to make green roofs even more environmentally friendly by using construction waste. The team is researching how to recycle waste building materials to form the base layers of a green roof. Currently, materials for the base layers are made out of plastic and it takes 25 years to compensate for the environmental damage caused from making the plastics contained in the roof laying material. The team is monitoring several green roof plant beds on campus that were donated and comparing the results of the manufactured material against a green roof constructed using discarded, crushed concrete as drainage material. The progress and results of the experiment will be monitored for a full year.

Arizona State U Engineers Work to Advance Solar Power

From predicting the performance of various kinds of photovoltaic cells to testing ideas for a solar thermal collector, engineers at Arizona State University are conducting material, electrical and mechanical engineering research to develop prototypes for the next generations of high-efficiency photovoltaic technologies. The university is also delving into the economic, regulatory, manufacturing, public policy and public utility aspects of solar power including educating students to become the future entrepreneurs, business leaders and policy experts of alternative energy systems.

Confederation College Announces New Biomass Research Center

Confederation College (ON) has announced plans to build a new biomass energy research center to provide students and researchers with state-of-the-art labs to gain hands-on training in renewable fuel technologies. The biomass renewable energy project will use wood waste that has no other commercial value. Ontario has invested $4.2 million in the research center as part of the government’s long-term capital plan.

U Hawai'i Manoa Partners for Research Agreement to Treat Grease

The University of Hawai’i at Manoa has partnered with Pacific Biodiesel Inc. to find pathways for treatment of waste-trap grease from restaurants. The research agreement is an outgrowth of a Water, Energy and Soil Sustainability research effort at the university. Waste-trap grease is a waste stream that is heavy in fats, oils and grease that cannot be directly discharged into main sewer lines.

Pennsylvania State U Directs Northeast Food Insecurity Study

Faculty in Pennsylvania State University's College of Agricultural Sciences will direct a new $5 million project to study whether greater reliance on regionally produced foods could improve food access and affordability for disadvantaged communities. Part of a national initiative to reduce food insecurity, the U.S. Department of Agriculture-funded project, "Enhancing Food Security in the Northeast with Regional Food Systems," brings together researchers, educators, entrepreneurs and community leaders from a 12-state region to shed light on how the food system can better serve disadvantaged communities, farmers and others in the food supply chain across the nation. Other participating institutions include Columbia University (NY), Cornell University (NY), Delaware State University, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health (MD), Tufts University (MA), University of Vermont and West Virginia State University.

U Buffalo Creates Framework for Modeling Sustainable Agriculture

The State University of New York's University at Buffalo researchers have begun assessing the City of Buffalo’s capacity for sustainable agriculture. A university geographer has developed a conceptual model in the form of a map that shows how different elements within Buffalo’s urban food movement relate to one another. The map shows feedback involving land use, opportunities for urban agriculture in vacant lots, how urban agriculture can increase familiarity with local food, and how that familiarity can result in greater support for the cultivation of vacant lots into urban farms. The map addresses affordability, public health, community resilience, local economy support and the potential adoption of a “green code.”

U Kansas Awarded USDA Grant for Green Cleaning Research

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has awarded a research team at the University of Kansas a $5.6 million grant to find ways to green many household products. The research will look to replace petroleum-based chemicals used in products like plastics and laundry detergents with biomass products like nonfood crops and agriculture leftovers.

Michigan State U Receives $2.9 Million for Biofuel Research

Michigan State University has received $2.9 million in federal grants for biofuel research. University professors will lead three research projects on campus that will focus on topics including greenhouse gas emissions associated with biomass production, ways to use byproducts from the production of biofuel, and pests that affect switchgrass, a plant used to produce biofuels. The U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded five-year grants to 27 universities, one college and two USDA research arms for sustainable bioenergy research.

U Calgary Researchers to Convert Sewage into Power

The University of Calgary's (AB) Schulich School of Engineering has received a $100,000 Grand Challenges Explorations Grant to pursue a global health and development research project. Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the grant funds scientists and researchers worldwide to explore ideas that can break the mold in how to solve persistent global health and development challenges. The engineering school will look at developing technology that will turn human excrement into a range of useful products such as methane gas, fertilizer, water, heat and electricity. Their idea is to design small residential units much like portable toilets but with built-in reaction chambers. Chemical and bacterial reactions would convert fecal matter and urine into solids for use as agricultural fertilizer and gases – mostly methane – that could be burned to make electricity. Pure water would be a byproduct.

Arizona State U Researchers Work to Better Harness Solar Energy

Graduate students at Arizona State University have published a research paper in the Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy revealing that solar panels only use a fraction of the energy they receive to generate energy while the rest of it emits heat. The researchers developed solar thermal collectors that power turbines to generate steam in order to more completely harness the energy received.

Duke U Signs MOU with World Wildlife Fund

Duke University (NC) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the World Wildlife Fund to collaborate on research, teaching and the advancement of conservation policy and science. The agreement will enhance existing collaborations and expand to form new ones in the areas of marine spatial planning, ecosystem services, climate change adaptation, evidence-based conservation, reduced emissions from forest degradation and deforestation (REDD), supply chain and other business opportunities.

U Calgary Assists with Green IT Research

Researchers from the University of Calgary's (AB) Grid Research Centre are assisting with a Cybera-led research project that aims to establish an emissions reduction protocol for international information and communication technology. Part of the GreenStar Network initiative, the project's first test case is Cybera's GeoChronos environmental monitoring web portal, which made the switch from a coal-powered computer center to a hydro-run center at the end of January 2011.

Arizona State U Engineer Earns NSF Award for Fuel Efficiency Work

An engineer from Arizona State University has earned a National Science Foundation CAREER Award for his advances in the use of liquids and gases toward fuel efficiency. Marcus Herrmann has made strides in understanding how gases and liquids behave when used together to spark various mechanical and chemical processes. Better prediction and control of such processes will help advances toward the next generations of fuel and energy-conversion technologies, including fuel-injection systems, as well as environmental protection and management methods. The award includes a grant of $400,000 over five years for the research.

Cornell U Researcher Publishes Study on Natural Gas Impacts

A new study by an ecology and environmental biology professor at Cornell University (NY) suggests that the greenhouse gas footprint of unconventional natural gas development is worse than a traditional coal plant, says a recent New York Times Green blog post. The professor concluded in an analysis published in the peer-reviewed journal, Climatic Change Letters, that 3.6 percent to 7.9 percent of methane, the chief component of natural gas, is leaking into the atmosphere at various points along the shale gas production life cycle. This would make unconventional natural gas production associated with the practice of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, worse than coal for the climate. This study joins the current media scrutiny surrounding natural gas as many institutions make the switch to natural gas from coal. Environmental advocates, according to this blog post, say that the first step in getting beyond the coal vs. natural gas debate is for the industry to stop refusing to take detailed measure of its methane leakage rates, to make that information public, and to submit to rules requiring them to capture it.

MIT Research Expands Solar Energy Potential

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have discovered a way to use the sun's energy to split water into hydrogen and oxygen gases to be later recombined in fuel cells. This process imitates the process of plant photosynthesis. The result gives solar power the potential to provide a consistent energy source without inefficient losses during the storage process. Ernst Chain Professor of Biochemistry James Barber at Imperial College London called the breakthrough a "giant leap" toward meeting and exceeding the world’s energy requirements in a carbon neutral way.

U Arizona Researchers Study Compressed Air Energy

University of Arizona researchers are investigating a Compressed Air Energy Storage program that has the potential to power green technology when the university's power source is unavailable. The program is working to cheaply store compressed air for energy in man-made structures or in natural underground reservoirs. The stored air, created by compressors powered by another energy source, would power turbines when released and provide energy to homes and buildings when other sources of energy, such as solar power, aren't available. Storing large volumes of compressed air could be a potential problem, for it would take roughly two swimming pools worth to power the average house in Tucson, Ariz., but the researchers are also investigating the feasibility of saturating porous volcanic rocks beneath the neighboring Tucson Mountains with compressed air.

U Nebraska Researches Wind, Solar to Power Traffic Lights

Researchers from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln are investigating the potential of wind and solar to power municipal traffic lights. Funded by a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation, Energy Plus Roadways project seeks to find ways for renewable energy sources to meet the demand of city transportation infrastructures while potentially producing additional power to be sold back to the municipalities.

Indiana U Receives NASA Funding to Study Climate Change

Researchers at Indiana University’s Department of Geography are receiving a $637,000 grant from NASA to study climate change. The research will be conducted at a mangrove forest in Bangladesh, the largest mangrove block in the world. The researchers are working in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service to study the forest's capacity to store carbon. NASA’s funding for this project is part of the federal Carbon Cycle Science Program, which aims to determine to what extent human actions affect climate change.

U Minnesota Graduate Researchers Attempt Renewable Petroleum

Graduate students at the University of Minnesota are researching how to make renewable petroleum using only bacteria, sunlight and carbon dioxide. With a $2.2 million U.S. Department of Energy grant, the team is using Synechococcus, a bacterium that fixes carbon dioxide in sunlight and converts CO2 to sugars. Next, the sugar is fed to Shewanella, a bacterium that produces hydrocarbons. This turns CO2 into hydrocarbons. The research is published in the April issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

U Illinois Entomologist Wins $200K Environmental Science Award

An entomologist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is the 2011 recipient of the $200,000 Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement, reports The Chronicle of Higher Education. Professor May R. Berenbaum is being honored for her pioneering work in chemical ecology that has led to an understanding of the relationships between insects and plants on a genetic level. Her research has also helped further understanding of the decline of bee populations known as Colony Collapse Disorder.

U South Sewanee Researches Campus Wind Power Potential

Sewanee: The University of the South (TN) is researching the potential for installing wind turbines on its campus. As a part of its research, the university erected two wind measuring devices known as anemometers. The two anemometers have been installed on 100-foot towers. The university is borrowing the equipment free of charge from the Anemometer Loan Program at the Tennessee Valley and Eastern Kentucky Wind Working Group. The year-long project will measure and record wind speed and direction every 10 minutes. After analyzing the data, the university will make a decision as to whether wind power is a viable alternative to reducing its carbon emissions.

Queen’s U Chemist Makes Green Discovery

Discovered by a chemist at Queen’s University (ON), a host of technologies with the potential to address global pollution problems have been exclusively licensed to GreenCentre Canada. The technologies pertain to solvents and surfactants, and they have gained the attention of oil industries because of their ability to reduce costs of removing oil from sand, gravel and other substrates. The breakthrough garnered several awards, including the Canadian Institute of Chemistry to call it one of the top 20 chemistry discoveries in Canada over the past 100 years.

EPA Awards Grant to Georgia Institutions for Clean Air Research

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded a five-year grant of $8 million to Emory University (GA) and the Georgia Institute of Technology to create one of four national Clean Air Research Centers that will address the public health impacts of air pollution. The Southeastern Center for Air Pollution and Epidemiology (SCAPE) will characterize ambient air pollution mixtures and determine their specific role in human health risks, using new measurement and modeling approaches. The overall goal of the center is to contribute to improved management of air quality for the benefit of human health in the U.S. Air quality engineers and scientists from Georgia Tech will develop and apply detailed measurements and new modeling techniques to identify and track atmospheric contaminants and mixtures of these contaminants suspected of having adverse health effects.

U California Berkeley Chemist Turns Bacteria Into Biofuel

A University of California, Berkeley chemist has made a biofuel breakthrough by engineering bacteria to produce a biofuel similar to gasoline. The lead chemist of the research team developed the process working with students and colleagues. Their work is funded by the university and various foundations.

U Minnesota PhD Student Works to Simulate the Sun

A University of Minnesota Ph.D. student is researching ways to produce an effective solar simulation that could provide 24/7 energy in any weather condition. The project is leading to further research on how to make hydrocarbon, liquid fuel from solar energy.

Masdar, U.S. Dept of Energy Partner for Solar PV Coating Research

The Masdar Institute of Science and Technology (Abu Dhabi) has announced a collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy to test the performance of specially coated solar photovoltaic modules designed to avoid the moisture and cementation problems currently faced by PV module producers. Developed by the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the coatings will be tested at a solar field in Masdar City following exchanges of scientific and technical information with the Masdar Institute.

U Western Sydney Highlights Research for World Wetlands Day

The University of Western Sydney (Australia), which is home to three forested wetlands that form part of a critically endangered ecological community on its Hawkesbury campus, recently celebrated 2011 World Wetlands Day by highlighting wetland research activities. The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, known as the Ramsar Convention, is an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. Australia has been a member country since 1975, with 65 wetland sites.

U Central Florida Builds Weather Station for Research

The University of Central Florida has built a weather station atop a green roof on the Physical Sciences buildings on its East Orlando campus. The weather station is updated hourly and can be viewed online. The hourly updates include temperature, humidity, dew point, wind speed and precipitation. This tool will allow researchers to study the various cooling potentials of native plants.

Southern Illinois U Carbondale to Research Glycerol as Cow Feed

Southern Illinois University Carbondale has announced plans for an automated biodiesel processor that will convert canola oil into biodiesel fuel and a way to use the byproduct. The manager of the university farm's Dairy Center will experiment this summer with replacing part of his herd's current corn feed with glycerol, the byproduct of converting recycled canola oil into biodiesel and then glycerin. Feeding glycerol to dairy cows could save $40 to $50 per day in corn feed expenses and enable the university to recycle 80 to 95 percent of its canola oil. The university's associate professor in animal sciences and food and nutrition says no studies show that introducing glycerol into dairy or beef cows' feed results in illness and plans to study the energy potential glycerol may have on dairy cows during the program. If the cows show any sign of illness, the program will stop. Students from the university's Dairy Club will operate tasks to create the biodiesel and glycerol.

Brigham Young U Researchers Discover New Form of Solar Energy

Brigham Young University (UT) chemistry professor Richard Watt and a team of graduate students have developed a process that mimics photosynthesis to create energy. It is still in the developmental phase, but the chemical reaction works by using protein, citric acid and gold atoms. Their study was recently published in the Journal of Nanoparticle Research.

U Calgary Plans Carbon Capture Research Center

Part of both the federal and Alberta governments' climate change strategies, the University of Calgary (AB) is planning for a research facility dedicated to carbon capture and sequestration. The Alberta government has pledged $2 billion toward four commercial-scale projects scheduled to start trapping industrial greenhouse gases by 2015. The research facility plans to host a small-scale project, used for student and industry training, technology testing and public education. It will also be used to develop monitoring methods for keeping CO2 trapped underground.

U Idaho Receives $25K Donation Toward Woody Biomass Research

The University of Idaho has received a $25,000 donation to fund research focused on converting woody biomass to energy. The gift from Texas-based Advanced Trailer and Equipment LP will allow the university to install a pilot-scale pyrolysis unit at its steam plant. Pyrolysis, a type of incineration that uses almost no oxygen, yields biofuel when applied to an organic material like wood. The company has also provided funding to formalize bioenergy and bioproducts efforts at the university.

Boise State U Opens Energy Efficiency Research Institute

Boise State University (ID) has announced that it will launch an Energy Efficiency Research Institute in collaboration with the University of Idaho, Idaho State University and the Idaho National Laboratory. The institute will use the university’s campus as a learning laboratory to establish better energy efficiency techniques, measurements and practices. Researchers plan to analyze data collected from electrical meters to generate ways to make the campus more energy efficient.

Eastern Kentucky U Opens Center for Renewable Energy

Eastern Kentucky University has opened its Center for Renewable and Alternative Fuel Technologies. The facility has two large labs set for algae research and biomass analysis to create fuel for running vehicles. The center will host 10 research faculties to study biofuels and teach students agriculture, chemistry, biology and economics.