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March 2011 Archives

IREE-funded Researcher Jane Davidson to Present on April 5

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UMN SUNgas - A Vision for Renewable Fuels

April 5
6:30pm: Doors open
7pm: Lecture

Tate Laboratory of Physics, Van Vleck Auditorium
116 Church St. S.E., Minneapolis

Turning fossil fuel into energy is easy--you just burn it and live with the carbon dioxide byproduct. What if we could reverse the process and turn carbon dioxide back into fuel? Join mechanical engineering professor Jane Davidson, who will present her research team's efforts to solve one of the world's most pressing challenges: the need to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions while simultaneously meeting an exploding global demand for energy. Davidson will discuss the potential of using concentrated solar energy to produce synthetic hydrocarbons that have properties equivalent to what we are deriving from petroleum today.

For more about Jane Davidson or her presentation, click here.

wackett1.jpgAn article by Dr. Larry Wackett, faculty member in the College of Biological Sciences and the University's BioTechnology Institute, will be published in the April 1st issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

The article, on which Wackett is lead author, highlights work done by then-graduate student (now Ph.D.) Janice Frias, who, states the UMN press release, "made the critical step by figuring out how to use a protein to transform fatty acids produced by the bacteria into ketones, which can be cracked to make hydrocarbon fuels. The University is filing patents on the process."

Hydrocarbons are the building blocks of fossil fuels, such as petroleum, and take hundreds of millions of years to form. They also emit the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. So the challenge is two-fold: hurry up hydrocarbon production and make them clean. With the work being done in Wackett's lab, these challenges are being addressed everyday to make renewable fuels a reality. These fuels have the added benefit of using the same infrastructure as current fossil fuel production and transport, thus making them a cost-effective and relatively simple alternative to fossil-derived fuels.

This research is being funded via a $2.2 million by DOE's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-e) program. The Initiative for Renewable Energy & the Environment (IREE), a signature program of the UMN Institute on the Environment, helped leverage this money for the state and the UMN with an initial investment of $300,000.

Photo: Josh Kohanek

header_default.jpgThe Algal Biomass Organization has issued a call for Speakers and Abstracts for its 2011 Algal Biomass Summit, taking place right here in the great Twin Cities October 25-27, 2011.

More info on presenting or speaking: Call for Abstracts Page.

More info on the Summit: Event Page.

IREE Researcher Marc Hillmyer Featured in UMN Brief

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hillmyer1.jpgDr. Marc Hillmyer, Distinguished McKinght University of Minnesota professor and Director of the Center for Sustainable Polymers, was featured in the UMN Brief today, March 23, 2011.

Access the full article here.

Photo: Josh Kohanek

Solar, Wind & Biomass:
Worth $188 Billion in 2010

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A recent article by cited a report done by Clean Edge, Inc., which states that Solar, Wind, and Biomass were worth a total of $188 billion in 2010, up 35% from 2009.

Since 2000, the report states, the solar PV industry has grown 20-fold, and current projections predict that by 2015, it will be "cost-competitive for residential customers in 11 states." By 2020, this will have increased to 47 states in which residential customers will be able to obtain solar power at cost-competitive prices.

Wind and biomass are also expected to grow, completing a renewable energy hat trick of sorts, which will allow for energy sources that are not only good for the environment, but for the economy as well.

For the full article, see

Science Wars: Don Shelby Gives a Nod to IREE

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In a Minn Post article released today, March 8, journalist and former WCCO news anchor Don Shelby discusses the key roles that IREE, IonE, and the entire University of Minnesota must play to compete with China's rapidly growing economy, of which renewable energy is is a significant piece.

Click here for the article (link will open in a new window).


IREE Researcher Jane Davidson Featured on KARE 11

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Professor Jane Davidson, IREE researcher, Ronald L. & Janet A. Christenson Chair in Renewable Energy, and Director of Graduate Studies in Mechanical Engineering, was featured on today's KARE 11 morning show.

The project, titled "Solar Recycling of CO2 to Fuels, is being funded by IREE via a large grant. The ultimate objective is to develop a solar-driven chemical heat engine with an unprecedented 20% solar-to-chemical energy conversion efficiency.

This work is transformative in that, if successful, it will offer a renewable fuel that can be used with existing infrastructure and technologies.

For more information on the project, visit the IREE Projects Database.

  The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author(s) and not necessarily
  of the Institute on the Environment/University of Minnesota.

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