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ASU In the News

ASU, USAID launch clean energy training program for the Pacific

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) awarded $1 million over the next two years to ASU's College of Technology and Innovation (CTI) to provide solar photovoltaic energy equipment and technology to up to 12 Pacific Island nations. The program aims to train local capactiies to support off-grid solar PV equipment installation, operation and maintenance. 

The collaborating teams from CTI and local dignitaries from higher education institutions and other organiziations from the Pacific Islands met in Suva, Fiji, to kick-off the partnership and the first training session at the University of the South Pacific.

Access to full article is below. 

Article Source: The University of the South Pacific
ASU In the News

Will America embrace clean energy by 2050?

Following President Obama’s inauguration last week, ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability explored the president’s energy plan at the event, “The Future of Energy: Brown, Clean, or In Between?”

The event, covered in a recent Future Tense article, featured panelists John Hofmeister, former Shell Oil president and founder of Citizens for Affordable Energy; Mark Jacobson, director of Stanford University’s Atmosphere/Energy Program; and environmental filmmaker Peter Byck.

The panelists were moderated by American Public Media's Eve Troeh. These "three prominent voices in the field of alternative energy" seemed skeptical about the administration’s efforts in alleviating climate change – especially if America is to depend only on clean energy by 2050.

Future Tense reporter David Sydiongco spoke with Hofmeister after the panel and the former oil president said: "Obama is in the same position as the last seven presidents who have promised energy independence. He’s not an expert. He has many other things on his plate."

Jacobson warned the audience that natural gas isn’t as clean as we think, and is actually a leading contributor to arctic ice melt. The most hopeful of the panelists, Byck, says the administration underestimates the public’s enthusiasm in leading the quest to a clean energy future.

So the question remains: Will America embrace clean energy by 2050?

To read Sydiongco's entire article, visit the link below. 

Future Tense is a collaboration among ASU, the New America Foundation, and Slate magazine that explores how emerging technologies affect policy and society. The Future Tense channel at Slate features multiple blog posts daily and several full-length articles weekly.

Article Source: Slate magazine

The future of energy

January 15, 2013

Can our energy future be reliable, affordable, and low-impact? Fossil fuels come with environmental, economic, and social pitfalls, but renewable energy sources have their downsides as well. Perhaps our future will be shaped by a combination of both.

ASU and the Arizona Science Center are hosting a public event on the future of energy, from 5-8 p.m., Jan. 24, at the Arizona Science Center IMAX Theater. During this panel discussion, American Public Media reporter Eve Troeh will moderate a former Shell Oil president, a climate scientist, and an environmental filmmaker as we all contemplate and envision sustainable energy options. Download Full Image

This event is hosted through a partnership between Arizona Science Center and Arizona State University. Arizona State University President Michael Crow and Arizona Science Center President and CEO Chevy Humphrey will provide opening remarks.

Thursday, Jan. 24
5-6 p.m., booth displays by the Arizona Energy Consortium and the university community
6-7:30 p.m., panel discussion
7:30-8:00 p.m., reception

Arizona Science Center, IMAX Theater
600 E. Washington St., Phoenix 85004
Getting There/Parking: http://azscience.org/visit/location_hours

John Hofmeister, founder, Citizens for Affordable Energy
John Hofmeister retired as president of Shell Oil Company in 2008 to found and head the nationwide nonprofit group, Citizens for Affordable Energy. As a business leader, his global corporate experience crosses a wide range of both energy-consuming and energy-producing companies, leading him to consider environmental security differently from mainstream practice. His unique both-sides background provides valuable insight to ASU‚s Global Institute of Sustainability and School of Sustainability, where he serves as a faculty member and Julie A. Wrigley Private Sector Executive-in-Residence for Sustainability. Hofmeister received his master‚s degree in political science from Kansas State University. Learn more about John Hofmeister at http://sustainability.asu.edu/people/persbio.php?pid=7696. Download a photo at http://sustainability.asu.edu/people/persbio.php?pid=7696.

Mark Jacobson, director, Atmosphere/Energy Program, Stanford University
Mark Jacobson is a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University. There, he directs the Atmosphere/Energy Program and develops computer models to better understand air pollution and climate change. His research on soot and aerosols has inspired climate policy actions and regulations. Jacobson has served on the Energy Efficiency and Renewables advisory committee for the U.S. Secretary of Energy and continues to investigate reliable, low-impact energy sources. Jacobson holds a Ph.D. in Atmospheric Sciences from the University of California - Los Angeles. Learn more about Mark Jacobson at http://engineering.stanford.edu/profile/jacobson.
Download a photo at http://engineering.stanford.edu/profile/jacobson.

Peter Byck, director, Carbon Nation
Peter Byck has more than 20 years of experience as a film director and editor. He has toured nationally with his documentary, Carbon Nation, which features people from all over the U.S.˜from a Texas wind farmer to multi-millionaire Sir Richard Branson˜sharing their climate change solutions. During the filmmaking, Byck ultimately found that liberals and conservatives support clean energy initiatives and clean energy can serve as „the great convener.‰ He has a bachelor of fine arts from the California Institute of Arts. Learn more about Peter Byck at http://www.carbonnationmovie.com/about/filmmakers. Download a photo at http://sustainability.asu.edu/events/rsvp/peter-byck.

Eve Troeh, reporter, American Public Media Marketplace
Eve Troeh started out as a staff member at Marketplace Money in 2008. In 2010, she joined Marketplace's Sustainability Desk as a radio reporter breaking stories on how sustainability issues impact business and the economy. Her first assignment was reporting the 2010 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. From there on, she‚s profiled stories about free-range hog farms, international climate change negotiations, and historical energy infrastructures. Troeh holds undergraduate degrees in anthropology and journalism from the University of Southern California.

This event is part of the Case Critical Series presented by ASU's Global Institute of Sustainability. For more information call 480-965-2975. Speakers in this series discuss a range of timely environmental, social, and economic topics. Check online for future events at http://sustainability.asu.edu/events.

Media contact:
Lauren Kuby, lauren.kuby@asu.edu

Sharon Keeler

ASU In the News

Quest for clean energy comes with complexities

There are a lot of “ifs” revolving around endeavors to realize the potential benefits of developing new sources of “clean” energy.

Efforts to reduce dependence on conventional energy sources such as fossil fuels and coal is spurred by the desire to alleviate the harmful  environmental impacts of carbon dioxide emissions that result from the production and use of these sources.

Researchers are working on using sunlight as a catalyst for a process to produce clean hydrogen fuels, or  looking at converting biomass (plant materials) as a clean fuel for power plants.

Other efforts include developing new kinds of batteries to enable automobiles to be fueled solely by electricity instead of a hybrid gasoline-electric power system.

But there remain technological advances to be made before the environmental benefits of such clean energy sources can significantly outweigh the costs of producing and using the alternative fuel sources.

Arizona State University civil and environmental engineer Mikhail Chester weighs in along with other noted experts on alternative-energy issues in a recent article in a prominent international science magazine.

Chester is an assistant professor in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, one of ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

His research involves determining the overall “lifecycle” costs involved in the uses of various kinds of fuels, as well as the costs of technologies needed to produce and distribute those fuels.

What power sources will ultimately offer the best environmentally beneficial options remains a complex question, Chester says.

Article Source: Cosmos magazine
Joe Kullman

Science writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering


Biofuels: the next frontier at ASU, WSU

November 14, 2012

Editor's Note: Arizona State football will take on Washington State University, at 1 p.m., Nov. 17 in Tempe. Learn more about ASU's collaborations with Pac-12 schools.

With concerns about global warming increasing by the day, exploration into alternative energy sources is on the rise. The pursuit of biofuels has become increasingly popular, as is evidenced by research being conducted at universities around the nation, including Pac-12 sister schools Arizona State and Washington State. Download Full Image

As two of the nation’s leading research universities, it is to be expected that some areas of study should overlap. In October, ASU announced their plans to embark on a five-year renewable energy project, funded partly by a $1.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation, aimed at identifying geographically sustainable “hot-spots” throughout the country that are best-suited for expansion of perennial bioenergy crops.

In like fashion, WSU’s Center for Precision and Automated Agricultural Systems also announced earlier this year that they will be teaming up with the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa for a four-year, $6 million project to help Hawaii increase its energy security by modifying existing sugarcane harvesting techniques in order to better convert tropical grass crops into biofuel.

Biofuels are one of the oldest energy resources available in the world. Countries like Brazil have been gleaning ethanol from sugarcane for decades and biodiesel, made from palm oil, is commonly utilized in Europe.

Because biofuels are made from plants, they are considered “carbon neutral”; that is, the amount of carbon dioxide they release when burnt is equal to the amount they absorb during the growing process. They are also cheaper than fossil fuels and are a completely renewable resource.

ASU’s research team is focusing on the use of perennial feedstocks, such as switchgrass, as opposed to the use of crops like corn, which carry side effects including food security concerns. Utilizing perennial crops is likely to result in a decreased reliance on the use of food crops for energy production, a decreased reliance on fossil fuels, and the chance to combat greenhouse gas-induced climate change.

Researchers will be testing crops in abandoned and degraded farmland over the contiguous U.S. to determine where is best to sustainably grow perennial crops for ethanol production.

WSU’s research with UH Mānoa will look at improving tropical crop harvesting systems in order to optimize the sustainability of the process. To do this, researchers will evaluate several conditions, such as operating speeds compared to growth stages and the effects of varying terrain. Their goal is to find a sustainable and cost-effective process for harvesting biofuel crops and to develop the most efficient equipment for the job.

Both ASU and WSU have extensive experience in biofuels research. In July 2010, ASU was awarded a $6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy as part of a program focused on algae-based biofuels and in 2011, WSU was awarded a $40 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture in a joint project with the University of Washington to research the potential for using residual wood after logging and forest thinning for aviation fuel.

Emma Greguska, emma.greguska@asu.edu
ASU media relations

Lisa Robbins

editor/publisher, Media Relations and Strategic Communications


ASU team finishes among leaders in Chem-E-Car championship

November 6, 2012

A team of Arizona State University engineering students finished in eighth place among 35 teams that competed recently in the American Institute of Chemical Engineers’ Chem-E-Car national championship.

The competition requires students to design and build a small vehicle powered by a chemical source. ASU Chem-E-Car team 2012 Download Full Image

The ASU team produced a vehicle – named Hydrospark – powered by a hydrogen fuel-cell, with an electronic system to control speed, and using a chemical-reaction process to stop the car.

The team took a first-place award with its vehicle at a Chem-E-Car regional event last spring in Reno, Nev.

At the national competition, students are given a certain distance that the car must travel while carrying a specified amount of weight.

Cornell University’s team took first place in this year’s national championship event in Pittsburgh.

ASU Chem-E-Car team members are  chemical engineer majors Devon Bridgeman, Andrew Chesley, Jacob Sciacca, Mike Morales, Nick Dunteman, Tyler Sherman and Chelsea Francis, along with mechanical engineering students, Dinesh Kale, Anna Debrilovic, Tianyu Dua and computer systems engineering major Matthew Mellott.

The team’s faculty adviser is César Torres, an assistant professor in the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy, one of ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

Written by Rosie Gochnour and Joe Kullman

Joe Kullman

Science writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering


ASU to lead renewable energy training, education in the Pacific Islands

October 24, 2012

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has awarded $1 million over the next two years to Arizona State University’s College of Technology and Innovation (CTI) to provide education for solar photovoltaic (PV) energy equipment and technology to up to 12 Pacific Island nations. In collaboration with higher education institutions and other organizations, the program aims to train local capacities to support off-grid solar PV equipment installation, operation and maintenance.

This regional program is part of the five-year Vocational Training and Education for Clean Energy (VOCTEC) program, a CTI-led global initiative sponsored by USAID. VOCTEC’s mission is to develop and implement clean energy training and education to the local communities. VOCTEC also addresses the need for developing a sustainable pipeline of solar PV technicians and building human capacity within the island region though its ‘train the trainer’ approach, giving operators and technicians the support system and resources to continue to educate and manage future operators and technicians. Download Full Image

“We have carefully customized the pedagogy for renewable energy in Fiji to focus on training challenges within the region which not only include educational challenges but cultural and social obstacles as well,” said Mitzi Montoya, principal investigator for the project and dean of CTI. “Building human capacity is critical to filling the energy needs of the islands now as well as sustaining the program past its duration.”

All of the Pacific Island Nations face a number of barriers to clean energy development. Of the twelve countries in the Pacific Islands region, five are classified by the United Nations as ‘least developed’ countries, and all have limited financial resources. Development of human capacity for grid-connected and off-grid solar PV must also overcome the economies of scale that the islands face as they struggle to support multiple specialized training programs. In order to provide this institutional support, the VOCTEC team identified Fiji as the centralized training hub for the USAID project. 

“This project emphasizes the United States’ increased engagement and strategic support to the advancement of clean energy in the Pacific Islands,” said Gloria D. Steele, USAID mission director for the Philippines and the Pacific Islands. “We are building local capacities to develop and sustain renewable energy infrastructure in this important region.”

Prior to receiving the grant, representatives from VOCTEC travelled to the Pacific Islands region in order to meet with renewable energy stakeholders to assess conditions and needs for renewable energy. In addition to Fiji the team visited Tonga and Vanuatu. Tonga serves as an exemplar to other nations at it has already developed the Tonga Energy Roadmap (TERM), which demonstrates a strong renewable energy commitment from the government. Only 30 percent of Vanuatu’s population has access to electricity, and while they are working to develop their own energy roadmap, they need regulatory infrastructure to provide standardized training programs.

“Global agencies continue to invest in solar PVs in the Pacific Islands region to support renewable energy and displace fossil-fuel based generation,” said Govisndasamy Tamizhmani (Mani), associate research professor at CTI and principal investigator. “The most fundamental need in that area is creation of a program that trains the trainers that can continue to turn out technicians to support systems in the field and further train operators in the application of those systems.”

The $1M USAID associate grant enables VOCTEC to deliver trainer, technician and operator trainings in the Pacific Islands region over the next two years. VOCTEC will pursue additional associate grants to expand delivery of sustainable renewable energy training programs across developing nations.

Contributor: Sydney Donaldson, College of Technology and Innovation

New program 'ASU Discovers' airs Oct. 22 on Eight, Arizona PBS

October 17, 2012

Go inside the laboratory and out into the community with Arizona State University’s top researchers, as they find novel solutions to a variety of challenges. "ASU Discovers: New Perspectives on Research" airs Monday, Oct. 22, at 9 p.m., on Eight, Arizona PBS.

Here’s a look at ASU research projects featured in the upcoming show: Download Full Image

NASA bone loss study – Are your bones getting stronger or weaker? Right now, it’s hard to know. Scientists at ASU and NASA are taking on this medical challenge by developing and applying a technique that originated in the Earth sciences. In a new study, this technique was more sensitive in detecting bone loss than the X-ray method used today, with less risk to patients. Eventually, it may find use in clinical settings, and could pave the way for additional innovative biosignatures to detect disease.

QESST – Solar energy has the capacity to meet the total demand for energy worldwide. This segment profiles the QESST (Quantum Energy and Sustainable Solar Technologies) Engineering Research Center and how it’s working to advance photovoltaic science and helping to develop cutting-edge technology in this quickly growing field.

Diabetes of Democracy – Arizona’s Latino community is especially at risk for Type 2 diabetes. This segment looks at a unique, interdisciplinary pilot study at ASU that combined theater arts, cooking demonstrations and hands-on learning to transform the ways in which people think about food.

"ASU Discovers: New Perspectives on Research" is made possible by ASU’s Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development. OKED advances research, innovation and entrepreneurship at ASU, promoting economic development in Arizona and beyond.

High hopes for students who launch balloon project

October 17, 2012

What began in the fall of 2011 as a class project has grown into something much bigger than expected. A group of Arizona State University students launched an experiment that could have far-reaching impacts on renewable energy and a reduction on the reliance of fossil fuels.

The group of seniors, led by Patrick McGarey and Amy Kaczmarowski, planned, designed, and recently launched a wind velocity experiment called the High Altitude Turbine Survey (HATS). HATS Download Full Image

McGarey, the project lead, graduated from ASU this spring with a degree in Earth & Space Exploration (Systems Design) and decided to stay on to see the project through. McGarey has been with the project since its inception last fall, when he and his team first crafted the project proposal in Professor Srikanth Saripalli’s School of Earth and Space Exploration (SESE) senior design class (SES 410/411).

With an initial plan in mind, the team began working through different ideas. Many different concepts were expressed and “… a lot of wacky ideas,” McGarey quipped.

HATS is studying high altitude wind energy generation by measuring changing performance characteristics of two micro-turbine airfoils (propellers) aboard a NASA high altitude balloon.  The balloon is similar to the one carrying Felix Baumgartner, the Red Bull Stratos iconic skydiver, to the edge of space. The study is looking at the feasibility of generating wind energy at high altitudes using specialized turbine airfoils, which would ideally be mounted on a tethered aerostat (stationary airborne platform).

The students’ project looks at wind power generated from turbine airfoils (propellers) at high altitudes. Seven miles into the air, the wind in the jet stream has been measured at more than 100 miles per hour. Harnessing this wind would provide a much more reliable source of wind energy than ground-based or off-shore wind farms currently offer.

Traditional ground-based wind energy has been less reliable due to high variability in wind and weather conditions on the surface. HATS may begin to open the door, making high altitude wind a more reliable renewable energy source.

The students aimed to create an apparatus for testing high altitude micro-turbine airfoils (propellers), to learn how propeller performance characteristics such as thrust and strain varied as the balloon went from sea level to over 24 miles in altitude.  Additionally, the students installed sensors to measure varying atmospheric / environmental conditions throughout the flight.

According to McGarey, the system has, “ …sensors including optical encoders, strain gauges, thermocouples, pressure gauges, and a digital weather station, [that]will provide environmental data throughout ascent and descent in order to create a velocity and thrust generation profile corresponding to altitude, pressure, and wind speed.”

The basis for the project began when Kaczmarowski, systems engineering lead, came across an article regarding high altitude energy systems, which inspired her to form the initial concept for the balloon-borne payload that would become HATS. The article illustrated the potential for high altitude wind power to realistically serve as a source for clean energy in the near future.

Beginning in spring of 2012 the team of students, with their faculty lead, professor Srikanth Saripalli, began to design and decide what was practical. They looked at what would work, using off-the-shelf items to develop the project. The team was grateful to receive funding from Saripalli’s ASTRIL field robotics laboratory and ASU/NASA Space Grant.

Later in May, testing began. Shay Cheeseman, another team member majoring in Earth & Space Exploration, programmed the software for the apparatus and refined the machine. The team worked within NASA guidelines and made sure everything met the requirements set forth from the High Altitude Student Platform (HASP), a program offered by Louisiana State University (LSU), NASA Balloon Program Office (BPO), and the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility (CSBF) that allows 12 student teams from around the country to fly scientific payloads into the upper reaches of the atmosphere.

Over the summer, McGarey traveled to CSBF in Palestine, Texas, and spent a week preparing the payload and getting ready to launch with fellow SESE student Alex Kafka. On September 1, from a different CSBF location in Fort Summer, New Mexico, McGarey attended the HASP balloon launch with the HATS payload attached.

The balloon, filled with over 11 million cubic feet of helium, was monitored as the half ton HASP payload traveled above 25,000 feet in altitude. The payload stayed airborne for over nine hours, traveling more than 500 miles across New Mexico and Arizona, even flying over ASU, before landing just west of Phoenix.

While the collected data will not be fully analyzed until later this year, McGarey and his team are calling the HATS mission a success.

“Anytime you create something that’s never been created before, you’re lucky enough to get functionality out of it,” McGarey explained.

That is precisely what happened. The payload did everything that it was designed to do, and there were no mechanical failures.

McGarey knows this is a field that very few have explored, with the exception of several exciting startup companies, who are currently developing working prototypes to harness airborne wind energy. Geothermal and solar energy are very popular, but harnessing high altitude wind is a field that has yet to be fully tapped.

Written by Heath Harris

Nikki Cassis

marketing and communications director, School of Earth and Space Exploration

ASU researchers to explore large-scale deployment of biomass energy crops

October 1, 2012

Arizona State University (ASU) researchers will embark on a novel renewable energy project with support from the National Science Foundation (NSF) through its Water Sustainability and Climate program (WSC).

NSF is providing $1.5 million to ASU to identify suitable locations across the United States where perennial biomass energy crops (e.g., miscanthus and switchgrass) could be grown sustainably. The five-year interdisciplinary project will integrate physical, agricultural and economic elements, embedded within a high-performance computing (HPC) framework, to identify geographically sustainable “hot-spots,” areas best-suited for expansion of perennial bioenergy crops. Miscanthus Download Full Image

“This effort brings together researchers from diverse backgrounds to explore critically important questions related to domestic energy security and large-scale climate change,” said Matei Georgescu, assistant professor in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning. Georgescu is the principal investigator of the project.

The use of corn for ethanol production carries side effects, including food security concerns owing to its use as a staple food crop. Use of perennial feedstocks, such as miscanthus or switchgrass, offers a promising opportunity to decrease reliance on the use of food crops for energy production. Their sustainable expansion and utility for renewable energy purposes could significantly offset use of fossil fuels and combat greenhouse gas-induced climate change.

To avoid competition with food crops, the WSC-ASU project team will determine whether large-scale deployment of perennial bioenergy crops is sustainable by focusing their efforts on abandoned and degraded farmland over the contiguous U.S.

“From water, climate and long-term sustainability points of view we need to improve our understanding of impacts from the deeper rooting system of perennials, including effects on the soil water column,” said Georgescu. “For example, is the soil water column replenished on an annual basis or is the drawdown going to adversely affect the crop’s growth during subsequent growing seasons, reducing crop yield and energy production in the long run?”

To explore these questions, state-of-the-art models will be utilized to quantify impacts and diagnose feedbacks on hydroclimate, assess effects on crop yield and evaluate economic profitability associated with perennial bioenergy crop growth in identified hot-spot areas.

“This research will explore biofuel development with a sophisticated analysis of its sustainability and impacts on hydroclimate, crop yield and economic valuation,” commented Luc Anselin, Director, Regent’s Professor and Walter Isard Chair in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning.

By focusing on the long-term sustainability potential of perennial biomass energy crops, the NSF funded project will initiate a new avenue of renewable energy research at ASU. 

“Through the transdisciplinary nature of our research, projects like these not only expand our renewable energy research capabilities, but provide new solutions that address global energy challenges,” said Sethuraman Panchanathan, senior vice president with the ASU Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development. “This project advances our knowledge in the area of biomass research, while creating increased possibilities for greater economic impact.”

The WSC-ASU team will focus their efforts on four coupled elements.

Georgescu, WSC-ASU team PI, will lead all hydro-climatic modeling activities aimed at revealing the most suitable hot-spots of sustainable perennial biomass energy expansion.

Netra Chhetri, co-PI and assistant professor with joint appointments in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, and Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes at ASU, will lead all crop modeling activities. Chhetri will quantify perennial biomass energy crop yield from the hot-spots and assess energy offset potential of U.S. consumption.

Michael Hanemann, co-PI and the ASU Julie A. Wrigley Chair in Sustainability and professor in the W.P. Carey School of Business, will oversee all economic modeling activities. Hanemann will evaluate economic potential for the production of perennial bioenergy crops in the U.S., incorporating a significant long-run sustainability constraint for land and water.

Alex Mahalov, co-PI and the Wilhoit Foundation Dean's Distinguished Professor in ASU’s School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences, will oversee the integration of all computing activities within ASU’s massively parallel HPC framework. Mahalov will lead the effort to enhance all economic and crop models with an ensemble-based uncertainty quantification strategy implemented in a distributed-memory parallel computing architecture. A simulated stochastic modeling system will be created to demonstrate developments.

All PIs are affiliated with ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability. The School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences, the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, and the Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes are all research units in ASU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Director, Media Relations and Strategic Communications