Highlight all of ASU's renewable energy research.

SRP, ASU launch research grant to support renewable energy

August 16, 2012

Salt River Project (SRP) and the Conservation and Renewable Energy Collaboratory (CREC) at ASU’s College of Technology and Innovation (CTI) have partnered to award grant funding for research and professional development initiatives in the areas of renewable energy and conservation.

This year the SRP-CREC grant selected three research projects for funding. The projects cover areas of emphasis that were outlined as priorities in sustainability and renewable energy. Download Full Image

“The research environment at CTI is defined by the real-world challenges our industry partners face,” said Mitzi Montoya, vice provost and dean of CTI. “The SRP-CREC grant program provides a platform for applied research through our faculty and facilities.”

In addition to its partnership with CREC, SRP has engaged with CTI on the college’s iProjects program. iProjects pair senior-level students with industry mentors to find solutions to real-world problems. Last year a student team worked with SRP employees to develop a microgrid system that will make solar and other alternative energy sources more reliable. This year a group of undergraduate students are investigating the potential use of algae to remove carbon dioxide from coal-fired power plant emissions.

“We are excited about this new research agreement with CTI. It builds on our longstanding research partnership with ASU, and will allow us to address important issues affecting SRP and our customers in areas where CTI’s faculty have significant expertise,” said John Sullivan, SRP’s associate general manager and chief resources executive. “This year’s projects involve innovative research in the long-term performance of solar photovoltaic systems, the efficiency of solar hot water heating systems, and the performance of batteries in arid climates.”

Solar hot water system testing and evaluation program at ASU Polytechnic
Researcher: Brad Rogers

The use of solar-assisted hot water systems has the potential to significantly reduce residential use of electricity. However, accurate data on the performance of installed units is elusive, as are data on the reliability and failure rates of the systems. A solar hot water testing facility has been developed by ASU through SRP’s support to address this issue. Two commercial systems installed at ASU’s Polytechnic campus are automatically controlled to simulate water usage of a family of four and measure process variables. The endurance test will characterize and compare the energy of the solar-assisted system to a control system.

Performance degradation and reliability evaluation of SRP’s Solar Photovaltaic Systems
Govindasamy Tamizhmani

Photovoltaic (PV) system installations continue to rise, making measuring and predicting their performance, reliability and availability more important to installers, integrators, investors and owners. Monitoring and analyzing the performance degradation and reliability of existing PV systems is essential to predicting the same for future systems. The ASU Photovoltaic Reliability Laboratory at the Polytechnic campus will evaluate the performance, reliability and availability of several solar PV power systems that SRP owns or maintains.

Reliability and performance evaluation of batteries in hot/dry climate
Arunachala Mada Kannan, Xihong Peng, Scott Pollat

State-of-charge (SoC) and state-of-health (SoH) determination is an increasingly important issue in battery technology in terms of both extending battery life and displaying the usable charge to the user before recharging and replacing. An accurate determination of SoC enables the user to manage the battery to its optimal potential. At elevated temperatures states of extremely high or low SoC can lead to irreversible damage in the battery. The main focus of this research is to develop and optimize methods to determine SoC and SoH for various types of batteries at high temperatures.

Engineering grad's skills help set stage for growth of children's care home

August 8, 2012

A private children’s residential care home in Mesa, Ariz., that has been serving its local community for almost 60 years will be better prepared to expand, thanks in part to the expertise of a recent Arizona State University engineering graduate.

During his final semester of study this past spring to earn a professional science master’s degree in the Solar Energy Engineering and Commercialization program, Sage Lopez helped the Sunshine Acres Children’s Home take steps to develop a cost-saving renewable-energy system. Sunshine Acres Solar Project Download Full Image

To meet growing needs, the home plans to expand infrastructure on its 110-acre ranch – from 40 buildings and capacity to serve about 70 children to more than 65 buildings with capacity to house and care for as many as 250 youngsters. But rising electricity costs had been looming as a threat to the viability of such an extensive expansion.

Sunshine Acres Children’s Home is a Christian-based organization supported almost entirely by private donations and resale of donated items.

Sustainable energy source

Last spring, Lopez was working as an intern for TUV Rheinland Photovoltaic Testing Laboratory, a photovoltaic energy technology safety and performance testing lab that operates in partnership with ASU. His manager at TUV, Jonathan Belmont – who is pursuing a master’s degree in alternative energy at ASU – knew about the Sunshine Acres energy-system project. Belmont encouraged Lopez to get involved.

Working with Milt Laflen, a member of a volunteer committee charged with ensuring the home’s future energy needs can be met, Lopez assisted in devising a solar-energy master plan designed to help control energy costs as Sunshine Acres grows.

He installed monitoring systems to provide real-time performance information for the power system.
He also worked with the facility’s power provider, the Salt River Project utility company, and with city of Mesa officials, to help clear the regulatory path for future installation of a “solar loop” that will efficiently distribute power throughout the site.

His work is helping Sunshine Acres get closer to its goals of having a “net-zero” energy system within 10 years. That means supplying all of the facility’s energy needs using only the electricity generated by its solar-power system.

Fulfilling endeavor

Among members of the home’s energy-system committee are Charles Backus, an ASU professor emeritus of engineering and provost emeritus of ASU’s Polytechnic Campus, and David Scheatzle, an ASU professor emeritus of architecture.

Backus says Lopez has made a valuable contribution to the electrical aspects of the energy-system design.  Scheatzle explains that Lopez’s work “was meaningful in helping to clarify the layout and specifications of the current power infrastructure, and he proposed alternatives for developing a unique electrical distribution master plan that will incorporate extensive ground-mounted solar arrays.”

The project has been especially fulfilling “because of the respect everyone involved has for Sunshine Acres and the great work done there,” Lopez says.

“There’s been a lot of goodwill coming together to make progress. Sunshine Acres is becoming its own electricity-distribution center, all for the purpose of helping children,” he says.

An Arizona Department of Commerce grant provided for technology to produce 8.2 kilowatts of solar power for Sunshine Acres’ offices and eight solar water heaters. TUV Rheinland donated solar modules and Salt River Project donated a 10-kilowatt system through its Earthwise Project to provide power for a dining hall.

A 300-kilowatt system was installed through a lease agreement with the Green Choice Solar company, and photovoltaic panels providing 167-kilowatts have been donated by Solon, a solar technology manufacturing company.

Sunshine Acres plans to use its expanding green-energy system as an educational tool to teach children about energy engineering and technology, says executive director Sean Sloan.

Opportunity for more students

Lopez says the wide-ranging skill set he honed in his degree program armed him with the combination of managerial, financial, technical and entrepreneurial know-how necessary to take on the Sunshine Acres job.

His education has prepared him to work not only with fellow engineers but with business managers; professionals in building, construction and design industries; policymakers; and utility regulators and social workers, among others, he says.

“There are opportunities for other ASU engineering students to get involved in the project,” Lopez says. “They can get experience applying their technical skills or just doing community service work. Either way, they can have a lasting positive impact on Sunshine Acres.”

Lopez is now using his education in an engineering job he landed in San Diego with Envision Solar. He’s designing next-generation technology – products called the Solar Tree Array and the Solar Tree Socket – for charging electric vehicles and electrical network metering.

Interest in solar studies increasing

The Solar Energy Engineering and Commercialization program, which offers a professional science master’s degree, is administered through the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy, one of ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

It kicked off in the 2011 spring semester with the aid of a National Science Foundation grant. Five of the six students initially enrolled in the program have since earned degrees. Six more are graduating this summer. Eleven new students will begin studies in the 2012 fall semester, bringing current enrollment to 17.

This program enables students with undergraduate training in STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and math – to expand their education across areas as such as energy engineering, project management, energy policy, utility regulation, professional ethics, and related fields.

The curriculum is guided by an industrial advisory board that helps to ensure courses provide knowledge and skills relevant to the solar-energy industry. Students benefit from an industry advisor in addition to a faculty advisor to guide their work on course projects in which they apply what they’re learning.

In partnership with ASU’s Consortium for Science and Policy Outcomes, students also participate in a week-long energy policy seminar held in Washington, D.C., to gain insight into energy policy making at national and international levels.

Learn more about the program.

Written by Joe Kullman and Rosie Gochnour

Joe Kullman

Science writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering


Student awarded for work to help develop sustainable nuclear energy technologies

July 31, 2012

Arizona State University engineering graduate student Robert McDonald has invitations to present his research at the upcoming American Nuclear Society winter meeting, participate in the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Fuel Cycle Technologies Annual Meeting and in a DOE-related Innovators’ Forum.

The opportunities are a result of McDonald recently winning an award in the DOE’s Innovation in Fuel Cycle Research Awards competition. McDonald DOE award Download Full Image

The award is based on research he presented last spring at an annual meeting of the Minerals, Metals and Materials Society from his report titled “Porosity Characterization of Surrogates for Oxide Nuclear Fuels: A Statistical Analysis of Correlations among Grain Boundary Misorientation, Pore Character and Location.”

McDonald conducted the research described in his report under the direction of Pedro Peralta, a professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering in the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy, one of ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. He will continue the work as part of Peralta’s research group as he pursues a master’s degree in materials science and engineering.

McDonald is examining trends in porosity found in sintered nuclear fuel pellets. Sintered materials are materials formed into a mass by heat and pressure.

Learning more about porosity is important for improving knowledge of the life cycle of nuclear fuel pellets. Understanding the initial conditions of pores in the pellets enables engineers to do more precise simulations and modeling of the pellets’ behavior when they are inserted in a nuclear reactor and while they are being processed.

The research is part of a larger project to determine the relationships between fuel-pellet processing conditions and the pellets’ microstructure and material properties. It’s a key step toward better understanding the optimal microstructure for oxide nuclear fuels. That knowledge is necessary to reduce the amount of radiotoxic materials that can be released during accidents, and to improve the durability and reliability of these fuels.

The DOE’s Innovations in Fuel Cycle Research Awards is part of the agency’s efforts to help advance development of sustainable nuclear energy technologies by encouraging students to pursue fuel-cycle research.  

In addition to the research presentation opportunities, McDonald received $1,500 as part of the award.

Read more about the Innovations in Fuel Cycle Research Award program.

Written by Joe Kullman and Natalie Pierce

Joe Kullman

Science writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering


ASU In the News

ASU partners with SRP to make solar a secure power source

The College of Technology and Innovation hosted the Innovation Showcase last week, spotlighting student and industry-sponsored projects, as part of the College's iProjects program. 

The Arizona Republic highlighted one specific iProject from CTI's partnership with SRP called the microgrid. 

"The project the Polytechnic students are working on for SRP is a 'microgrid' project to make the power grid more dependable as increasing numbers of homes install solar and other alternative-energy products. The project could help SRP and other utilities forecast how to manage the fluctuating power from high concentrations of rooftop solar and other distributed energy systems," writes Ryan Randazzo of the Arizona Republic.

The iProjects program at CTI brings students and industry together to find solutions to real-world problems. Through the iProjects program, industry partners have the opportunity to engage with the College and its students in a mutually beneficial relationship as challenges defined by industry partners are solved through the diligence of student teams working under the expertise of faculty members.

The microgrid and more than 100 other student and industry-sponsored projects were on display during the annual Innovaiton Showcase on April 25 at the Polytechnic campus.

"The ASU-SRP project will help electrical-engineering technology students understand such problems before entering the workforce, said senior lecturer Scott Pollat, who led the project for the College of Technology and Innovation," writes Randazzo.

Michael Hoffnagle, Eric Hinkson, Matt Ciochetto, Michael Brown and Kai Baumgartner, plus two graduate assistants. Senior lecturer Scott Pollat was teh faculty advisor for the team. 

Article Source: Arizona Republic

ASU solar program shines, tops 14.5 megawatts

February 13, 2012

Visitors to the Valley of the Sun who peer out their airplane windows while flying into Sky Harbor International Airport can see the glimmer from nearly 2,100 solar panels perched atop Wells Fargo Arena. The nearly 500-kilowatt installation lets the world know that ASU’s passion for harnessing the Sun’s rays and commitment to employing renewable energy continues moving forward.

The Wells Fargo Arena installation became active exactly two months after a solar structure came online at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication on the Downtown Phoenix campus. The 77-kilowatt Cronkite system marks ASU’s third campus of four to begin generating solar energy and was commemorated with an early-December event attended by officials from the City of Phoenix, Arizona Public Service and ASU. Download Full Image

The Fall 2011 semester marked bright times for ASU's solar initiatives. In early August, ASU announced construction plans for the PowerParasol – a 5.25-acre, first-of-its-kind solar-panel project by Arizona-based Strategic Solar Energy, LLC – designed to shade 800 parking spaces in Lot 59 on the Tempe campus. The PowerParasol came online in late December and the shaded space under the structures now is open for parking.

In early September, ASU surpassed 10 megawatts of total solar energy generating capacity when the 700-panel, 168-kilowatt Verde Dickey Dome structure became active on the ASU Tempe campus. The 10-megawatt pinnacle boosted ASU’s leadership in higher education for solar energy generation in the United States. To mark the momentous achievement, the university celebrated 10 megawatts with a ceremony attended by fiscal and energy partners at the ASU West campus.

A month later, ASU was named the Solar Partner of the Year by the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA). The award was created by SEPA to recognize the value that a solar partner can bring a utility in the development and/or implementation of a solar project.

At the end of 2011, ASU had 55 systems comprised of more than 58,000 panels with the capacity to generate 14.5 megawatts of solar energy. The support of third-party business partners who have invested more than $121 million into ASU’s solar program has been critical to reaching this leading position in higher education solar power production. These financial commitments ensure that the university has a reduced capital investment over time.  

The university’s leading solar energy-generation capacity also is made possible in part by the APS Renewable Energy Incentive program for our Tempe, Downtown Phoenix and West campuses. Our first solar projects at the Polytechnic campus currently are under way and mark a new venture with Salt River Project (SRP). ASU is poised to reach 15.3 megawatts before the end of the Spring 2012 semester and will have solar installations operating on all four campuses and at the ASU Research Park.

Since ASU introduced the first 34-kilowatt solar panel system to the Tempe campus in 2004 on the Tyler Street parking structure, the university has made tremendous strides in its solar program. As ASU continues toward its 20 megawatt goal in 2014, it upholds a pledge to reduce its carbon footprint and implement sustainability-minded solutions into the campus community.

To learn more about the university's solar initiatives visit http://asusolar.asu.edu/.

Wendy Craft

Marketing and communications manager, Business and Finance Communications Group


ASU, Stanford examine implications of bioenergy crops

January 31, 2012

Editor's Note: Arizona State University basketball will take on Stanford University on Feb. 2. The men’s teams will play at 7 p.m., at Stanford, and the women’s teams at 7 p.m., in Tempe. Read more about ASU's collaborations with Pac-12 schools.

A team of researchers from Arizona State University, Stanford University and Carnegie Institution for Science has found that converting large swaths of land to bioenergy crops could have a wide range of effects on regional climate. Download Full Image

In an effort to help wean itself off fossil fuels, the United States has mandated significant increases in renewable fuels, with more than one-third of the domestic corn harvest to be used for conversion to ethanol by 2018. But concerns about effects of corn ethanol on food prices and deforestation had led to research suggesting that ethanol be derived from perennial crops, like the giant grasses Miscanthus and switchgrass. Nearly all of this research, though, has focused on the effects of ethanol on carbon dioxide emissions, which drive global warming.

“Almost all of the work performed to date has focused on the carbon effects,” said Matei Georgescu, a climate modeler working in ASU’s Center for Environmental Fluid Dynamics. “We’ve tried to expand our perspective to look at a more complete picture. What we’ve shown is that it’s not all about greenhouse gases, and that modifying the landscape can be just as important.”

Georgescu and his colleagues reported their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Co-authors are David Lobell of Stanford University and Christopher Field of the Carnegie Institution for Science, both located in Stanford, Calif.

In their study, the researchers simulated an entire growing season with a state-of-the-art regional climate model. They ran two sets of experiments – one with an annual crop representation over the central United States and one with an extended growing season to represent perennial grasses. In the model, the perennial plants pumped more water from the soil to the atmosphere, leading to large local cooling.

“We’ve shown that planting perennial bioenergy crops can lower surface temperatures by about a degree Celsius locally, averaged over the entire growing season,” Lobell said. “That’s a pretty big effect, enough to dominate any effects of carbon savings on the regional climate.”

The primary physical process at work is based on greater evapotranspiration (combination of evaporated water from the soil surface and plant canopy and transpired water from within the soil) for perennial crops compared to annual crops.

“More study is needed to understand the long-term implication for regional water balance,” Georgescu said. “This study focused on temperature, but the more general point is that simply assessing the impacts on carbon and greenhouse gases overlooks important features that we cannot ignore if we want a bioenergy path that is sustainable over the long haul.”

Georgescu and Lobell have since started a new and exciting project extending their U.S. bioenergy crop work.

Written by Skip Derra

ASU chosen to compete in international solar home competition

January 27, 2012

Arizona State University has been selected to be part of one of 20 teams from universities and colleges throughout the United States and the world to compete in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2013.

ASU will team with the University of New Mexico (UNM) for the international competition to build energy-efficient, solar-powered houses “that combine affordability, consumer appeal and design excellence,” according to the DOE’s announcement. photovoltaic technology Download Full Image

At a Jan. 26 ceremony on the UNM campus to announce selection of the teams, DOE Secretary Steven Chu met with ASU/UNM team members, including ASU’s Katherine Muto, an engineering education doctoral student; James LeBeau, an electrical engineering doctoral student; and Edward Burgess, who is pursuing a master’s degree in the Solar Energy Engineering and Commercialization program.

Teams will begin a nearly two-year process of designing, constructing and testing their structures. They will reassemble the houses next year in Irvine, Calif., for the Solar Decathlon event at the Orange County Great Park.

Houses will be judged on architectural and engineering features, and how energy for heating and cooling is produced, among other things.

The competition provides ASU an opportunity to combine its educational and research resources in engineering, architecture, design and other disciplines “to tackle the pressing problem of energy sustainability,” says Christiana Honsberg, an engineering professor at ASU.

Honsberg is director of the ASU-based Quantum Energy and Sustainable Solar Technologies (QESST) Engineering Research Center (a national center supported by the DOE and the National Science Foundation) in which the University of New Mexico is a key partner.

Knowledge generated from QESST’s efforts to achieve advances in photovoltaic technology to harness solar power in economically viable and sustainable ways will be incorporated into the ASU/UNM team’s Solar Decathlon home design.

The competition “gives the engineers, architects, designers and energy entrepreneurs of the tomorrow a chance to contribute to advances that could enable all members of our community to benefit from the endless supply of energy from the sun,” Honsberg says.

The team will focus on developing building designs and energy systems best suited to the Southwest’s desert climate, says Matthew Fraser, ASU associate professor.

Fraser and Honsberg are senior sustainability scientists with the university’s Global Institute of Sustainability. Honsberg is also on the faculty of the School of Electrical, Computer, and Energy Engineering, and Fraser is on the faculty of the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment. The schools are part of ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

More information about Solar Decathlon 2013 and the universities and college teams selected to compete, see the Energy.Gov website.

Joe Kullman

Science writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering


ASU In the News

Student team converts dog waste into energy

The iProjects at ASU's College of Technology and Innovation bring students and industry together to find solutions to real-world problems. The City of Gilbert has partnered with one of the iProjects teams to design an anaerobic digester system that will convert dog waste into green energy.

This dog waste digester will be used at Cosmo Dog Park in Gilbert in an effort to minimize dog waste that is not properly disposed and waste that overwhelms landfills. The dog waste will be converted into methane gas that in turn generates energy to power a lamp at Cosmo Dog Park. Download Full Image

Article Source: EVB Live - Channel 12

New material can enhance energy, computer, lighting technologies

November 15, 2011

Crystal erbium compound offers superior optical properties

Arizona State University researchers have created a new compound crystal material that promises to help produce advances in a range of scientific and technological pursuits. Erbium crystal structure Download Full Image

Cun-Zheng Ning, an electrical engineering professor at ASU, says the material, called erbium chloride silicate, can be used to develop the next generations of computers, improve the capabilities of the Internet, increase the efficiency of silicon-based photovoltaic cells to convert sunlight into electrical energy, and enhance the quality of solid-state lighting and sensor technology.

Ning’s research team of team of students and post-doctoral degree assistants help synthesize the new compound in ASU’s Nanophotonics Lab in the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering, one of the university’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

The lab’s erbium research is supported by the U.S.  Army Research Office and U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research.  Details about the new compound are reported in the Optical Materials Express on the website of the Optical Society of America.

The breakthrough involves the first-ever synthesis of a new erbium compound in the form of a single-crystal nanowire, which has superior properties compared to erbium compounds in other forms.

 Erbium is one of the most important members of the rare earth family in the periodic table of chemical elements. It emits photons in the wavelength range of 1.5 micrometers, which are used in the optical fibers essential to high-quality performance of the Internet and telephones.

Erbium is used in doping optical fibers to amplify the signal of the Internet and telephones in telecommunications systems. Doping is the term used to describe the process of inserting low concentrations of various elements into other substances as a way to alter the electrical or optical properties of the substances to produce desired results. The elements used in such processes are referred to as dopants.

“Since we could not dope as many erbium atoms in a fiber as we wish, fibers had to be very long to be useful for amplifying an Internet signal. This makes integrating Internet communications and computing on a chip very difficult,” Ning explains.

“With the new erbium compound, 1,000 times more erbium atoms are contained in the compound. This means many devices can be integrated into a chip-scale system,” he says. “Thus the new compound materials containing erbium can be integrated with silicon to combine computing and communication functionalities on the same inexpensive silicon platform to increase the speed of computing and Internet operation at the same time.”
Erbium materials can also be used to increase the energy-conversion efficiency of silicon solar cells.

Silicon does not absorb solar radiation with wavelengths longer than 1.1 microns, which results in waste of energy – making solar cells less efficient.

Erbium materials can remedy the situation by converting two or more photons carrying small amounts of energy into one photon that is carrying a larger amount of energy. The single, more powerful photon can then be absorbed by silicon, thus increasing the efficiency of solar cells.

Erbium materials also help absorb ultraviolet light from the sun and convert it into photons carrying small amounts of energy, which can then be more efficiently converted into electricity by silicon cells.  This color-conversion function of turning ultraviolet light into other visible colors of light is also important in generating white light for solid-state lighting devices.

While erbium’s importance is well-recognized, producing erbium materials of high quality has been challenging, Ning says.

The standard approach is to introduce erbium as a dopant into various host materials, such as silicon oxide, silicon, and many other crystals and glasses.

“One big problem has been that we have not been able to introduce enough erbium atoms into crystals and glasses without degrading optical quality, because too many of these kinds of dopants would cluster, which lowers the optical quality,” he says.

What is unique about the new erbium material synthesized by Ning’s group is that erbium is no longer randomly introduced as a dopant. Instead, erbium is part of a uniform compound and the number of erbium atoms is a factor of 1,000 more than the maximum amount that can be introduced in other erbium-doped materials.

Increasing the number of erbium atoms provides more optical activity to produce stronger lighting. It also enhances the conversion of different colors of light into white light to produce higher-quality solid-state lighting and enables solar cells to more efficiently convert sunlight in electrical energy.
In addition, since erbium atoms are organized in a periodic array, they do not cluster in this new compound.  The fact that the material has been produced in a high-quality single-crystal form makes the optical quality superior to the other doped materials, Ning says.
Like many scientific discoveries, the synthesis of this new erbium material was made somewhat by accident.

“Similar to what other researchers are   doing, we were originally trying to dope erbium into silicon nanowires. But the characteristics demonstrated by the material surprised us,” he says. “We got a new material. We did not know what it was, and there was no published document that described it. It took us more than a year to finally realize we got a new single-crystal material no one else had produced.”  

Ning and his team are now trying to use the new erbium compound for various applications, such as increasing silicon solar cell efficiency and making miniaturized optical amplifiers for chip-scale photonic systems for computers and high-speed Internet.

“Most importantly,” he says, “there are many things we have yet to learn about what can be achieved with use of the material. Our preliminary studies of its characteristics show it has many amazing properties and superior optical quality. More exciting discoveries are waiting to be made.”

Learn more about Ning's nanophotonics group.


Joe Kullman

Science writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering


ASU In the News

Microbial realm holds key to more sustainable society

What Bruce Rittmann and his research colleagues are doing with microorganisms promises to help the world solve many of its energy and environmental challenges.

Rittmann is a professor in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, one of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University. He also directs the Swette Center for Environmental Biotechnology at the Biodesign Institute at ASU.

The center’s team is working at the forefront of engineering and science endeavors to “manage  microbial communities” in ways that could provide more sustainable processes to produce energy from renewable sources, clean up pollution and keep water supplies uncontaminated.

In an interview in a leading national magazine Rittmann reports on progress in his field –  for instance, development of a “photosynthetic factory” that uses photosynthesis to make bacteria into fuel molecules, resulting in what could become a viable nonpolluting alternative to burning fossil fuels.

He also talks about the big steps it will take to achieve true global sustainability, such as dealing with the buildup of atmospheric carbon dioxide and the impact of the depletion of phosphorous on agriculture.

Plus, he comments on the advantages of graduate students over technology when it comes to getting good help in the lab.

Rittman was also interviewed recently about renewable resources issues by National Public Radio science correspondent Joe Palca for a podcast sponsored by the National Academies Keck Futures Initiative.


Article Source: The Atlantic
Joe Kullman

Science writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering