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ASU students experience cutting-edge technology at Sandia National Lab


May 27, 2014

In early April, a group of Arizona State University graduate students descended upon Sandia National Laboratory in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to engage with current energy leaders and interact with new energy technologies.

The ASU student group is part of the Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship: Solar Utilization Network (IGERT SUN) program that seeks to train interdisciplinary doctoral students in a number of solar energy conversion areas to tackle next-generation, global energy challenges through a wide range of perspectives. ASU IGERT SUN students at Sandia National Lab Download Full Image

The students who toured Sandia's laboratories were impressed with the technology they were able to see and learn about while talking with Sandia officials.

"The energy technology that impressed me the most at Sandia was the 'Sunshine to Petrol' project," said chemistry and biochemistry doctoral student Joseph Laureanti. "The project utilizes a 2-3 story parabolic mirror that, basically, concentrates and focuses the solar irradiation to a small area to produce intense heat. The size of the parabolic dish was staggering, almost scary, but nonetheless, very cool."

Sandia offered a unique opportunity for students to tour the national lab, to get an up-close, hands-on view of Sandia’s multiple concentrated solar power and solar furnace technologies, as well as an inside look at research possibilities and resources available to national lab scientists and engineers, should they decide on a similar career path. The site visit also allowed Sandia to showcase some of its latest cutting-edge solar energy technologies, where students could witness the kinds of possibilities and potential research opportunities available to them upon graduation.

Sandia engineer, Charles Andraka, said he enjoyed the student interactions.

“The students appeared to be genuinely excited to be here and were very engaged in the various visits,” he said. “The whole team was appreciative of the exposure to the many Sandia technologies. We often have groups, students or otherwise, who are primarily engineers. The diversity of backgrounds added to the dynamic discussions.”

The IGERT SUN 2012 is the first six-student cohort to complete the five-year, $3 million National Science Foundation-funded program. The program requires six site visits as part of its coursework, and the site visits class is the final course in the two-year curriculum.

The goal is to create a series of students who seek to address a variety of interdisciplinary energy issues – from technology to policy to the social implications of human energy use – in shifting from a fossil fuel-based society to one based on sustainable, renewable energy sources. This is achieved through practical application experiences in real-world energy scenarios where commercial, government and national laboratory leaders are already facing these immediate challenges. The site visits currently span between a number of energy entities in Arizona and New Mexico.

The Arizona State University IGERT SUN program is just one of the ways ASU and Sandia are working together to confront renewable energy challenges. In August 2013, ASU and Sandia signed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate on energy research, build educational energy programs and workforce development, and inform better energy policy. The IGERT SUN student visit is just one component of advancing these shared institutional goals.

See more photos and interviews with students who toured Sandia National Laboratory on Research Matters.

US Navy supports ASU's development of algae-based biofuels


May 27, 2014

The similarities between the U.S. Navy and civilian cities and industry may not be readily apparent, said Dennis McGinn, U.S. Navy Assistant Secretary for Energy, Installations and Environment, but in the realm of energy use and reliability, there are often parallel problems to be solved. Where there are overlapping issues, such as cost, sustainability, efficiency and energy security, McGinn said the Navy is interested in working with research institutions and industry to improve the energy outlook for all.

“We are thinking about energy in three different ways: first in technology terms; biofuels, wind and solar energy storage, power grid systems and more,” McGinn said during a visit to Arizona State University. “But it takes two other critical elements to achieve our energy goals: partnerships and culture. This is why we’re interested in forging and strengthening relationships with outstanding organizations like ASU.” U.S. Navy Assistant Secretary Dennis McGinn at AzCATI Download Full Image

While the Department of the Navy broadly funds energy research, another key aspect is its considerable influence in setting purchasing standards for their operations. The Navy is using its authority under the Defense Production Act, which allows the Navy, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to invest in industries that are determined critical to national security; in this case, biofuels. McGinn said that the Navy has already invested millions in projects with the DOE and USDA in order to bring down the cost of producing biofuel.

“The Navy wants to buy anywhere between 10 and 50 percent biofuel blends for our ships,” he said. “We want it to be a cost-competitive program. We are working specifically with the USDA to bring down biofuel costs to $3.50 a gallon or less at the commercial scale of 170 million gallons a year by 2016.”

As part of his visit to ASU, McGinn toured the Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation (AzCATI) at the Polytechnic campus in Mesa. As the largest university-based algae facility on the globe, AzCATI leads the DOE-funded national algae testbed, the Algae Testbed Public-Private Partnership (ATP3). The Navy has interest in the work done by AzCATI and ATP3, especially if the cost of creating algae biofuels can shrink to compete with traditional fuel markets, McGinn said.

“The Department of the Navy is very interested in developing alternative transportation fuel to power our fleets,” he said. “Algae biofuel represents great potential in that it is sustainable and scalable. That’s why we’re interested in working with ASU and the industry to advance this technology."

The use of U.S.-made, renewable fuels may not only assist the Navy in becoming more sustainable and independent, but it may also help the nation achieve even better national and economic security.

“Globally, there is a continuing overreliance on fossil fuel. And while we are very appreciative and view it as a blessing to our country to have this current oil and gas boom, in the national security business we get paid to look over the long-term horizon,” said McGinn. “When we look 15 or 20 years out into the future, we see significant potential for great competition, and even conflict, related to increasing world demand for petroleum.”

ASU In the News

Secretary of the Navy gives talk on energy security, US military


On April 24, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus visited Arizona State University’s Global Institute of Sustainability as part of the Wrigley Lecture Series to discuss energy security in the context of the U.S. military.

Kristen Hwang, a student at ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and School of Earth and Space Exploration, reported on the event for Slate’s Future Tense channel.

“Environmentalists may laud Sec. Mabus for his Earth-friendly agenda, but finding alternative energy sources to fuel ships and aircraft is about war, not climate change,” writes Hwang.

At the event, Mabus referred to reducing carbon emissions and combating climate change as “side effects,” and asserted that the primary reason for the Navy’s shift toward alternative energy sources is “to become better warfighters” and reduce the Navy’s reliance on foreign-controlled energy reserves.

Mabus also said that the Navy and Marine Corps are on-track to meeting the energy goals he laid out in 2009, which include supplying half of all naval energy needs with alternative sources. “We’re going to meet these goals. It’ll make us better at our jobs. It’ll make us better warfighters. And it will make us and the world far more secure.”

Cultivating alternative energy sources is a pressing issue for all branches of the U.S. military - the Department of Defense is the world’s largest consumer of fossil fuels, with an annual fuel budget of about $15 billion.

To learn more about Mabus’ visit to ASU, including connections between a shift to alternative energy and relations between the U.S. and Russia, read the full article at Future Tense.

Future Tense is a collaboration among ASU, the New America Foundation and Slate magazine that explores how emerging technologies affect policy and society.

Article Source: Slate magazine
Joey Eschrich

program manager, Center for Science and the Imagination

480-442-2682

ASU delivers workshop on wind energy in Fiji


April 23, 2014

A two-day workshop for policymakers, focused on small wind energy systems, was recently held in Fiji by Arizona State University’s Vocational Training and Education for Clean Energy program.

This global program, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, works to improve sustainability of renewable energy infrastructure and investments in developing countries by increasing awareness, knowledge and capacity of local stakeholders, primarily in decentralized clean energy technologies. Participants in wind energy workshop Download Full Image

The April 5-6 workshop was held in Nadi, Fiji, and led by ASU, in cooperation with the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s regional Oceania program.

“Wind energy can potentially be a valuable source of renewable energy system in some parts of the Pacific region,” said Anshuman Razdan, a professor in the Department of Engineering at ASU's College of Technology and Innovation and the administrative principal investigator of the training and education program. Razdan also is the director of ASU’s Advanced Technology Innovation Center.

The workshop covered the energy market, resource assessment, siting tools and procedures, turbine technology, economics and policies, and environmental considerations for siting wind energy projects.

Adding wind power to the menu can give Pacific Island nations a mix of renewable resources to provide round-the-clock energy. In appropriate locations, small wind turbines, ranging from 15 kilowatts to 100 kilowatts, can provide energy to remote rural areas, reducing dependency on imported fossil fuels and reducing the emission of greenhouse gases.

Workshop participants included 32 high-level officials and policymakers, including representatives of Pacific-based donors and local non-governmental organizations. They included senior government and industry officials from the Cook Islands, Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Palau, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

Other attendees included regional and donor representatives from the United Nations Development Program, the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, the International Renewable Energy Agency, the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme, the European Union and The University of the South Pacific.

John Hogan, director of the Economic Development Division at the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, told participants about the importance of building capacity of renewable energy, including wind. He said the training furthers the work that the Secretariat is coordinating under the Framework for Actions for Energy Security in the Pacific.

Dennis Scanlin, professor and coordinator of the Appropriate Technology Program at Appalachian State University in North Carolina, and Ambika P. Adhikari, a research program manager at ASU’s Office of Knowledge Enterprise and Development, discussed the technical, financial and environmental issues involved in assessing the viability and introduction of small wind energy technology.

Workshop leaders noted that the feasibility of wind energy in the Pacific region depends on financing and funding policies, including government subsidies, tax incentives, penalties and rebates.

Students to demonstrate algae projects during public events


April 21, 2014

Learn how algae can not only be used to clean Arizona’s wastewaters, but be turned into a renewable energy source and other valuable products May 1-2 at the Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation (AzCATI) on Arizona State University's Polytechnic campus.

Students from Arizona universities will demonstrate their projects to the public at the Innovation Showcase May 1, and during a formal public presentation workshop May 2. The multi-university collaboration is made possible by funding and support from the Arizona Board of Regents. Download Full Image

Tour the labs and the green algae testbed fields of the Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation from 3-6:30 p.m., May 1, during the Innovation Showcase, hosted by the College of Technology and Innovation. Throughout the showcase, Arizona State University, University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University faculty and students will discuss their algae projects, and AzCATI representatives will host tours throughout the center. Stop by the AzCATI booth at the Innovation Showcase in the Sun Devil Fitness Complex to learn about algae and begin a guided site tour.

Students from each of the three universities will inspire participants again from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., May 2, as they give in-depth insight into their leading-edge research. Tours of the AzCATI facility will also occur immediately following this event.

Innovation Showcase

Where: Sun Devil Fitness Complex and the Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation (Interdisciplinary Science and Technology Building III, room 191)

When: 3-6:30 p.m., May 1

Parking: Visitor Parking Available in Lot 49

For more information about the Innovation Showcase, visit http://innovation.asu.edu/innovation-showcase.

Using Wastewater for Mass Culture of Algae for Food, Feed and Fuel Presentations

Where: Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation (Interdisciplinary Science and Technology Building III, room 191)

When: 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., May 2

Parking: Visitor Parking Available in Lot 49

For information about the Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation, visit azcati.com.

ASU engineers working to make nuclear energy generation safer


April 17, 2014

Two Arizona State University engineers are leading research projects aimed at finding safer and more effective ways for the nation to use nuclear energy.

Yongming Liu and Pedro Peralta have each been awarded an $800,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Nuclear Energy University Program to help develop innovative technologies and solutions to meet nuclear energy challenges. portraits of ASU engineering professors Yongming Liu (left) and Pedro Peralta Download Full Image

Peralta is a professor and Liu is an associate 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.

Predicting nuclear fuel behavior

Peralta’s work will focus on gaining a deeper understanding of the chemical and mechanical processes taking place in the core of a nuclear reactor. That includes research to reveal more about the how various materials in a reactor core behave under extreme conditions.

He will team on the project with Ken McClellan, a technical staff member in the Materials Science and Technology Division at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, and Peter Hosemann, an assistant professor of nuclear engineering at the University of California, Berkeley.

They will more precisely examine the ceramic fuels, gases and chemical compounds that interact in the extremely hot and radioactive environment inside a reactor core.

Radioactive fission and other processes that occur in the core can cause materials to swell, change chemical composition and react in other unstable ways. Components in a reactor system could break – or even melt – under such conditions, which would compromise the safety and efficiency of the system.

“To predict what nuclear reactors will do under certain conditions, we have to understand at the microstructure level how materials are going to behave,” Peralta says, “and you have to know precisely what is happening in each process taking place inside the reactor core to understand how to control and improve the whole nuclear energy generation process.”

That knowledge is the basis for developing models to reveal what fuels and other components will do under variable conditions. “This enables you to predict what will happen so you can prevent or respond to malfunctions and accidents,” Peralta explains.

His team wants to make it possible to perform computer simulations that will eventually accurately predict nuclear fuel behavior.

Better detection of materials damage

Like Peralta’s work, Liu will also do research to help pave the way to the next generation of nuclear energy systems.

Liu’s partner on the project is Caglar Oskay, an associate professor of civil engineering at Vanderbilt University, with expertise in computational mechanics and multiscale simulation. The research team is also working closely with Richard Wright, a staff scientist in the Materials Science and Engineering Department of the Idaho National Laboratory.

They will collaborate on developing advanced techniques to examine the properties of metal alloys used in nuclear reactors, with the goal of gaining deeper knowledge about how creep and fatigue damage initiate, propagate and interact with each other in the materials.

Creep refers to the tendency of solid materials to slowly deform due to prolonged exposure to high levels of stress or heat.

Using in situ scanning electron microscopy testing, the researchers plan to devise new materials testing techniques to provide better microscale damage analysis and prediction.

Creep and fatigue occurs in many nuclear plant components at elevated temperatures. The degradation of these components has significant impact on system safety and reliability.

“Most existing studies focus on the fatigue-dominated failure modes, but the material under operational conditions is creep dominated.” Liu explains. “Our proposed novel testing procedures will observe the damage evolution in real time under operation-like conditions, and will provide support for the future design of the next-generation nuclear power system.”

There are also expected to be applications for the project’s research findings in improving the testing, analysis and prediction of damage to materials used in aircraft and related technology.

Liu and Peralta say much of what is known about nuclear energy systems is based primarily on general observations made over the years, but their work will help provide a more scientifically verifiable and comprehensive body of knowledge about nuclear energy generation and the materials and systems used to produce it.

The professors plan to give ASU graduate and undergraduate students opportunities to participate in the research projects.

Joe Kullman

Science writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

480-965-8122

ASU, IRENA to develop solar tech certification program in West Africa


March 10, 2014

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and Arizona State University signed an agreement this week to develop a solar certification program for West Africa. The two institutions have teamed up to promote and initiate the implementation of harmonized certification programs of technicians for off-grid, as well as grid-connected solar photovoltaic (PV) energy systems in West Africa. This program aims to develop workforce capacity for the deployment of solar PV systems, a fast-growing form of renewable energy with excellent potential for providing energy security and economic development in the region.

“West Africa needs more skilled technicians to accelerate the deployment of solar PV, and it is part of IRENA’s mission to support this through knowledge sharing, provision of expertise and international cooperation,” said Gauri Singh, director of IRENA’s Country Support and Partnerships division. “Our collaboration with ASU supports this effort by providing a standard for excellence in the sector, which ultimately will help West African countries to reap the benefits of solar power.” technicians working on solar energy systems Download Full Image

The certification of the different levels of technicians will improve confidence of customers in renewable energy technologies and the technicians who implement them, and it also will support the employability of the technicians by providing them with recognized skill levels.

“ASU is a worldwide leader in PV solar research, power-grid management and sustainability,” said Paul Johnson, dean of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at ASU. “We are excited to be collaborating with IRENA to share our expertise and help build the local technical capacity in West Africa.”

The IRENA and ASU collaboration will include the preparation and implementation of one- or two-day workshops in selected countries in West Africa with key stakeholders to garner political and policy level support for the initiative. The stakeholders will include certifying agencies, national and regional training institutions, government agencies, training providers, utility companies and regulatory authorities.

“Establishing human competency standards followed by appropriate training and certification is essential to the success of renewable energy efforts in the developing countries, and ASU welcomes IRENA as the sponsoring collaborator in helping organize this effort,” said Anshuman Razdan, professor in engineering and computing systems at ASU and principal investigator of the collaboration.

The initiative will help establish national and regional technical committees to guide and oversee the development of technical competency standards for the solar certification training courses. The project will also develop technical guidelines for the solar energy technology training programs for each level of certification.

Ariz. universities collaborate to grow algae from wastewater


March 10, 2014

Arizona universities are working together to turn the state’s waste to gold – or at least renewable fuel. As part of an Arizona Board of Regents-funded project, students and researchers from Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University and the University of Arizona are collaborating to grow algae using wastewater. The algae can then be harvested to create fuel, feed and food products.

The collaboration is designed to advance the application of algae in Arizona as an industry to produce valuable products and remediate wastewater, and to educate and develop a workforce to support the industry. The goal is to maximize Arizona’s resources. student pouring growth media into algae-filled column Download Full Image

On March 7, the public was invited to learn about the ongoing projects at each university. The University of Arizona will host a public forum to present student work and projects, which range from aquaculture to the study of algal DNA and the use of saline waters to grow algae. Contact jsmith@ag.arizona.edu for more information.

This event follows the initial public presentation held at NAU on November 2, 2013, which introduced the variety of projects that Arizona university students are focusing on to advance Arizona’s algaculture.

“It was a great first meeting,” says Terry Baxter, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at NAU. “The students not only gave wonderful presentations about their work in a public setting, but they have become much more aware of how important it is to work together across the three institutions.” In addition to informing the public, these meetings also allow researchers from each of the public institutions to share information, generate and discuss new ideas, and develop new approaches that can ultimately advance the work that is being done in Arizona.

Arizona serves as an ideal location for algae research, with expansive non-arable land suitable for algae farms and more than 330 sunny days per year to encourage algae growth through photosynthesis. More than 40 algae-related enterprises are located throughout the state, including industries stemming from university research.

The project is funded by the Arizona Board of Regents Technology and Research Initiative Fund.

To learn more about the ASU Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation, visit azcati.com.

For more information about the NAU algae program, contact Terry Baxter, at terry.baxter@nau.edu.

To learn more about the UA algae research, contact Kim Ogden, at ogden@email.arizona.edu or Randy Ryan, at rryan@ag.arizona.edu.

Leaders discuss Arizona's new energy plan at Solar Summit


February 24, 2014

Policy leaders, industry partners and energy experts gathered at ASU SkySong Feb. 20 to discuss the future of solar energy in Arizona at Arizona Solar Summit IV. The event featured the first public unveiling of the state’s new master energy plan, “emPOWER Arizona: Executive Energy Assessment and Pathways.” Gov. Jan Brewer signed the executive order on Feb. 18, making it the state’s first comprehensive energy plan in more than 20 years.

The Arizona Solar Summit – hosted by Arizona State University LightWorks, ASU SkySong and the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, and sponsored by NRG – provided the first opportunity for the public to learn about the master plan. Leisa Brug, Brewer’s energy policy advisor and director of the Governor's Office of Energy Policy, led a panel discussion on the plan and its goals. Brug said that Arizona is already ahead of other states in terms of energy policy, and the new master plan will help the state continue to be a national leader in the field. William Harris, president and CEO of Science Foundation Arizona Download Full Image

“We’ll be a national model,” Brug said. “We see this as a tremendous way to buoy up our solar industry.”

The plan seeks to make Arizona a "collaboratory" of policy leaders, energy experts and universities.

“We have tremendous opportunity in this state,” said Gary Dirks, director of the ASU Global Institute of Sustainability and ASU Lightworks. “Arizona has excellent physical and intellectual assets to advance the new plan and make Arizona an energy leader.”

Arizona’s new energy plan wasn’t the only issue covered at the event. Brug’s was among several panels that touched on topics critical to the state’s solar industry, including the future of utility sector, carbon dioxide mitigation, energy efficiency in the built environment and more.

Keynote speaker William Harris, president and CEO of Science Foundation Arizona, encouraged the audience to get engaged with the issue of climate change. He illustrated the way carbon dioxide emissions have rapidly increased since the Industrial Revolution and expressed a need to optimize our current system, starting with K-12 education.

"People use this word ‘sustainability’ so often I don’t even know what it means,” Harris said. “I like how Charlie Bayless described it: ‘Treat the planet like you intend to stay.’ Get involved, stay involved and work with this issue."

The Arizona Solar Summit seeks to create meaningful change in the solar industry by bringing together solar experts in a variety of fields and creating networks of active participants in new solar technology, energy policy and forward-thinking innovations to reshape and revitalize Arizona’s energy markets. This year’s summit is part of the inaugural Walton Sustainability Solutions Festival, an ASU initiative that encourages and celebrates innovators, entrepreneurs and creative thinkers who seek to find solutions to sustainability challenges.

With more than 300 days of sunshine per year, access to high-quality public research institutions and a plethora of energy industry experts, Arizona is naturally poised to create a high-impact solar economy and be a global leader in solar energy.

For more information about the Arizona Solar Summit, visit azsolarsummit.org.

ASU In the News

Outlook for sustainable energy is sunny in Arizona


Sethuraman "Panch" Panchanathan discusses energy research in his latest column in The Arizona Republic. Panchanathan is the senior vice president for ASU's Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development.

Panchanathan describes the importance of developing and advancing sustainable and affordable sources of energy. He provides examples of how ASU researchers are working in related areas, such as renewable fuels from algae and cyanobacteria, solar panels and photovoltaics, as well as the work happening with policymakers to ensure that our legal, social and economic systems can support renewable energy solutions.

"Ensuring our future energy supply will require a suite of solutions, not a one-size-fits-all answer,” said Panchanathan.

To learn more about exciting discoveries and inventions at ASU, follow Panchanathan's column, which appears on a monthly basis in the Opinions section.

Article Source: The Arizona Republic

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