Biofuel for Jets Could Cut Carbon Emissions Over 80 Percent

Tech Today

by Marcia Goodrich, senior writer

The seeds of a lowly weed could cut jet fuel’s cradle-to-grave carbon emissions by 84 percent.

David Shonnard, Robbins Chair Professor of Chemical Engineering, conducted an analysis of jet fuel made from camelina oil to measure its carbon dioxide emissions over the course of its life cycle, from planting to tailpipe. “Camelina jet fuel exhibits one of the largest greenhouse gas emission reductions of any agricultural feedstock-derived biofuel I’ve ever seen,” he said. “This is the result of the unique attributes of the crop–its low fertilizer requirements, high oil yield and the availability of its coproducts, such as meal and biomass, for other uses.”

Camelina sativa originated in Europe and is a member of the mustard family, along with broccoli, cabbage and canola. Sometimes called false flax or gold-of-pleasure, it thrives in the semi-arid conditions of the Northern Plains; the camelina used in the study was grown in Montana.

Oil from camelina can be converted to a hydrocarbon green jet fuel that meets or exceeds all petroleum jet fuel specifications. The fuel is a “drop-in” replacement that is compatible with the existing fuel infrastructure, from storage and transportation to aircraft fleet technology. “It is almost an exact replacement for fossil fuel,” Shonnard explained. “Jets can’t use oxygenated fuels like ethanol; they have to use hydrocarbon replacements.”

Shonnard conducted the life cycle analysis for UOP LLC, of Des Plaines, Ill., a subsidiary of Honeywell and a provider of oil refining technology. In an April 28 release, it cited Boeing executive Billy Glover, managing director of environmental strategy, who called camelina “one of the most promising sources for renewable fuels that we’ve seen.”

“It performed as well if not better than traditional jet fuel during our test flight with Japan Airlines earlier this year and supports our goal of accelerating the market availability of sustainable, renewable fuel sources that can help aviation reduce emissions,” Glover said. “It’s clear from the life cycle analysis that camelina is one of the leading near-term options and, even better, it’s available today.”

Because camelina needs little water or nitrogen to flourish, it can be grown on marginal agricultural lands. “Unlike ethanol made from corn or biodiesel made from soy, it won’t compete with food crops,” said Shonnard. “And it may be used as a rotation crop for wheat, to increase the health of the soil.”

Tom Kalnes is a senior development associate for UOP in its renewable energy and chemicals research group. His team used hydroprocessing, a technology commonly used in the refining of petroleum, to develop a flexible process that converts camelina oil and other biological feedstocks into green jet fuel and renewable diesel fuel.

As to whether we will all be flying in plant-powered aircraft, his answer is, “It depends.”

“There are a few critical issues,” Kalnes said. “The most critical is the price and availability of commercial-scale quantities of second-generation feedstocks. Today the cost for camelina, and other second-generation feedstock options like jatropha and algae, remains higher than the cost of crude oil, and there are still only limited amounts available. Further technology development is needed to drive down the costs and ramp up to commercial-scale harvesting. We are seeing great momentum in this area and believe that biofuels made using camelina will be commercially available for blending into the diesel and jet fuel supplies in the next three to five years. This is much sooner than many imagined.”

Additionally, more farmers need to be convinced to grow a new crop, and refiners must want to process it.

“But if it can create jobs and income opportunities in rural areas, that would be wonderful,” he said.


Graduate Students Earn Honors

Published in Tech Today.

CEE Professors, Graduate Student Win Rudolph Hering Medal
Alex Mayer and David Hand, both professors of civil and environmental engineering, and Karen Endres, a former PhD student, have been named winners of the 2009 Rudolph Hering Medal from the American Society of Civil Engineers. The award is given annually for the best paper on environmental engineering or water resources published in an ASCE journal during the previous year.

Their award-winning paper is titled “Equilibrium versus Nonequilibrium Treatment Modeling in the Optimal Design of Pump-and-Treat Groundwater Remediation Systems.”

The prize is a prestigious one among environmental engineers. The medal will be presented at the Environmental and Water Resources Institute Annual Congress May 17 in Kansas City.

Graduate Student Awarded Travel Assistance to Railway Conference
Graduate student Shane Ferrell, a member of the Rail Transportation Program, was awarded $1,800 in travel assistance from the International Heavy Haul Association to attend its June 2009 conference in Shanghai, China.

The Rail Transportation Program at Michigan Tech was established by the Michigan Tech Transportation Institute in 2007. The program provides rail-related education and research activities, engaging students and faculty with industry partners.


Graduate student and faculty talk about rail transportation

Published in Tech Today.

Pasi Lautala, director of the Rail Transportation Program, and graduate student Shane Ferrell, president of the Rail Engineering and Activities Club (REAC), were invited guests of Dick Storm recently on his “Keeping It in the UP” radio program on WOLV 97.7.

To download an MP3 file of the interview, which focuses on rail transportation in North American and rail activities at Michigan Tech, click here.


Faculty, Grad Students Design Activities for High School Biology Competition

Published in Tech Today

The 20th Annual Department of Biological Sciences Bio-Athlon for high school students will be held Wednesday, May 5, on campus. The Bio-Athlon is the department’s outreach program, which serves to stimulate interest and problem solving in biology among area youth. Sixty students from 15 Upper Peninsula high schools will participate in activities designed by Michigan Tech faculty members and graduate students of the department.

Each team will be comprised of four students, who will not have had formal course work in biology beyond the traditional sophomore-level high school general biology class. All teams will tackle the same four problems:

* “Dissection,” designed by Associate Professor Ronald Gratz

* “Windows to the Microscopic World: Freshwater Algae Unite!” designed by doctoral candidates Meagan Harless and Sarah Kiemle

* “Field Identification,” designed by Associate Professor Robert Keen

* “Fundamental Biological Principles,” designed by Professor of Practice Karyn Fay, Senior Lecturer Alice Soldan and graduate student Tara Waybrant

Students will be judged on organizational skills, knowledge of facts and concepts, laboratory skills and creativity.

Each member of the first-place team will receive a $200 US savings bond; the second-place team will receive a $100 US savings bond; and the third-place team will receive a $50 US savings bond. As well, a plaque will be awarded to each of the three teams. Every participant will receive a certificate of participation and a Bio-Athlon T-shirt.

Funding is provided by Michigan Tech Admissions, the Department of Biological Sciences, the Michigan Tech Fund and the following alumni: Mark Cowan, M.D.; Robert DellAngelo, M.D.; Olive Cornish Kimball, D.Ed., Ph.D.; and Sandra Lewin, of the Michigan Tech Fund.


Spring Graduates – May 11, 2009 deadline

To graduate in the spring semester 2009, graduate students must have all final paperwork submitted and approved no later than May 11th by 4pm.  All forms are online with a detailed list for each degree type.  Final items typically include:

  • A final thesis, report, or dissertation
  • Binding order form (TD-Bindery, theses and dissertations)
  • Life After Michigan Tech form
  • Report on Final Oral Examination (M6/D8)
  • Survey of Earned Doctorates (for PhD students only)

Students should contact Nancy Byers Sprague for questions related to degree auditing, and Debra Charlesworth for questions related to theses and dissertations.


Board of Control Approves Nine New Degrees

Published in Tech Today
By Marcia Goodrich, senior writer

Nine new degree programs–most of them in computer engineering and business–were approved last Friday at the Board of Control meeting.

The board’s action included final approval for a Master of Science and a PhD in Computer Engineering, which were initially approved at the Board’s March meeting and sent to the State Academic Affairs Office for review and endorsement. Computer engineering is a hybrid discipline born of computer science and electrical engineering.

One of the seven new degree program proposals approved to advance to the State Academic Affairs Office is a Master of Science and PhD in Applied Cognitive Science and Human Factors.

Applied cognitive science applies the principles of cognitive psychology to develop practical solutions for real-world problems such as effective teaching methods.

Human factors is a multi-disciplinary science within the framework of cognitive science that focuses on human needs in the design of products, work processes and technological systems. It is an emerging discipline critical to technological advancement.

The six remaining new degree proposals are all for bachelor of science degrees with majors in various business disciplines, including accounting, finance, management, management information systems, marketing and operations and systems management.

The new BS degrees replace the Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (BSBA) with concentrations in specialty areas, which the School of Business and Economics now offers. The BS adds recognition to the degree and should help increase the job placement rates at graduation.

“These new degree programs will enable Michigan Tech to remain ahead of the curve–academically and in terms of preparing students for a changing job market,” said President Glenn Mroz.


SFRES Honors Students and Faculty with Awards and Laughs

Tech Today

Submitted by Carrie Richards, SFRES

Guests enjoyed an evening of tributes and humor when students, faculty and staff gathered at the School’s atrium for the annual Forest Jubilee Night. A creative menu featured foods from the forest that ranged from elk meatballs to wild blueberry cobbler.

Dean Peg Gale presented awards to

* Marcella Campione–Outstanding Senior in Forestry

* Laura Kangas–Outstanding Senior in Applied Ecology and Environmental Science

* Daniel Wilber–Outstanding Senior in Wildlife Ecology and Management

* Chris Miller–Outstanding Graduate Student Award

* Nicholas Windmuller–Outstanding Service Award (undergraduate)

* Trevor Hahka–Outstanding Service Award (graduate student)

* Jennifer Kopinski–School Scholar

* Auriel Van Der Laar–Woman of Promise

The students recognized the hard work and dedication of their mentors by presenting awards to

* Associate Professor Robert Froese–Outstanding Teaching Award (faculty)

* Wilfred Previant–Outstanding Teaching Award (graduate student)

* Director of Recruitment and Development Chris Hohnholt–Outstanding Staff member

Some not-so-serious awards were also given with the highlight of the evening going to the “Faculty Member Who Looks Most Like a Pirate.”

* First place–Robert Froese, earning the designation of Captain

* Second place–John Vucetich (his Johnny Depp likeness was noted), earning him the designation of First Mate

* Third place–Mike Hyslop earned a mop for swabbing and the designation of Deckhand


Graduate Research Supplements (GRS)to Current ENG Awards to Broaden Participation

NSF

Directorate for Engineering

Award Size and Duration: The Principal Investigator may request a GRS for twelve months, renewable annually, for the duration of the research grant for a maximum period of three years for an individual student.  The supplements are nontransferable and may only include graduate student stipend and tuition support consistent with academic institutional practices.  Indirect costs are not permitted; however, an administration allowance limited to 25 percent of the student stipend may be included.

Award Information: Anticipated funding for GRS in FY 2009 is $1,950,000, pending the availability of funds. The estimated number of supplements to be awarded will be 45-50.

Submission Deadline: The deadline for submission of this supplement request is May 26, 2009.

A request for funding of a GRS should be made by the Principal Investigator of an existing ENG award. Only one new Ph.D. student for GRS may be supported under each research grant.  GRS candidates must be United States citizens or nationals, or permanent resident aliens of the United States. The graduate students must be newly enrolled in, or planning to pursue the Ph.D. degree in engineering disciplines. Renewal for a second or third year supplement requires a report on the progress of the student toward the Ph.D. degree and availability of funds in the program.


Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grants in the Directorate for Biological Sciences (DDIG)

NSF

DUE DATES

Full Proposal Deadline Date:  November 20, 2009

Third Friday in November, Annually Thereafter

For electronic submission of proposals, the proposals MUST be submitted by 5:00 PM submitter’s time.

SYNOPSIS

The National Science Foundation awards Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grants in selected areas of the biological sciences. These grants provide partial support of doctoral dissertation research to improve the overall quality of research. Allowed are costs for doctoral candidates to participate in scientific meetings, to conduct research in specialized facilities or field settings, and to expand an existing body of dissertation research.

See solicitation.


Centers of Research Excellence in Science and Technology (CREST) and HBCU Research Infrastructure for Science and Engineering (RISE)

NSF

DUE DATES

Full Proposal Deadline Date:  August 25, 2009

Innovation through Institutional Integration

SYNOPSIS

The Centers of Research Excellence in Science and Technology (CREST) program makes resources available to enhance the research capabilities of minority-serving institutions through the establishment of centers that effectively integrate education and research. CREST promotes the development of new knowledge, enhancements of the research productivity of individual faculty, and an expanded presence of students historically underrepresented in STEM disciplines.

See solicitation.