Graduate students: Are you up for a challenge? The Sustainability Innovation Student Challenge Award (SISCA), a program of IonE and the Dow Chemical Company, recognizes and rewards students and universities for innovation and research that encourages and promotes sustainable solutions to the world’s most pressing social, economic and environmental problems.
2014 Dow SISCA Competition
Summary of Finalists
A Compact, Portable Compressed Air Power Supply for Human Assistive Devices
Dustin Johnson, MS Mechanical Engineering
A compact, portable device that converts hydrocarbon fuel directly to compressed air energy using a tiny free-piston engine.
Sustainable Routes to Industrial Chemicals: Furan-Modified Dehydration Catalysts
Christoph Krumm & Katherine Vinter, PhD Chemical Engineering
The potential to transform the chemical industry toward bio-renewable-based consumer plastics, commodity chemicals and fuels has necessitated the development of novel technologies for upgrading of products from processes, such as biomass pyrolysis and fermentation. A major cost-prohibitive step in this process is the efficient dehydration of these feedstocks to reduce the oxygen content – a requirement for value-added products. Using a novel furan-modified solid acid catalyst, this team has achieved ultra-high efficiency and selectivity for the dehydration of these feedstocks.
Rare Earth–Free Permanent Magnets
Md AI Mehedi, PhD Chemical Engineering and Material Science
This project described magnets composed of a noble material based on Fe and N that are free of rare earth elements and have the ability to give the same or better magnetic performance than rare earth–based permanent magnets.
Reducing Fossil Fuel Use in Water and Space Heating: Thermotropic Materials for Low-Cost Solar Thermal Collectors
Daniel Nigon, MS Mechanical Engineering
One approach to reducing the high cost of commercial solar thermal collectors is to replace the expensive copper and glass in a typical solar system with low-cost polymers. When using polymers to absorb solar radiation, it is necessary to protect the absorber from excessive temperatures that can occur. A solution to this problem is the use of thermotropic materials that will undergo a change in optical properties to reflect radiation rather than transmit it when the absorber nears the material temperature limit.
Large Scale Cultivation of Phytoplankton via Novel Photo-Bioreactor Technology
Georgiy V. Vozhdayev, MS Microbial Engineering
Microalgae production has the potential to be a sustainable form of aquaculture that produces essential feed for fin fish and shellfish industries, as well as several high-value nutraceutical compounds. However, current methods of large-scale production are limited by many technological issues. The reactor system described here redefines closed system photo bioreactors in terms of process reliability, efficiency of resource utilization and overall biomass productivity.
Novel Thermal Energy Storage Approach With Application to Solar Energy and Waste Heat Recovery
Chao Zhang, PhD Mechanical Engineering
An approach is described that uses a combination of phase change materials and a novel heat exchanger that is capable of exchanging 4.5 times the amount of heat of a conventional strip-fin plate-fin heat exchanger for the same flow rate condition.
See the challenge rules for guidelines for submission.
A winning submission must
- exhibit potential for solving world challenges in alignment with the spirit of Dow’s 2015 Sustainability Goals
- be interdisciplinary (applied sciences, engineering, economics, public policy, social studies, business etc.)
- involve innovative thinking and excellence in research
Awards include a $10,000 grand prize and a $2,500 runner-up prize.
Dow launched SISCA in 2009 to promote forward thinking in social and environmental responsibility. See the most recent University of Minnesota results.
In order to ensure a more sustainable future, it’s essential we promote and cultivate fresh ideas, innovative thinking and sustainable practices that balance environmental, societal and economic decisions. SISCA advances sustainable development, helping further our commitment to create positive change for tomorrow.
SISCA acknowledges the energy, commitment and enthusiasm of University of Minnesota students and the professors, sponsors and facilitators who support their sustainability innovations and efforts in continued excellence. Applicants must be enrolled graduate students at the University of Minnesota. Former SISCA winners are not eligible to participate.
SISCA is an annual competition that begins in the fall term. Initial applications are due October 31. Up to 10 selected finalists will be asked to provide final submissions by November 24. Final presentations and announcement of winners will occur December 4 at the Institute on the Environment, St. Paul Campus, University of Minnesota.