The Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment at the University of Minnesota awards $4.1 million to 20 energy projects

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Contacts:
Todd Reubold, Institute on the Environment, reub0002@umn.edu, (612) 624-6140
Jeff Falk, University News Service, jfalk@umn.edu, (612) 626-1720

MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL (7/19/11) – More affordable photovoltaic energy, better batteries, improved household energy conservation, renewable jet fuel and power-producing bacteria are among the energy innovations that will be advanced by $4.1 million in grants awarded this week by the Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment to 20 research and demonstration teams at the University of Minnesota.

“We received an unprecedented number of extremely high quality proposals from the University community,” said IREE Science Director John Sheehan. “These projects represent the best of the best. They run the gamut from near commercial to cutting edge R&D.”

Funding for IREE grants comes from Xcel Energy’s Renewable Development Fund and Conservation Improvement Program as directed by the Minnesota Legislature and is awarded in three categories: large grant, early career grant and seed grant. Recipients are chosen by a national team of judges based on scientific and technical merit, the potential for major breakthroughs on national and global scales, alignment with Minnesota’s competitive advantages, a strong interdisciplinary approach, and a clear business plan and exit strategy for securing future support.

Faculty, students and staff at University of Minnesota campuses and research and outreach centers around the state will be involved with the projects. Large grants support integrated, multi-disciplinary research teams working on projects up to three years in duration. Early career grants enable faculty in the early stages of their careers to launch and/or accelerate innovative research consistent with IREE’s mission. Seed grants are for one year and explore the potential for high-risk, high-potential projects in the initial stages of development.

PROJECTS SELECTED TO RECEIVE IREE LARGE GRANTS:

Materials for 1$/W CIGS-Based Photovoltaics

Project lead: Stephen Campbell, Electrical and Computer Engineering, College of Science and Engineering
Award: $695,000

Design Tools for Multivariable Control of Large Wind Turbines

Project lead: Gary Balas, Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics, College of Science and Engineering
Award: $278,600

High Energy Density, Nanostructured Supercapacitors for Electrical Energy Storage

Project lead: Philippe Buhlmann, Chemistry, College of Science and Engineering
Award: $695,000

Developing Intermediate Wheatgrass for Sustainable Co-production of Fuel and Food

Project lead: Don Wyse, Agronomy and Plant Genetics, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences
Award: $695,000

Distributed Ammonia Production Using Wind Generated Hydrogen and Power

Project lead: Alon McCormick, Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, College of Science and Engineering
Award: $400,000

PROJECTS SELECTED TO RECEIVE IREE EARLY CAREER GRANTS:

Engineering Bacterial Bioelectrical Catalysts

Project lead: Jeffrey Gralnick, BioTechnology Institute
Award: $150,000

Enhanced Exciton Harvesting in Organic Photovoltaic Cells Using Engineered, Graded Film Compositions

Project lead: Russell Holmes, Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, College of Science and Engineering
Award: $149,034

Evaluating wind farm performance under realistic thermal and complex terrain conditions: the first path towards optimization

Project lead: Michele Guala, Civil Engineering, College of Science and Engineering
Award: $150,000

Microbial Communities for Enhanced Biofuel Feedstock Production

Project lead: Brett Barney, Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences
Award: $150,000

Solar thermochemical CO2 capture

Project lead: Wojciech Lipinski, Mechanical Engineering, College of Science and Engineering
Award: $149,546

PROJECTS SELECTED TO RECEIVE IREE SEED GRANTS:

Engineering of protein based nano-bioreactors for biofuel production and biocatalysis

Project lead: Claudia Schmidt-Dannert, BioTechnology Institute
Award: $58,000

Next-Generation Microbial Systems For Bioconversion

Project lead: Robert Blanchette, Plant Pathology, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences
Award: $70,000

Concentrated Solar Energy Devices Enabled by Wavelength Selective Mirrors

Project lead: Jane Davidson, Mechanical Engineering, College of Science and Engineering
Award: $69,830

Understanding Drivers of Whole-Household Energy Conservation in Minnesota Using the Twin Cities Household Ecosystem Project

Project lead: Lawrence Baker, Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences
Award: $69,365

Biomass Torrefaction: Understanding Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Potential Financial Opportunities

Project lead: Vance Morey, Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences
Award: $69,978

Development of a Self-powered Wireless Sensor for Structural Health Monitoring in Wind Turbine Blades

Project lead: Rusen Yang, Mechanical Engineering, College of Science and Engineering
Award: $68,280.57

Rethinking How We Manage Traffic to Reduce Emissions while Maintaining Mobility: A New Paradigm for Traffic Management

Project lead: Henry Liu, Civil Engineering, College of Science and Engineering
Award: $70,000

Drop-in Jet Fuel from Renewable Resources via Enzyme Catalyst

Project lead: John Lipscomb, Biochemistry, Molecular Biology & Biophysics, College of Biological Sciences
Award: $70,000

Production of Lipids of Biofuiel Production and Human Nutrition From A Col-Tolerant Yellow-Green Algae

Project lead: Paul Lefebvre, Plant Biology, College of Biological Sciences
Award: $70,000

New Energy Technology Based on the Direct Conversion of Heat to Electricity Using Multiferrois Alloys

Project lead: Richard James, Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics, College of Science and Engineering
Award: $70,000

IREE, a signature program of the Institute on the Environment, promotes statewide economic development; sustainable, healthy and diverse ecosystems; and national energy security through development of bio-based and other renewable resources and processes. Since its inception in 2003, IREE has supported nearly 200 projects in areas including bioenergy and bioproducts; solar; hydrogen; wind, hydro and geothermal power; conservation and efficient energy utilization; and policy, economics and ecosystems.

For more information on IREE and to view the complete project database, please visit www.environment.umn.edu/iree.