The Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment awards over $5.1 million to 24 energy projects at the University of Minnesota

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MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL (4/21/2010) – The Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment (IREE), the signature program of the Institute on the Environment, recently awarded over $5.1 million to 24 renewable energy research and demonstration projects at the University of Minnesota.

The selected projects focus on a wide-range of topics including solar energy, wind power, next generation biofuels, materials for increased energy efficiency, life-cycle analysis of energy systems and more.

"The innovative research and demonstration being advanced by these new investments will lead to transformative technologies," says Dick Hemmingsen, IREE Director. "We'll continue to advance the University's position as a renewable energy leader both nationally and internationally."

In addition to scientific and technical merit, considerations applied during the final selection process included the potential for major breakthroughs on national and global scales, an alignment with Minnesota’s competitive advantages, a strong interdisciplinary approach and a clear business plan and exit strategy for securing future support.

Faculty members, graduate students and post-docs, undergraduates and research scientists at University of Minnesota campuses and research and outreach centers around the state will be involved with the projects.

Funds were awarded in three categories including large grants, early career grants and seed grants. 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 programs consistent with IREE’s mission. Seed grants are one year in duration and explore the potential for high-risk, high-potential projects that are in the initial stages of development.


Engineering of a Multi-Species Fermentation Platform for Biofuel Production
Project lead: Claudia Schmidt-Dannert, Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Biophysics
Award: $472,500

Solar Recycling of CO2 to Fuels
Project lead: Jane Davidson, Mechanical Engineering
Award: $500,000

New Environmentally Benign Sulfides for Sustainable Large-Scale Photovoltaics
Project leads: Eray Aydil, Chemical Engineering and Materials Science
Award: $500,000

Converting Sunlight into Electricity with High Efficiency Organic Solar Cells
Project lead: Daniel Frisbie, Chemical Engineering and Materials Science
Award: $500,000

Processing DDGS into Biofuels and Other Value-Added Products; Pilot Development and Commercialization
Project lead: Pavel Krasutsky, Natural Resources Research Institute
Award: $250,000

Pumped Hydro Energy Storage (PHES) Using Abandoned Mine Pits on the Mesabi Iron Range of Minnesota
Project lead: Donald Fosnacht, Natural Resources Research Institute
Award: $250,000

Materials Innovation to Enable Solar Home Heating in Cold Climates
Project lead: Susan Mantell, Mechanical Engineering
Award: $300,000

Next-Generation Biofuels and the Ecosystem Services They Provide: Sustainability and the Biomass Production Landscape
Project lead: Jason Hill, Institute on the Environment
Award: $500,000

Performance and Emissions of a Second Generation Biofuel – Dimethyl Ether (DME)
Project lead: David Kittelson, Mechanical Engineering
Award: $500,000


Mimicking Fungal Biomass Decomposition using Biphasic Biocatalysis
Project lead: Jonathan Schilling, Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering
Award: $135,000

High-Throughput Nanofabrication Technologies for Low‐Cost Plasmonic Photovoltaics
Project lead: Sang-Hyun Oh, Electrical and Computer Engineering
Award: $135,000

The Unintended Climate Consequences of North American Carbon Sequestration from Afforestation and Reforestation
Project lead: Peter Snyder, Soil, Water and Climate
Award: $121,361

Strategies for the Reduction of Carbon Dioxide to Methanol
Project lead: Connie Lu, Chemistry
Award: $135,000

Improving Efficiency of Wind Turbines by Means of Model-based Flow Control
Project lead: Mihailo Jovanovic, Electrical and Computer Engineering
Award: $135,000

Improving Organic Solar Cells with Graded Interfacial Modifications
Project lead: Aaron Massari, Chemistry
Award: $135,000


Lactic Acid Fermentation using Dairy Manure as the Sole Carbon and Nitrogen Source
Project lead: Jun Zhu, Southern Research and Outreach Center
Award: $47,677

New Forms of Cross-Sector Cooperation for Achieving Breakthroughs in Sustainable Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation Technologies
Project lead: Alfred Marcus, Carlson School of Management
Award: $70,000

Development of Torrefied Wood Microchips as an Energy-Efficient Biofuel for Pellet Stoves and Boilers
Project lead: Tim Hagen, Natural Resources Research Institute
Award: $66,042

Experimental and Theoretical Investigations of Conducting Polymers for Solar Cells
Project lead: Ted Pappenfus, Division of Science and Math, University of Minnesota Morris
Award: $59,546

Development of a Solar Smoleniec/Stirling Hybrid Thermo-Mechanical Generator
Project lead: Louise Goldberg, Energy Systems Design Program
Award: $63,875

Converting Mining Waste Rock to Passive Solar Tiles
Project lead: Kyle Bartholomew, Natural Resources Research Institute
Award: $50,000

Regulation of Cell Wall Growth and Composition in Nitrogen Fixing Biomass Crops in Minnesota: Medicago and Related Forage Crop and Woody Species
Project lead: Katherine VandenBosch, Plant Biology
Award: $69,827

Conversion of Waste Lignin to Liquid Fuels and Other High Value Products: A Fundamental Study Exploring Two Options
Project lead: Ulrike Tschirner, Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineeringm
Award: $69,790

Open Accumulator Compressed Air Storage Concept for Wind Power
Project lead: Perry Li, Mechanical Engineering
Award: $68,817

The U of M’s Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment (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 more than 199 projects in areas including bioenergy and bioproducts; solar; hydrogen; wind, hydro and geothermal power; conservation and efficient energy utilization; and policy, economics and ecosystems. Funding for IREE comes from Xcel Energy’s Renewable Development Fund as directed by the Minnesota Legislature.