Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment announces 2009
scholarship winners

Bookmark and Share

MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL (7/21/2009) -- The University of Minnesota’s Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment (IREE), in partnership with the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP), has selected 14 projects as part of the 2009 renewable energy scholarship program.

The scholarship winners will receive a stipend of up to $1,700 each. The students must assist with a faculty member’s research or carry out their own projects under faculty supervision. The selected projects include:

  • “Agronomic Management of New Corn Genetics to Increase Yield” – Jamie Bachaus, with faculty advisor Jeffrey Coulter, agronomy and plant genetics. Bachaus will explore methods for increasing corn yields.
  • “Analysis of Effective Pathogen Reduction by Thermophilic Anaerobic Digestion for Developing World Applications” – Eric O’Hara, with faculty advisor Charles Clanton, bioproducts and biosystems engineering. O’Hara will assess the feasibility of small-scale digesters, which compost organic waste, for use in the developing world.
  • “Comparing the Effects of Different Agitation Situations on Anaerobic Digestion” – Andrew Healy, with faculty advisor Charles Clanton, bioproducts and biosystems engineering. Healy will look at ways to improve the methane production of biodigesters and will present this information at a national Engineers Without Borders conference.
  • “Dehydration Reactions of Glycerol” – Joshua Kranz, with faculty advisor Aditya Bhan, chemical engineering and materials science. Kranz will research methods for converting biomass to high-value chemicals for use in industrial applications.
  • “Energy Systems Analysis: Approaches to Smoothing Power Demand at the University of Minnesota, Morris” – Michael Zajicek, with faculty advisor Arne Kildegaard, economics. Zajicek will investigate the technological and economic viability of several strategies to balance the campus power load.
  • “Holographic Tracker/Solar Concentrator” – Philip Greenberg, with faculty advisor James Leger, electrical and computer engineering. Greenberg will research methods for increasing the efficiency of solar power.
  • “Increasing Absorption in Organic Solar Cells Through the Use of Molecular Aggregates” – Gareth Westler, with faculty advisor Russell Holmes, chemical engineering and materials science. Westler will study methods for increasing the efficiency of solar photovoltaic cells.
  • “Investigation of Optical Microcavities in Organic Photovoltaic Cells” – John Bertram, with faculty advisor Russell Holmes, chemical engineering and materials science. Bertram will research new materials that could decrease the cost and increase the efficiency of organic photovoltaic devices.
  • “Methane Biodigesters: Carbon to Nitrogen Ratio of Intake Slurry Experimentation” – Jamil Orfali, with faculty advisor Charles Clanton, bioproducts and biosystems engineering. Orfali will create a pilot-scale biodigester, which processes human waste and provides fuel, as part of an ongoing Engineers Without Borders project.
  • “Modeling the Performance of Organic Solar Cells” – Robert Halperin, with faculty advisor Russell Holmes, chemical engineering and materials science. Halperin will model and test the electrical properties of organic photovoltaic cells.
  • “Quantum Dot and Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells” – Brent Keller, with faculty advisor Eray Aydil, chemical engineering and materials science.  Keller will investigate methods for producing low-cost solar energy.
  • “Simulation of an Indium Galium Nitride Multi-Junction Photovoltaic Cell” – Ethan Torrey, with faculty advisor Philip Cohen, electrical and computer engineering. Torrey will develop a computer model for analyzing the efficiency of solar cells.
  • “Solar Cells Based on PbSe Nanocrystals on ZnO Nanowires” – Alan Jacobs, with faculty advisor Eray Aydil, chemical engineering and materials science. Jacobs will attempt to increase the efficiency of thin film solar cells.
  • “Solar Panel Inverter” – Brandon Eberle, with faculty advisor Hua Tang, electrical and computer engineering. Eberle will design a DC to AC solar power inverter.

To fulfill the scholarship objectives, the projects must focus on expanding IREE’s renewable energy research portfolio at the University of Minnesota.

“This year’s proposals were some of our strongest to date,” said Dick Hemmingsen, IREE director. “With this new generation of researchers leading the way, there’s no doubt that renewable energy research and innovation at the University of Minnesota will continue to grow.”

Vicky Munro, UROP coordinator, said the program not only helps students become involved in research, but also strengthens their connections both on and off campus. “Through the renewable energy scholarship, these students will build an intellectual, professional and social network that will benefit them long after graduation.”

Proceeds for the scholarship fund come from the annual E3—Energy, Economic and Environmental—conference. E3 2008 received generous support from Piper Jaffray, Faegre & Benson LLP, and numerous other sponsors and supporters.

Led by IREE, a signature program of the U of M’s Institute on the Environment, the E3 conference focuses on the intersection of new technologies, policies, environmental benefits and market opportunities in the renewable energy sector. This year’s conference takes place Nov. 17 at the Saint Paul RiverCentre.