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Proposal Abstracts for KREC's Competitive Grants Program

The abstract and contact information can be found below.

One Step Bio-diesel Production via Catalytic-assisting and in-site coupling of Bio-oil Transesterification and Synthesis Gas Supercritical Methanol Synthesis.


Dr. Yan Cao and Dr. Wei-Ping Pan
wei-ping.pan@wku.edu, yan.cao@wku.edu
Institute for Combustion Science and Environmental Technology
Western Kentucky University

This is an applied research project for proof concept on the feasibility of in-site coupling concept on bio-diesel production directly using both bio-oil fractions of biomass and various cellulose fractions of biomass. The feasibility of this integration is embodied in the understanding of the synergies of the heat transfer, thermodynamic equilibrium shift, and kinetics compatibility, as well as some unexpected issues. The proposed process will be investigated in a period of 18 months.

This project will produce several benefits: 1) the proposed process produces flexible renewable alternative transportation liquid fuels, which is either bio-diesel or a mixture of bio-diesel and methanol, thus, it’s convenient to use of these alternative liquid fuels through the existing infrastructure; 2) the process feedstocks are 100% “green” and also flexible, including both various cellulose and hemicelluloses fractions of biomass and various bio-boils; 3) the proposed process is economic and cost-competitive by optimally coupling and balancing heat transfer and promoting the thermodynamic shift; 4) coupling properties of proposed process makes it possible to operate it at a small scale under competitive cost, which is technically available for utilization in rural area.

This project will be a collaboration between Kentucky Renewable Energy Consortium, Industrial Gasification LLC, Gryphon Environmental, LLC, and Institute for Combustion Science and Environmental Technology (ICSET) at Western Kentucky University. The total of cost of this project is $230,000 ($125,000 - 54% of the total - requested from KREC, $75,000 provided by Industrial Gasification, LLC, and $30,000 provided by Gryphon Environmental, LLC).

Using short-rotation technologies to enhance woody feedstock production on reclaimed surface mines in eastern Kentucky


J.M. Lhotka, Ph.D., C.D. Barton, Ph.D., C. Agouridis, P.E., Ph.D. and R.C. Warner, Ph.D.
john.lhotka@uky.edu
University of Kentucky

Bioenergy represents a promising solution that reduces the use of non-renewable fuels and enhances U.S. energy security. To facilitate a viable bioenergy industry in the U.S., a sustainable low-cost supply of feedstock is needed that minimizes competition between food production and bioenergy feedstock production. Reclaimed surface mines offer a promising location for the production of sustainable bioenergy feedstock in Kentucky. Because reclaimed mines currently provide few benefits to the Appalachian coal region in terms of money and jobs, the location of biomass plantations on these sites may add economic value to an underutilized resource. More than 250,000 ha of reclaimed surface mines are present in Kentucky. Economies of scale suggest that increased yields would reduce the unit cost of biomass and may make the utilization of woody feedstock on reclaimed surface mines more economically attractive. By increasing the supply and lowering the costs, the application of short-rotation technologies may help breakdown biologic and economic barriers to feedstock production. The objective of the proposed project is to quantify whether a suite of short-rotation technologies (fertilization, irrigation, and fertilization + irrigation) can enhance woody biomass production on reclaimed surface mines.

In 2007, the investigators received seed funding from the Kentucky Governor’s Office of Energy Policy to initiate an analysis of feedstock production on surface mine lands in Eastern Kentucky. Replicated plantings of black locust and American sycamore were established on the Big Elk Mine (formerly Starfire Mine) in Knott Co., KY. The experimental design included four treatments: fertilization, irrigation, fertilization + irrigation, and an untreated control. Irrigation and fertilization + irrigation treatments will be applied annually using an automated drip irrigation system established on the site in 2008. Initial seed funding covered establishment costs and initial measurement, while the requested funds will allow a longer-term evaluation of the short-rotation technologies. Analysis of variance will be used to examine the effect of the treatments on biomass production through three growing seasons.

Results of the study will suggest whether short-rotation technologies can increase woody feedstock production on reclaimed surface mine lands. Utilization of surface mine lands for the production of intensively managed woody energy crops provides an opportunity to diversify domestic biomass sources, while increasing the productivity and economic value of underutilized land. Existing transportation networks associated with surface mines can help facilitate the use of these lands for energy crops. Establishment of woody biomass plantations on surface mines can also sequester carbon, facilitate the restoration of degraded lands, reduce social concern regarding harvest of natural forests, and create green jobs in the economically depressed Appalachian region. Finally, establishment of biomass plantations on surface mines may aid Kentucky and other states in their pursuit to identify a renewable low-cost energy fuel for the future, while preserving and improving the environment and promoting rural economic development.

Budget Range:  $50,001-$100,000

Engineering Lower Inhibitor Affinities of a Key Bifunctional Glycoside Hydrolase


Dr. Ling Yuan
lyuan3@uky.edu
University of Kentucky

Co-PI: Dr. Douglas Jordan, Senior Scientist. USDA
Co-PI: Dr. Kurt Wagschal, Senior Scientist. USDA

Xylan is the main hemicellulose of trees and crop biomass such as corn and wheat stover, which are considered attractive lignocellulosic sources for bioconversion processes. Strong physicalchemical pretreatments (e.g., dilute acid at high temperature and pressure) of lignocellulosic biomass can prepare the cellulose fraction for the action of cellulases and fully depolymerize the xylan fraction, but side reactions produce toxic aldehydes from monosaccharides that poison the fermenting organism.  Milder pretreatments can be employed that prepare the cellulose fraction of herbaceous biomass for the depolymerizing action of cellulases without producing toxic byproducts, but these pretreatments leave much of the xylan intact. Barriers confronting complete enzymatic saccharification of xylan include the multiple enzyme activities required and the sensitivity to inhibition by saccharides of some of these enzymes. The bifunctional beta-xylosidase/alpha-arabinofuranosidase (SXA) from Selenomonas ruminantium is the most active catalyst known to date for promoting hydrolysis of xylooligosaccharides to constituent xylose residues. SXA has good stability properties, tolerating temperatures of 50°C and below and pH values of 4 and above. SXA is an excellent candidate for application in industrial saccharification processing of herbaceous biomass that is rich in arabinoxylan (e.g. corn cob and wheat stem) for subsequent fermentation to fuel ethanol and other bioproducts. One key property of SXA requiring improvement is its binding affinity for xylose (Ki = 5 mM) and glucose (Ki = 27 mM). Under industrial saccharification conditions, the concentrations of xylose and glucose could accumulate to levels that strongly inhibit performance of SXA as a catalyst. Product inhibition is a common problem facing many lignocellulose-degrading enzymes.

We propose to apply directed evolution (DE) technology, in combination with in-depth enzymatic and kinetic analyses, to create SXA variants with significantly reduced sensitivity to xylose inhibition. Our preliminary results have demonstrated the feasibility of the proposed approach. We have successfully established a two-tiered, microtiter plate-based high-throughput enzyme assay system in which the catalytic rate of a large number of enzyme variants is determined in the presence of inhibitor (xylose/glucose). Using this system to screen a library of SXA mutants has allowed us to identify several variants showing decreased inhibition by xylose. One of these variants, C3, which contains four mutations, has a 3-fold increase of Ki for xylose, indicating a significantly reduced xylose binding affinity. We next produced single amino-acid mutants corresponding to the four mutations in C3. Extensive kinetic analyses identified that the change of one amino acid (tryptophan-145 to glycine; or W145G) located at the active site is primary responsible for the 3-fold increase of Ki.

Methodology: (1) engineering of highly active SXA variants that are resistant to xylose/glucose inhibition by recursive DE, (2) elucidation of the role of W145 in catalysis and inhibitor-binding using a combined approach of saturation mutagenesis, enzyme kinetics and structure/function analysis, (3) further improvement of selected, inhibitor-resistant SXA variants for increased catalytic efficiency and thermostability, and (4) demonstration of the relative efficacy of the improved enzymes under industrial saccharification process conditions.

Expected results: The measurable outcomes of this project include the development of a SXA variant(s) that has 10-fold higher Ki for xylose/glucose, 2-fold higher kcat/Km and thermostability up to 65°C compared to the WT SXA.

Anticipated benefits: A xylan-degrading catalyst possessing the proposed properties is significantly superior to all other enzymes in the same class known to date. Product inhibition is a common problem facing many biomass hydrolase. This research will establish an effective way to address this critical problem.

The budget range estimate for this project: $100,001-$150,000.

Catalytic Deoxygenation of Triglycerides to Hydrocarbon Fuels


Mark Crocker, Ph.D.
crocker@caer.uky.edu
University of Kentucky

Although biodiesel has good cetane number and lubricity, it suffers from drawbacks such as poor storage stability and marginal cold flow properties. Consequently, several companies are developing hydrodeoxygenation (HDO) processes for the production of hydrocarbon transportation fuels from fats and oils. HDO employs conditions similar to conventional hydrotreating for the removal of oxygen from the constituent triglycerides, principally as water. However, hydroprocessing still faces considerable hurdles before it can be seen as a sustainable solution. Hydroprocessing plants are large and complex, and require such large quantities of hydrogen, that they can only be built as part of a large refining complex, and not at the point of oil production.

This project, which is a collaboration between the University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research and Georgetown College, focuses on the development of a new concept for the conversion of vegetable oils, algal oils and animal fats to liquid transportation fuels. Specifically, utilizing metal-catalyzed deoxygenation of triglycerides and fatty acids in the absence of hydrogen, we will develop a process suitable for the upgrading of oils and fats – at the point of production and in one step – to hydrocarbons boiling in the jet fuel and diesel range. This simple process will enable the conversion of oils and fats to a hydrocarbon stream suitable for transport by pipeline to centralized refineries which benefit from economies of scale. Using inexpensive catalysts developed at the University of Kentucky, preliminary work has shown that vegetable oil can indeed be converted to C5-C17 hydrocarbons in good yield.

Towards the further development of this concept, two main objectives will be pursued in this project: (i) inexpensive nickel catalysts will be developed which are optimal in terms of their activity and selectivity for hydrocarbon production; (ii) the upgrading of a model triglyceride over the catalyst(s) identified in the previous objective will be studied in a continuous flow reactor (operating in fixed bed mode). This activity will focus on the optimization of key process parameters such as temperature and residence time, and will permit an assessment of catalyst durability.

The estimated budget range for the project is $50,001 - $100,000.

Interfacial Engineering of Cellulase Binding for High‐Solids Biomass Depolymerization


Stephen Rankin
srankin@engr.uky.edu
University of Kentucky

The thermophilic anaerobic bacterium Clostridium thermocellum is an excellent candidate for consolidated bioprocessing (CBP) of biomass because it produces a very effective cellulose‐degrading enzyme (cellulase) system to depolymerize cellulose into soluble sugars for bioethanol production from biomass.  However, difficulty recovering the active enzyme system after binding to the biomass currently limits the use of C. thermocellum as an enzyme source for CBP. Additionally, the nonproductive binding of cellulases to biomass represents a poorly‐understood roadblock to commercializing cellulosic ethanol processes.

Traditional approaches to overcoming the recalcitrance of cellulosic biomass focus on genetic manipulation of feedstock plants and of cellulase enzymes. Usually the results of this manipulation are evaluated with bulk measurements of enzymatic activity without a fundamental understanding of enzyme binding and activity. Here, we directly measure cellulase binding to model cellulose and lignin surfaces using surface chemistry techniques. The strong binding of cellulases with cellulose, as well as nonproductive binding with non‐hydrolyzable components of biomass (e.g., lignin) are known technological barriers to enzyme efficiency and recovery in commercial applications. A better understanding of the mechanism of binding will allow us to propose and to develop inhibitors to binding that can be added to either increase the extent of cellulose conversion, or to allow cellulase enzymes to be recovered and reused.

Our overall goal is to relate the surface chemistry of biomass components to binding and release of systems of cellulases derived from C. thermocellum. Binding inhibitors will also be investigated which can be used to limit nonproductive binding. Thus, the objectives are (1) to prepare and characterize model cellulose films varying in surface chemistry and to measure binding and release of cellulases in the presence or absence of binding inhibitors, (2) to prepare model lignin surfaces (a proposed site of nonproductive binding), observe the binding of cellulases, and develop binding inhibitors for lignin, and (3) to observe the effects of biomass pretreatment methods on the surface chemistry of model cellulose films and to relate those changes to cellulase binding.

Model thin films of cellulose with varying surface chemistry will be prepared by coating methods and characterized by x‐ray diffraction and infrared spectroscopy. As needed, electron microscopy will be used to characterize surface morphology. Systems of cellulases will be prepared by cultivating C. thermocellum and separating them complexes from the resulting mixtures. The binding of cellulases and its manipulation by changing surface chemistry or adding inhibitors will be measured using novel surface analysis techniques, most notably a quartz crystal microbalance with dissipation. This device directly measures the mass adsorbed to a surface as well as changes in local viscoelasticity at the surface (which help to develop mechanistic interpretation).

The primary technical outcome from this project will be a fundamental understanding of cellulase binding which can be used to develop methods to evaluate and manipulate CBD binding in heterogeneous high‐solids biomass to enhance enzyme recovery and biomass conversion. This provides a critical link between the biophysical chemistry of cellulases and applied research in high‐solids CBP. This will pave the way to future studies of bulk pretreatment of biomass for optimal enzyme use, which will lower the barriers to development of commercial cellulosic ethanol production plants in Kentucky.

This project will be 18 months in duration with a budget in the $150,001 to $200,000 range.

Lignin Deconstruction for Fuels and Chemicals


Mark S. Meier, Mark Crocker, and Samuel Morton
meier@uky.edu
University of Kentucky

Lignin is a polymer that provides structural strength to all vascular plants.  It is a tough, insoluble, chemically resistant material that is difficult to convert to useful products.  However, lignin is produced in large quantities as a byproduct of biomass utilization activities.  For example, ethanol can be produced from the cellulose portion of lignocellulosic materials (such as switchgrass), but the lignin part of the plant becomes a waste product.  As production of biofuels ramps up, the lignin produced as an undesired waste byproduct will become a significant problem. 

This research project is directed toward novel methods to convert lignin from a large polymer into small molecules that are suitable for use as fuels or chemicals.  The steps involved include chemically cutting the polymer into pieces, then conversion of those smaller pieces into fuels.  In the first step, we will investigate a set of oxidation reactions that should be capable of chemically cutting specific bonds in lignin.  We will investigate the applicability of ionic liquids as solvents, as these unusual liquids are capable of dissolving significant portions of lignin, making it accessible to chemical reagents.  We will then investigate catalytic deoxygenation of the products of the oxidation reaction, producing a liquid that is suitable for use as a fuel. 

In this work we will concentrate on a set of small model compounds that will permit us to clearly see how the new chemistry affects the structure of lignin subunits.  We will investigate how the chemistry changes as we move those reactions into ionic liquids, again using model compounds, and catalytic deoxygenation of the reaction products will be developed. 

We anticipate that this research will produce a set of reaction conditions that are suitable for application to the deconstruction of lignin, converting the highly complex lignin polymer into tractable liquids that can be used as fuels or as a source of feedstock chemicals that would otherwise have to be produced from petroleum.

Funding range:  $50,001 - $100,000.

Development of plants as enhanced renewable energy and lubricant sources


David Hildebrand, Mark Crocker, Tim Phillips, Kozo Saito, Chad Lee, Tianxiang Li, Hirotada Fukushige, and Fran Lockwood
dhild@uky.edu
University of Kentucky & Valvoline, Co. Lexington

There is a need for renewable oils for energy and lubricant uses with higher yields per unit land areas with lower inputs and with superior properties than currently available sources.  Present renewable oils that can be produced on a large scale at costs competitive with petroleum either do not have sufficient oxidative stability or flow properties over a wide range of temperatures to compete with petroleum-derived motor oils and other lubricant applications.  Plant oils with branched-chain fatty acids in place of double bonds will also make superior biodiesel with flow properties, greater stability and higher energy value than currently available renewable diesel sources.  The overall goal of this research is the development and evaluation of a new oil crop for KY with high yield and oil content for the production of liquid fuels and industrial chemical feedstocks.  The work will focus on oilseeds and whole plant material genetically engineered for high accumulation of oil containing branched-chain fatty acids (BCFAs).  New castor (Ricinus communis) lines we have developed with high yields on low inputs will be evaluated as sources for 3rd generation biofuel production.  Soybean and flax oil will also be chemically converted into BCFA oil and tested as engine lubricants and for emissions.  The BCFA oil will be converted into biodiesel and tested for stability, engine performance and emissions.  It will also be thermochemically converted into high quality transportation fuels. 

Objectives: 1) Cloning and characterization of enzymes involved in the accumulation of BCFAs from high accumulating sources; 2) Characterization of model plants and oilseeds engineered with enzymes involved in the formation and accumulation of BCFAs; 3) Breeding and genetic engineering castor as a new biomass source; 4) Thermochemical conversion of castor and BCFA oils into high quality transportation fuels and testing for engine performance; 5) Testing of BCFA oils as engine lubricants and methyl ester derivatives as diesel fuels.  These objectives address two of the Biomass Program’s Five Core R&D Areas, Biomass Feedstock Interface and Fuel and Chemical Products (including a Thermochemical Platform).

Plant oils containing high levels of BCFA will be developed by transferring the natural ability of some organisms to make such fatty acids and oils into industrial oilseed crops that can be economically produced in KY.  The oil contents will be increased by expressing unique oil accumulating enzymes we have cloned and have applied for patents on.  Castor accessions found to be adapted for KY growing conditions have been collected.  The most promising selected castor lines will be grown out and evaluated in the field.  Resulting oil samples will be subjected to catalytic upgrading to hydrocarbon fuels. BCFA oils will be made from soybean and linseed oils by generating carbene from di-iodomethane mixed with the oils along with a copper-zinc couple catalyst.  The hydrocarbon fuels from castor biomass and the oils will be tested for engine performance and emissions.  Methyl esters (biodiesel) of the BCFA oils will also tested.  Hydrogenated BCFA oils will be tested for lubrication properties and engine performance by at Valvoline.

Significant progress toward development of commercial oilseeds that make and accumulate BCFA oils.  New oil sources with very high oil yield per unit land area that can be produced in Kentucky with little or no inputs.  Thermochemical conversion of the new biomass materials and BCFA oils into high quality fuels.  Testing of BCFA oils as renewable engine lubricants.  Production and testing of BCFA oil biodiesel.  A new superior biodiesel product that can be economically grown and produced in Kentucky.  (i) High-value biobased products that can serve as substitutes for petroleum-based feedstocks and products.  (ii) The genetically enhanced oilseeds will provide new, high value crops for farmers and benefit rural economies.  (iii) Collaboration with a leading lubricant producer, shifting from producing lubricants from petroleum to renewable sources such as plants.  (iv) High BCFA oils can make ideal renewable lubricants due to low temperature fluidity and high oxidative stability.  (v) High BCFA oils can also make superior biodiesel. 

Budget Range Estimate: $50,001-$100,000.

Development of a Flexible Biorefinery Optimization Model based on Agricultural Survey and GIS Modeling of Bioresources Available in the Jackson Purchase Region of Western Kentucky


Jeffrey Seay, Ph.D., P.E.
jseay@engr.uky.edu
University of Kentucky

Robin Zhang, Ph. D., Mike Montross, Ph.D., P.E.
Sam McNeill, Ph.D., P.E.

Sustainability and the effects fossil‐based fuels have on the environment are becoming areas of concern to the public and to the petrochemical industry. The Jackson Purchase region of western Kentucky is an area rich in agricultural based bioresources such as field crop residue and chicken litter from poultry farms. However, these resources are largely untapped. In order to determine how best to utilize these resources in a sustainable way, a detailed resource survey is required. Detailed data on the location, quantities and proximity to transportation thoroughfares is critical to future work on the development of technologies to utilize these resources. By understanding where these resources are located and their geographic concentration in the region, this data can be used in future research to determine the capacity and potential location(s) for sustainable integrated biorefineries. To achieve this end, a three-phase research project is proposed.

The first phase will utilize Geographic Information System (GIS) modeling to locate cropland and poultry barns in the Jackson Purchase Region. These resources will be mapped using satellite imagery and aerial photographs along with field verification. Their proximity to transportation thoroughfares such as roads and rail lines will be quantified. The distribution pattern of these resources will be modeled to discover their centrality or dispersion properties, for consideration of future biorefinery locations. The second phase of the proposed research will include a detailed county by county survey of the total quantity of bioresources, including crop residues and poultry litter available in the Jackson Purchase region. This data, combined with the GIS modeling will be used to create a detailed picture of the potential for biorefining in western Kentucky. This data will assist future research projects in determining the potential locations and capacities of sustainable biorefineries in western Kentucky. Finally, the third phase of the research will involve the preparation of a flexible resource allocation and supply chain model framework that will be used to optimize the total capacity of biorefining in the Jackson Purchase region and where such refineries might be located, given the concentration of bioresources in the region.

The results of this model will be valuable to determine the potential for investment in renewable energy and biofuels in the region. In addition to contributing to a fundamental understanding of the renewable resources available in the Jackson Purchase Region of Western Kentucky, the research outcomes will impact the emerging biofuels sector in the Commonwealth by providing additional data and economic justification for research activities in novel biofuel and biochemical production techniques. The outcomes of this research will be part of a larger research plan that will be used for the purpose of field crop planning, infrastructure development and biofuel utilization not only in the Jackson Purchase region, but in the Commonwealth of Kentucky as a whole.

Budget Range: $100,001 to $150,000

Development of Laboratory and Simulation Based Model of Sustainable Biorefineries Utilizing Western Kentucky Based Renewable Resources


Jeffrey Seay, Ph.D., P.E.
jseay@engr.uky.edu
University of Kentucky

Jim Smart, Ph. D., P.E., David Silverstein, Ph.D., P.E.

Due to recent interest in sustainability and the effects of industrial process on the global environment, there has been a research focus on developing cleaner, more environmentally responsible sources of energy. One option is the generation of fuels, electricity and chemical products through sustainable, integrated biorefining utilizing agricultural based feed stocks such as field crop residues and litter from poultry farming. Integrated biorefining can also provide additional income for farm based waste products. However, in order to be a viable technology for future investment, integrated economic and environmental impact models must be developed. Specifically, to encourage development in this technology in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, models specific to Kentucky based bioresources must be developed. Furthermore, this proposed research will include modeling of co‐fired biorefineries that utilize Kentucky coal and an auxiliary fuel. This process will lower the environmental impacts of using coal in terms of CO2 when considering the overall lifecycle.

The purpose of this proposed research will be to develop process simulation models of an integrated biorefinery based on utilizing Kentucky bioresources as a feedstock. Specifically, the process simulation development will focus on the production of synthesis gas, followed by Fischer‐Tropsch synthesis for the production of liquid fuels and chemical products. In addition, the proposed models will include an overall life cycle assessment and an estimation of the potential environmental impact using the US EPA’s Waste Reduction (WAR) Algorithm. This simulation work will be supported by the operation of a bench scale gasification reactor to provide data and operational limits for the simulation model.

This type of modeling and experimentation is novel since it has not been done using Kentucky based bioresources as a feedstock or as a co‐fired biorefinery utilizing Kentucky Coal as a feedstock. Agricultural based bioresources such as field crop residues and litter from poultry farms is a plentiful resource in Kentucky, and utilization of this resource is essential to future economic development. The principle benefit of this proposed research is a holistic integrated economic and environmental model which is specific for renewable biobased resources available in western Kentucky. This emphasis on Kentucky resources will provide specific data which will encourage investment in sustainable integrated biorefinery technology in the Commonwealth.

Budget Range: $100,000 ‐ $150,000

Effect of Particle Size on the Pretreatment and Enzyme Hydrolysis Efficiency


Czarena Crofcheck
crofcheck@uky.edu
University of Kentucky

R. Eric Berson
eric.berson@louisville.edu
University of Louisville

Michael Montross
montross@bae.uky.edu
University of Kentucky

A biorefinery producing cellulosic ethanol will likely need to utilize numerous feedstocks. For example, a biorefinery producing ethanol from herbaceous sources could use corn stover during the fall and early winter, switchgrass during the winter and spring, and wheat straw during the summer. Having feedstock flexibility would reduce the feedstock cost because the biorefinery could switch feedstocks according to cost and storage costs would be minimized. However, an interaction exists between biomass source and the performance of the pretreatment reactor and enzyme hydrolysis. Three key performance factors are: feedstock type, the power required to grind each feedstock through a given screen size, and the viscosity within the pretreatment and enzyme hydrolysis reactors that will govern mixing efficiency and power requirements.

The overall goal of the project is to evaluate how feedstock type and preprocessing influence the pretreatment and enzyme hydrolysis of biomass to fermentable sugars. The specific objectives are: 1. Evaluate the power required when grinding biomass (corn cobs and switchgrass) at three moisture contents to achieve three particle size ranges. 2. Investigate the particle size distribution before and after pretreatment and enzyme hydrolysis efficiency for each sample type, range of particle sizes, and moisture content. 3. Determine the viscosity as a function of particle size and solids loading before and after pretreatment and throughout the enzyme hydrolysis reaction.

The samples will be collected at three moisture content levels and ground through a laboratory hammer mill using four screen sizes. The particle size distribution will be measured and the power required for grinding will be monitored using a hydraulic circuit. The composition of the samples will be determined using NREL protocols and used for evaluating the efficiency of the pretreatment and enzyme hydrolysis. Initial laboratory experiments will be performed in flasks at a low solids content to represent ideal conditions. Small samples will have uniform pretreatment conditions and the lowest risk of inhibitors formed during processing. To further quantify differences between biomass types and particle size, scanning electron microscopy images will be used to evaluate the extent of pretreatment and enzyme hydrolysis. The viscosity will be measured as a function of particle size and solids loading before and after pretreatment and continuously throughout the enzyme hydrolysis reaction. This data will be required for optimizing equipment and process design in a biorefinery. This objective will be conducted in parallel with objective 2.

Budget Range $100,001 to $150,000.

Production and Evaluation of Biofuels Using Industrial Equipment


John Baker
jbaker@engr.uky.edu
University of Kentucky

Vince Capece, Charles Lu, Sam McNeill, William Murphy, Jeffrey Seay, David Silverstein, Jim Smart
University of Kentucky

Applied research is proposed in the area of biofuel production and evaluation. Recently, there has been growing interest in use of biofuels as a cleaner alternative to standard fossil fuels for generating electricity and powering equipment. In the proposed research, synthesis gas, a precursor for the production of liquid biofuel, will be produced in a gasifier. Laboratory scale experiments will then be carried out to determine the suitability of this synthesis gas for production of liquid fuels via Fischer-Tropsch synthesis. Finally, biofuel performance will be evaluated through testing in industrial diesel-powered generators. University of Kentucky chemical and mechanical engineering faculty will partner with extension faculty in the Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering Department in Princeton, KY, to produce biofuels from various renewable biobased resources available in western Kentucky, such as field crop residues. The fuels will be produced in a gasifier currently housed at the Princeton facility. In evaluation of the fuels, the U.K. team will partner with personnel from Ingram Barge Company. This company uses diesel generators for powering appliances and other electrical equipment onboard barges. Ingram Barge will donate a 250 kW Caterpillar D 3306 engine-generator set for use in the fuel performance evaluation process.

The specific goals of this research are to verify that locally available bioresources are suitable for conversion to liquid fuels for the generators. Also, standard testing methods will be developed for evaluating the performance of the fuels in the generators. The electrical output of the generators using fuels produced from various resources will be compared to assess the performance of the fuels in a commercial diesel engine. Initial testing will determine baseline performance of the generators using standard diesel fuel. An important consideration will be variability of performance of a fuel produced from a given source. A bench scale Fisher-Tropsch reactor will also be constructed to aide in testing the suitability of the synthesis gas produced from the gasifier for conversion to biofuels for use as motor fuels. Bioresources are plentiful in the region. To optimize the economic benefits of using these resources in biofuel production, it is necessary that extensive testing of fuel performance be completed in industrial scale machinery. This research would produce initial data that would demonstrate the capability to produce and evaluate biofuels from a range of resources that are readily available locally, and position the investigators to seek additional funding for a more comprehensive biofuels production and evaluation research program.

The anticipated funding request will be in the range of $100,001-$150,000.

Development of Metalloporphyrin-Ionic Liquid Complexes for the Degradation of Lignin


Laurel A. Morton
laurel.morton@eku.edu
Eastern Kentucky University

A great deal of interest and effort is currently focused on the production of fuel ethanol from the fermentation of sugars derived from corn, sugar cane, and switch grass. A significant limitation for this alternative fuel is that it utilizes only a small portion of the total harvested material present in the plant matter. In order to fully utilize these biomass resources we must overcome the challenges that exist in the processing of lignocellulosic components of the harvested plant material. Lignocellulosic materials can be broken down into bioproducts and biofuel feedstocks through enzymatic degradation. However, these enzymes have limited function under the conditions required to dissolve lignin and cellulose. Iron porphyrins have been shown to mimic the function of these enzymes in a wider range of conditions. In this study we will synthesize biomimetic iron porphyrin complexes and study their reactivity using a range of ionic liquid solvents. Ionic liquids are gaining wide recognition as environmentally friendly solvents for various biochemical and chemical reactions.

Additionally, they recently have been shown to dissolve both lignin and cellulose at standard temperature and pressure. Combining the ability of the ionic liquid solvent to dissolve lignin with the reactivity of the metalloporphyrin complex could overcome many of the challenges to lignin utilization. Studies will initially be performed on known lignin model compounds and then expanded to include lignin once promising combinations of porphyrin and ionic liquid are determined. The biomimetic complexes and lignin model substrates will be combined in ionic liquid solvent and the extent of degradation will be monitored by NMR, IR, GC-MS, and LC-MS.

This work is anticipated to lead to future proposals focused on addressing the anticipated challenges associated with catalyst loss in post-reaction processing by chemically linking the iron porphyrin compounds to the ionic liquid solvent thereby creating a novel task specific ionic liquid (TSIL). These novel metalloporphyrin/ionic liquid complexes would function as both catalyst and solvent and therefore have the potential to significantly improve the efficient production of bioproducts from lignin.

Budget range: $100,001 - $150,000.

Strategies for Improving Energy Efficiency and Lowering Carbon Footprints of Kentucky Manufacturing Industries


Dr. Subodh K. Das
skdas@phinix.net
Phinix, LLC

Gregory C. Copley
University of Kentucky

We propose an eighteen month study to assess the levels of energy consumption, energy efficiency, and carbon footprint of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the ten top manufacturing sector industries in Kentucky.

This study will fulfill the strategic components of Kentucky’s industrial sectors as outlined in the following two key documents:
(1) Kentucky 7‐Point Energy Independence Strategy as outlined in Governor Beshear’s energy plan for Kentucky, "Intelligent Energy Choices for Kentucky’s Future"
(2) Kentucky Rural Energy Consortium : "25x25’ Roadmap for Kentucky"

The proposed assessments will initially include evaluations of existing data and resources at the University of Louisville’s Kentucky Renewable Energy Consortium (KREC) and Kentucky Pollution Center (KPPC), the University of Kentucky’s Center for Applied Energy Research (CAER), Kentucky’s Cabinets for Energy, Environment, and Economic Development. The initial evaluations will be followed by surveys, personal visits, regional workshop and webinars. Based upon the assessments’ results, the project team will develop and suggest implementable strategies for cost effective carbon management for the major sub‐sectors of Kentucky’s manufacturing industries. These recommendations will be based upon present levels of performance compared to best available technologies.

This study will explore and develop potential carbon management methodologies, such as voluntary offsets, and find suitable sources of Clean Development Mechanisms (CDM) as now being practiced around the world. Through direct interactions with representatives from Kentucky’s industrial sector, the study team will lead efforts for evaluating strategies for establishing energy efficiency, recycling, and other resource conservation activities as new protocols for future carbon credits and/or offsets. Based on the results of the above activities, the team will develop curricula for professional workshops and courses in carbon management appropriate for high school, junior college, college, and post graduate students. In this manner, the proposed research will serve the present and future industrial population of Kentucky’s manufacturing sector.

Budget Range: $150,001 ‐ $200,000

An Adaptable Solar Power Supply for Micro-Scale Systems


Thomas A. Berfield, PhD
tom.berfield@louisville.edu
University of Louisville

One issue that currently limits the effective transfer of solar cell technologies from the laboratory to commercial use is that characterizations of device efficiency is often based on static illumination conditions. Additionally, most solar cell power supplies are designed with little flexibility in regards to the environmental conditions under which the device will operate. For actual applications, solar power cells must endure a variety of constantly changing conditions (temperature, illumination spectrum, incident angle, etc.) that dramatically affect its electrical conversion efficiency.

The goal of this research is to produce an adaptable solar cell power supply that is capable of:
1) sensing a number of critical environmental factors, and
2) mechanically reconfiguring the exposed solar material area to an arrangement optimized for the real-time conditions.

Two solar energy conversion methods will be used for the adaptable solar power supply device, both a traditional silicon-based solar cell and a photochemical-based dye sensitized system. Improvements in the overall device efficiency are made possible by exploiting the differences in performance between the two methods, particularly when subjected to non-ideal environmental conditions such as low temperatures, high UV wavelength lighting, pollution filtered light, etc. The device will be constructed using standard microfabrication patterning and thin-film deposition techniques, and will utilize an actuated platform driven with a common micro-motor. Preliminary designs have two configurations that will be possible to alter the active solar cell material that is exposed in response to the environmental conditions. This method is similar to other demonstrated external methods for increasing efficiency such as light collecting and suntracking capabilities.

Gains in conversion efficiency are dependent upon the variability of the illumination and environmental conditions under which the device operates. However for day-long simulated "real-life" condition cycles, the predicted improvement in efficiency for the adaptable solar power supply is 5-7% over a static counterpart system.

Budget Range Estimate: $100,001-150,000

Solar Energy Technology Demonstration Project at F. Paul Anderson Tower


Vijay Singh, Yuan Liao, Suresh Rajaputra, Larry Holloway
vsingh@engr.uky.edu
University of Kentucky

Bill McCullough
Solar Energy Development, LLC

There is a pressing demand to harness new types of power sources to generate the power that can meet the human needs and sustain the economic growth. One possible source is photovoltaic (PV) solar energy that is truly abundant and also environmentally friendly. If properly tapped, solar energy can meet all the electricity needs of human beings, and at the same time greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, a byproduct of traditional fossil fueled power plants. Although Kentucky has a rich supply of coal, exploiting solar energy to generate the needed power may significantly reduce consumption of the coal and reduce pollutants.

It has been realized that developing methods and systems to harness solar energy has tremendous benefits. However, to increase the penetration of solar power, certain challenges need to be overcome. First, we need to evaluate different solar cell technologies to understand their strengths and weaknesses and determine which technologies are the most suitable one for specific applications in Kentucky. Second, the interaction between the solar power and traditional power grid needs to be understood, so that the solar power can be seamlessly integrated into the existing power grid. This project serves to demonstrate the feasibility of deploying solar systems in Kentucky. The project can serve as a model to further deploy solar energy technologies throughout Kentucky.

By properly integrating solar systems and traditional power grid together, we can produce the electricity we need and reduce the undesirable gas emissions. Generally speaking, during the day time, the load demands are high, and the sunlight is abundant. Therefore, the solar systems can serve to shave the peak load to reduce the power outputs of traditional power plants. The project can serve as a model to further deploy solar energy technologies throughout Kentucky. The project results will also be employed for educational purposes to train the next generation power engineers in areas of renewable energies and smart grid technologies. Based on the project results, we will augment existing courses in our power and energy curricula offerings. This project will also relate to Kentucky's Energy Strategy by increasing the use of renewable energy in Kentucky. This proposed demonstration project will lead to collaboration between public universities and private industry through the collaboration of the University of Kentucky and Solar Energy Development LLC to complete this project.

Objectives: (1) Evaluate different solar cell technologies as they apply towards meeting alternate energy needs specific to the Commonwealth of Kentucky; (2) Demonstrate methods for integrating solar systems into the existing grid, and analyze interaction between them. Demonstrate smart grid technologies for monitoring, protecting and integrating solar systems. (3) Demonstrate feasibility of ‘net-zero’ concept for the campus electric cars, and for some electric cars proposed for World Equestrian Games (WEG), to be held in 2010 in Kentucky; (4) Quantify benefits obtained by installed solar systems.

We will install up to five solar modules of various technologies, totaling 10 KW, on the roof of selected buildings of the College of Engineering at the University of Kentucky. Specific technologies to be evaluated include Silicon, Polycrystalline Silicon, Amorphous Silicon, and Thin Film Cadmium Telluride. A very small test module of GaAs will also be included to serve as a benchmark. These solar modules will be connected to the power grid on the campus through appropriately chosen switches and protection devices. Four solar modules will serve to supply the power needed by the campus buildings. One solar module will be utilized to charge the battery of an electric car utilized for campus transportation and some electric cars proposed for World Equestrian Games (WEG). The surplus power will be supplied to the power grid. We will install power meters to monitor the energy generated by the solar system on an hourly basis. Smart power quality meters will also be installed to monitor the quality of power generated by the solar systems. All the data will be transferred to a special computer and saved in a database. Based on collected data, specific characteristics of different solar technologies, including the quality of power, will be studied. Also, energy savings due to the solar systems will be calculated, and impact of solar power on campus grid will be analyzed. Performance of solar system and interaction between solar system and the power grid during possible faults will also be analyzed. The purpose of involving a car battery is to test the idea of ‘net zero’ concept for the U.K campus and the WEG transportation systems. We intend to demonstrate that the battery utilized by a campus electric car can be fully supplied by the solar power system.

Characteristics of different solar technologies such as Si, CdTe, polycrystalline Si and Amorphous Si will be evaluated, and compared with GaAs characteristics. Power savings due to installation of solar systems will be obtained. Interaction of solar system and existing power grid will be analyzed. Potential problems and solutions of integrating a solar system into the exiting grid will be investigated. These results will facilitate deployment of more solar systems in Kentucky, and facilitate realization
of a smart grid in Kentucky.

Budget Estimate: $150,001 - $200,000

Genesis Development Wind Survey


Scott Sykes
scott.sykes@genesisdevelopment.us
Genesis Development

Genesis Development is currently in the process of engaging property owners of parcels of abandoned surface mine property which were identified in the Department of Energy Development and Independence Renewable Resource Inventory and requests funding for an on site wind assessment.

Genesis Development’s objective is to have the first operational, utility-scale wind energy project in the state by October 2012. However, gaps in the meteorological data in rural eastern Kentucky produced inaccurate data sets in the Statewide Wind Resource Study conducted by AWS TrueWind on behalf of the Department of Energy Development and Independence. Due to these discrepancies Genesis Development is requesting funding for a wind resource assessment for sites identified in the Renewable Resource Inventory.

The generation of electrical energy from wind can be economically achieved only where a significant wind resource exists. Because of the cubic relationship between wind velocity and output energy, sites with small percentage differences in average wind speeds can have substantial differences in generating capacity. Therefore, accurate and thorough monitoring of potential site’s wind resource is critical in the siting of wind turbines at a utility-scale wind energy facility. An accurately measured wind-speed frequency spectrum at a site is another important factor. For assessment of the windpower potential of a site, most investigators have used simple wind-speed distributions that are parameterized solely by the arithmetic mean of the wind speed. Assessment of power output of a wind turbine will be accurate if the wind speeds measured at the hub height (90 m) of a wind turbine-generator are known. However, the existing wind data available at most of the meteorological stations worldwide is measured at a height of 10 or 30 m above the ground. Therefore, wind speeds measured at anemometer heights are extrapolated to the hub height of the wind turbine. In order to garner investment for a wind energy project it is necessary to conduct a wind assessment for no less that 1 year utilizing equipment specifically designed to meet the rigorous standards of the wind industry at an estimated cost of $150,001-$200,000. Typically, wind is measured at a height of 60 m (197’) and a data logger collects data which is then processed and tabulated to produce a detailed wind resource map of the potential site.

The development of renewable energy is essential to the advancement of Kentucky’s economic future. By forging collaborative partnerships with the Kentucky Renewable Energy Consortium, UK’s Center for Applied Energy Research, U of L’s Kentucky Pollution Prevention Center, the Kentucky New Energy Ventures, and the Kentucky Department of Energy Development and Independence Genesis Development is advancing the expansion of wind energy in the Commonwealth. This Wind Resource Assessment will provide detailed data relating to sites identified in the Renewable Resource Inventory and pave the way for the development of a 100 MW wind energy facility. With the development of Kentucky’s first wind energy facility Genesis Development is securing Kentucky’s place in being the leader of energy production and innovation.

Investigation of Smart Materials to Improve Wind Turbine Blade Performance


Vincent Capece, John Baker, Y. Charles Lu, James Benson
vcapece@engr.uky.edu
University of Kentucky

Wind energy has been one of the fastest growing sources of clean, renewable energy in the United States.  The significant interest in wind turbines has motivated manufacturers to produce more efficient wind turbines through novel blade designs. For example, pitching the blades is now used to alter the blade incidence angle to control wind turbine performance. To further increase turbine performance, other flow control methods are being considered including, the use of trailing edge flaps. However, the use of smart materials integrated into the blade structure can give a more continuous and controllable change in the airfoil surface to promote better airfoil performance both for steady inflow and time-variant inflow conditions compared to more traditional methods.

The main objective of this research is to investigate the effectiveness of shape-changing wind turbine blades on improving machine performance. Smart materials are a fascinating class of active materials that are characterized by an ability to change shape when subjected to a stimulus. This project will study the feasibility of using piezoelectric type materials for morphing the shape of wind turbine blades. Geometric morphing of the airfoil leading and trailing edges, and camber are to be considered. In order to accomplish these geometric modifications the internal structure of the airfoil will be constructed with smart materials to deflect the airfoil surfaces. By actuating the smart material, the shape of the airfoil can be changed for improved wind capture. Different design concepts and control methods will be studied. Both experimental testing and numerical modeling will be used to evaluate design concepts and control techniques. A wind turbine airfoil section will be fabricated and tested in the University of Kentucky wind tunnel where the aerodynamic characteristics of the blades will be quantified. Additional testing will be performed to  evaluate the structural performance of the blades. A computational fluid dynamics program will be used to evaluate aerodynamic performance as part of the blade design process. This project will produce data that demonstrates the capability to improve wind turbine performance through adaptive airfoil technology using smart materials.

The anticipated funding request will be in the range of $150,001-$200,000.

Greenhouse Gas-CO2 Reduction Using Wind Energy

Frank Wang
greensolarins@yahoo.com
University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research

This project will study the feasibility of a novel technology that uses renewable wind energy to remove the greenhouse gas CO2 from the atmosphere. The proposed process integrates wind electricity generation and CO2 removal from air. In this approach, the wind energy generates electricity for the grid during periods of high demand (for instance, the peak period) and generates electricity for the capture of CO2 from air during periods of less demand. The approach thus avoids a major hurdle with current wind energy systems: the need to install a battery or capacitor for temporary electricity storage, technology that is both expensive and still under development.

Upon the knowledge learned from current CO2 capture studies, a fixed-bed solid adsorption process will be used for CO2 capture from atmosphere. The proposed study will include the development of a new sorbent, an evaluation of the CO2 stream parameters under various process configurations, along with an analysis of the cost of CO2 capture, also will be performed.

Combining wind electricity generation and CO2 capture within a single integrated process is an attractive method that, instead of transmitting through grid, the electricity generated by wind energy will be used to sequestrate CO2 from atmosphere into liquid CO2 wherever and whenever wind energy is available. The proposed research has great commercial potential if technical feasibility is proven: the technology will enhance the economics of wind farm operation, thereby further stimulating wind energy deployment.

The potential customers for this technology are the wind farms, utility companies, and entities involved in the carbon credit business (in the event that carbon cap-and-trade legislation is enacted by the Congress). In addition, the reduction in the greenhouse gas CO2, enabled by this technology, will help restore the carbon balance and reduce global warming – in particular, the global warming imposed by carbon emission from fossil fuel power generation plants.

Estimated budget range: $50,001-$100,000

Feasibility of Electricity Generation in Low Wind Velocity Regions


R. Eric Berson
eric.berson@louisville.edu
University of Louisville

William Komp, University of Louisville
Westwind Power (Industrial Collaboration)

Current technology excludes many low wind velocity regions as feasible locations for harvesting energy from the wind, which is the case in many regions of the country. In Kentucky, for example, the average wind velocity (at 50m) throughout most of the state is just 4 mph, well below the 12 mph threshold that is generally considered necessary for placement of conventional wind turbines. The state's topography varies from relatively flat plains to rolling hills to forested mountain ridges. Wind speeds at a micro level can vary significantly, and because of the varying topography there may be localized regions within a previously defined low velocity area where average wind velocity is higher than the general surrounding area. Advances in technology will be required to harness wind energy from lower wind velocity areas. Localized locations within these areas may have higher wind power because of possible high wind shear or other wind related events, but localized anemometry studies have not yet been conducted at length in many places.

Mean wind speeds will also vary between day and night as well as seasonably. For example, at night the frictional boundary layer is narrower in the absence of solar heat and associated vertical mixing. Localized data throughout the state, in both rural and urban areas, is lacking but the possibility exists that local mean wind speeds may substantiate the placement of wind turbines for power generation in certain places in Kentucky. If localized wind speeds are determined to be too slow for the development of large-scale wind farms for centralized power generation, the possibility exists that localized areas may have sufficient wind for personal or distributed electricity generation, especially with the development of new technology as proposed here that is designed for capturing energy from lower wind speeds.

The objectives are: (1) collection of anemometry measurements at several localized regions around the state, and (2) employ computational fluid dynamics (CFD) modeling to simulate power generation capabilities of wind-to-electricity turbines that are designed to harness energy in low-wind conditions for small-scale distributed applications. Weather stations will be constructed and set out at a number of rural and urban locations.

These stations will provide localized wind data for 48 hour periods during each season throughout the year. Westwind Power, a Kentucky start-up company, has designed a small, efficient, low-cost, modular system intended for low wind velocity applications. CFD simulations will be performed as part of this project to predict performance of the design. Westwind will modify the design based on simulation results until arriving at an optimal design prior to construction of a prototype. Outcomes of this project will (1) determine localized wind velocities for a number of terrains and topographies within the state, and (2) provide an optimal design of a wind turbine suited for personal electricity generation.

Funds are requested in the range of $0-$50,000.

High-fidelity Simulation of a Flatback Airfoil for More Efficient and Quieter Wind Turbine Design


Yongsheng Lian, Ph.D
y0lian05@louisville.edu
University of Louisville

Wind energy offers a commercially-viable alternative and renewable resource. It has been the fastest growing energy source in the world, and the installed capacity is growing over a 20% annual rate. It is expected that wind energy will account for 20% of the total energy in the United States by 2030, which will significantly reduce the energy dependence on foreign sources and greenhouse gas emissions. However, to harness the full benefits of wind energy requires substantial effort to increase the technical viability of wind systems.

A primary target of the research efforts is to develop more efficient and quieter wind turbine blades. Blades are responsible for energy capturing and are the most critical part in the wind system. An efficient blade design will reduce the wind turbine cost and make the wind energy more competitive. Further, it will also produce electricity at wind sites that previously were not cost effective or not suitable for wind systems such as most areas of Kentucky with a class 1 or class 2 wind power designations. To achieve that goal, we need to create the knowledge and engineering tools. However, the most used design and analysis tools are based on simplified steady state theories and are not able to accurately predict performance of complicated and unconventional wind systems designs involving complicated unsteady phenomenon. Some designs are largely depend on trial and error.

We propose to use high-fidelity analysis tools to study the aerodynamic performance of wind blade. We simulate the flow field by solving the Navier-Stokes equations. The turbulent flow is captured with the detached eddy simulation method. The transitional flow is solved with the eN method. The blade rotation is handled with an overlapping moving grid method. This research will provide designers an analysis and prediction tool for more efficient wind turbine design. The availability of those systems will make most areas of Kentucky suitable for wind system installation. Further, students trained through this project will enforce our working force.

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