With Earth Day around the corner, it's a good time to look at the range of USTAR efforts from the perspective of sustainability and green impact. Very exciting developments are happening in the energy field and related arenas.
On April 20th, the Milford High School Renewable Energy Fair takes place. A panel discussion on "Renewable Energy Opportunities in Utah" will cap a day of events and displays by clean energy businesses, students, and other organizations including USTAR. There will also be an electric car race during the day. USTAR staff will be on hand to discuss the renewable energy overview report recently posted online. In addition to data on the state's opportunities in geothermal, wind, solar, and biomass energy generation, the report includes brief technology assessments. The Southern Utah USTAR Technology Outreach team is working with other stakeholders to grow Utah's alternative energy economy.
On Earth Day, April 22nd, the University of Utah (U of U) will host groundbreaking ceremonies for the James L. Sorenson Molecular Biotechnology Building - A USTAR Innovation Center. The 200,000-square-foot building - which is targeting LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council - will support 25 senior faculty researchers, plus junior faculty, administrative and laboratory personnel. The building will house both flexible, open-bench research laboratories as well as four specialty core research facilities for small animal imaging, biomedical microscopy, engineering microscopy, and nano-fabrication.
The high-tech facility will set a high standard for sustainable design by creating an energy efficient building that will reduce both energy use and energy costs from current laboratory code requirements by a minimum of 40 percent. Among the strategies used to achieve this are daylighting that will allow natural light to reach at least 75 percent of the building's occupied spaces, and the use of sunshades to modulate the quality and intensity of light as it enters the building at different times and different angles throughout the year.
On a related note, the USTAR facility at USU's Innovation Campus is quickly rising, and recent equipment purchases were made with the aim of saving not only electrical but also water consumption. Sustainability was a key criterion in the equipment selection process.
On the research front, USTAR teams at the U of U and Utah State University (USU) are exploring exciting new developments that will have green impacts:
Combating Climate Change -USTAR faculty member Brian McPherson of the U of U's Energy and Geosciences Institute within department of Civil Engineering is integral to a new company -Headwaters Clean Carbon Services (HCCS). The company is standing ready to extract the CO2 from coal-fired power plant emissions and store it in natural aquifers deep under the earth's surface. More information on Dr. McPherson's efforts can be found here, or visit USTAR's Earth Day table at the U of U's celebration at Union Plaza (10:30 am - 1:30 pm).
Energy Independence - Led by USTAR researcher Jeff Muhs, the USU Energy Lab has made tremendous progress in recent years, identifying strains of algae that produce more oil and developing new bio-reactor designs to grow algae faster and more efficiently. Recognizing this progress, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Pentagon's R&D funding agency, recently awarded a research and development contract to General Atomics, a defense contractor and system integrator based in San Diego. As a member of the General Atomics team, USU is receiving a share of a $43 million contract for bio-jet fuel research and development. Muhs' team recently received a provisional patent for the bioreactor design. More information can be found here.
A Cleaner Environment - At the U of U, Dr. Ling Zang and his team are working on the leading edge of nanomaterial and nano-detection technologies, developing applications in several key fields. Their chemo-sensors will improve security by detecting explosives and other life-threatening chemicals. Detection technologies will allow environmental cleanup of mercury and other toxic compounds. And, next-generation solar technology will help make renewable energy affordable on a mass scale. Read more here.
More Efficient Wind Power - At USU, the Center for Active Sensing and Imaging (CASI) is developing laser technology called LIDAR for remote sensing and 3D imaging. Like its cousin RADAR, LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) bounces laser light off of objects to accurately measure the size, shape and location of land, buildings, and even the air. LIDAR can literally "map the wind," helping to detect air pollution and site wind farms. The technology has the promise to improve the efficiency of wind farms by as much as 10 percent. More information is available here.
The Utah Science Technology and Research initiative (USTAR) is a long-term, state-funded investment to strengthen Utah's "knowledge economy" and generate high-paying jobs. Funded in March 2006 by the State Legislature, USTAR is based on three program areas. The first area involves funding for strategic investments at the University of Utah and Utah State University to recruit world-class researchers. The second area is to build state-of-the-art interdisciplinary facilities at these institutions for the innovation teams. The third program area involves teams that work with companies and entrepreneurs across the State to promote science, innovation, and commercialization activities. For more information, go to www.innovationutah.com or follow http://twitter.com/Innovationutah.