North Dakota's Sustainable Energy Research and Supporting Education Initiative
A faculty organized virtual research, development, and commercialization (RD&C) center that also facilitates educational and outreach opportunities with a focus on sustainable energy and related technologies.
SUNRISE will 1) conduct research to provide long-term sustainable energy, chemical, and material products; 2) develop clean technologies that can improve economic development in North Dakota; 3) increase North Dakota research capabilities in sustainable energy, chemicals, and materials; and 4) produce graduates qualified to work in emerging clean technology industries all within a unified, interdisciplinary program that translates fundamental research into commercial solutions.
The primary vision of SUNRISE researchers is that all stages of the research, development, and commercialization process must be incorporated into a unified program. This requires interdisciplinary teams and allows fundamental research results to be effectively and efficiently translated into commercially viable solutions when appropriate.
North Dakota's two primary economic sectors are agriculture and energy. Researchers at UND and NDSU have developed the experience and infrastructure to establish a major center focused on sustainable energy and associated technologies. The result is SUNRISE.
SUNRISE researchers conduct research in three focus areas:
- Sustainable Coal Utilization and Energy-Derived Particulate Matter Mitigation
- Renewable Fuels, Chemicals, Polymers, and Materials
- Energy from Diffuse Sources (wind/solar/hydrogen)
Activities in these three research thrusts will help our state achieve a well-rounded portfolio to meet long-term sustainable energy needs.
The strength of this research group is the demonstrated commitment of the principal participants to truly collaborative, student-centered RD&C and supporting education and outreach programs.
A total of 31 faculty researchers from 13 separate academic departments from UND, NDSU, and Mayville State currently participate in SUNRISE-associated research projects. Disciplines represented include: Chemistry (UND, NDSU), Chemical Engineering (UND), Electrical Engineering (UND, NDSU), Plant Sciences (NDSU, Mayville State), Agribusiness and Economics (NDSU), Ag & Biosystems Engineering (NDSU), Earth System Science and Policy (UND), Mechanical Engineering (UND, NDSU), Political Science (UND), Industrial Engineering (NDSU), Law (UND), Polymers and Coatings (NDSU), Teaching & Learning (UND).
Since 2004, SUNRISE researchers have received over $35 million for funded research and education projects from 44 separate funding entities.
Sustainable Coal Utilization and Energy-Derived Particulate Matter Mitigation Research:
Understanding and mitigating environmental impacts from coal combustion in order to make the use of coal more sustainable from an environmental perspective.
Particulate matter (PM) from energy sources
- Technologies to reduce carbon emissions from coal-based energy processes
- Improving the efficiency of amine CO2 absorption systems with membranes
- Novel sorbent-based CO2 removal systems
- Understanding the impacts of trace element concentration in oxy-coal systems utilizing flue gas recycle for combustion temperature control
- Advanced materials and coatings for combustion systems
- Studies of refractory corrosion under high temperature/novel combustion conditions
- The impact and mitigation of semi-volatile trace element emissions from coal-based energy processes
- Understanding the formation mechanisms of the fine fragmentation ash region produced during coal combustion
By-products from coal
- Exploring the organic content of PM generated by various combustors and engines
- Comparative studies for PM from renewable fuels vs. fossil based analog sources
- PM liberation during fire events
- Studies of secondary reactions in the ambient near-exhaust environment from combustors and/or engines or other particle generators
Renewable Fuels, Chemicals, Polymers, and Materials Research:
- Cenosphere-based products
- The impacts of ash utilization in building products
Developing fuels, chemicals, polymers, and composites from fatty acid-based oil feedstocks, primarily in the form of triacyl glyceride oils.
- TGs (figure) use a glycerol backbone to connect three fatty acids together. The synthesis of fatty acids and/or TGs is one of the most common strategies used by living organisms to store excess energy. In plants, these TGs are more commonly known as crop oils and include both edible (soybean, canola, tomato, sunflower, etc.) and inedible varieties (jatropha, camelina, etc.). Because this is such a common strategy, plants producing TGs can be found in every earth ecosystem where plants can survive, including deserts (jojoba, marhula, etc.), tropics (jatropha), and artic (camelina, canola, rapeseed) climate regions. TGs are also synthesized by many varieties of algae and by certain classes of bacteria.
- Our work is centered upon the use of cracking and other catalytic reaction technologies to generate the building blocks and components necessary for fuels and chemicals.
- Commercialization of noncatalytic cracking-based processes is now in progress, including pilot scale and demonstration scale facilities.
- Studies of the cracking and reaction processes continue in order to better understand the fundamental mechanisms of our processes and characterize cracked materials in order to identify additional opportunities to produce high value by-products.
- Natural fibers in composites
- Renewable monomers for polymers and coatings
- Polymers with renewable substitutes for fossil-based monomers
Harvesting Diffuse Energy Sources Research:
Using hydrolysis and fuel cell technologies to mitigate the variations in wind power generation
Improving electrolysis performance
Alternative compression techniques
Integrating power electronics and control will continue.
Novel photovoltaic systems
- Improved understanding of acid pretreatment for novel biomass feedstocks
- Novel pretreatment technologies
- Novel fast pyrolysis methods to generate bio-oils from biomass
Renewable polymeric materials for fuel cell and hydrolysis cell membranes and the development of novel polymeric materials for use in wind turbine blades.
- Organic photovoltaic materials
- Novel photocatalyzed electrochemical reactions
EDUCATION AND OUTREACH
Advanced Educational Training
Undergraduate Education and Outreach
- SUNRISE research is student-centered where feasible and forms the basis for doctoral dissertations and masters theses
- SUNRISE typically sponsors at least one seminar per year with a world-class research oriented speaker
- Selected SUNRISE projects are used for post-doctoral training, primarily for molecular scale modeling projects
- SUNRISE has graduate student exchange arrangements with international partners including North West University, South Africa.
K-12 Outreach and Education
- SUNRISE has hosted a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates Site since its formation. The SUNRISE REU is primarily focused on sustainable energy research in chemistry and chemical engineering, although any SUNRISE faculty may be student mentors
- SUNRISE sponsors the Native American Freshman Research Experience (NAFRE). Tribal college students and Native American students graduating from High School are eligible to participate in this 1-4 week program with SUNRISE faculty mentors.
- SUNRISE sponsors "Chemistry vs. Dust", an Air Pollution workshop. Two one day sessions are held during UND's spring break each year. Students from regional high schools attend.
- SUNRISE sponsors a middle-school outreach program, known as Power ON! Power ON! uses experiments and demonstrations in the area of Sustainable Energy as an experiential learning component in an integrated program designed to motivate and educate middle school children in science, engineering, and math.
- A UND student organization and special topics class are used to involve undergraduate and graduate students
- A portable science lab trailer and small scale experiments are used
- Power ON! participates in regional science days and other events, including summer camps
- This program is a partnership with the Dakota Science Center