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:

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

  • By-products from coal

  • Renewable Fuels, Chemicals, Polymers, and Materials Research:

  • 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.

  • Renewable Materials

  • Biomass Pretreatment

  • 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

  • Renewable polymeric materials for fuel cell and hydrolysis cell membranes and the development of novel polymeric materials for use in wind turbine blades.


  • Advanced Educational Training

  • Undergraduate Education and Outreach

  • K-12 Outreach and Education

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