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Energy Institute funds new research projects

August 7, 2014
Kortny Rolston

The Energy Institute at Colorado State University has awarded $100,000 in grants to researchers studying an array of energy-related topics - from modeling the distribution of costs and benefits of hydraulic fracturing to developing sorghum strains that yield more bioenergy.

“The goal is to support people who come up with creative new ideas related to energy, whether producing it or using it,” said Ken Reardon, academic director of the Energy Institute.  “These are discovery grants and are meant to fund projects where researchers need to prove out concepts or gather initial data.”

This is the first year the newly formed Energy Institute has funded research. Similar grants were awarded through the University’s Clean Energy Supercluster, which has since been absorbed by the Energy Institute.

Reardon said the Energy Institute’s grant program mirrors what was done in the past - funding innovative projects that involve professors and students from across CSU.  Previous grants have led to large, federally funded projects and publications in peer-reviewed journals.

The nine projects selected this year span several departments and colleges and include researchers from economics, sociology, chemistry, psychology, computer science, engineering, chemistry and other departments.

“The Energy Institute was created to coordinate energy-related research across campus,” Reardon said. “These grants reflect the impressive breadth and depth of CSU’s energy expertise.”

And the winners are..

This year, the Energy Institute awarded grants to:

  • Pat Aloise-Young, a psychology professor; Jeni Cross, a sociology professor; and Chuck Anderson, a computer science professor, to conduct lab and field studies examining whether facial expressions - approving or disapproving –influence people to use less electricity.
     
  • Todd Bandhauer, a mechanical engineering professor, to experiment with using waste heat generated by combustion engines to improve braking efficiency.
     
  • Brian Dunbar and Stephanie Barr, researchers with CSU’s Institute for the Built Environment; and Jeni Cross and Tara Shelley, sociology professors, to examine the design processes used by teams creating high performance buildings that exceed energy efficiency goals and create a framework that industry professionals can use.
     
  • Chris Goemans, an agricultural and resource economics professor, to determine the factors that drive consumers’ support for alternative energy policies and whether focusing on one attribute causes people to reject a new technology even if it could benefit them.
     
  • Terrence Iverson, an economics professor; Dale Manning, a professor of agricultural and resource economics; and Harvey Cutler, an economics professor; to model the distribution of costs and benefits of hydraulic fracturing for local communities and how they differ from broader costs and benefits.
     
  • Courtney Jahn, a crop and soil sciences professor; and Christie Peebles, a chemical and biological engineering professor, to develop new sorghum varieties that produce more bioenergy. (The project also is supported by the CSU Sustainable Bioenergy Development Center.)
     
  • James Neilson, a chemistry professor, to develop new photovoltaic materials that convert the sun’s rays into power more efficiently than current products.
     
  • Tom Santangelo, a biochemistry and molecular biology professor, to explore the use of a microorganism known as a marine hyperthermophilic archaeon, Thermococcus kodakarensis, for simultaneous production of both gaseous and liquid biofuels. (The project also is supported by the CSU Sustainable Bioenergy Development Center.)
     
  • Dan Zimmerle, a research scientist at the Energy Institute, to develop “plug & play” microgrids for rural communities in the developing world.