Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

SUNRISE Shines on Efforts to Turn Crop Oils Into Biofuels for Jet Aircraft

23.01.2009
SUNRISE is a student-centered, faculty-led research program at UND, North Dakota State University and other North Dakota universities. The mission of SUNRISE is to conduct research that contributes to solving complex energy problems, investigations of sustainable energy options, and economic development and job creation for North Dakota.

The area is affectionately known among “REAC 1” (Research Enterprise and Commercialization) builders and tenants as “Wayne’s World,” a reference to a classic — but worn — Saturday Night Live skit from the 1990s and a play on the name of Wayne Seames, University of North Dakota professor of chemical engineering.

But there’s no joking around when it comes to the work going on there or its official name. The SUNRISE Renewables Co., a new UND spinoff, will be using the space as a fuels and chemical pilot facility to convert crop oils into a 100-percent renewable, 100-percent compatible jet fuel and other products using technology developed by Seames and his co-workers.

SUNRISE is a student-centered, faculty-led research program at UND, North Dakota State University and other North Dakota universities. The mission of SUNRISE is to conduct research that contributes to solving complex energy problems, investigations of sustainable energy options, and economic development and job creation for North Dakota. It also aims to increase UND and NDSU research competitiveness in sustainable energy and, finally, produce graduates who will develop and promote sustainable energy in North Dakota, the region and the nation.

All this is done within a unified, interdisciplinary program that translates fundamental research into commercial solutions, Seames said.

The initiative also was awarded a North Dakota Center of Excellence, called SUNRISE BioProducts, which will focus on developing chemicals, polymers and composite materials based on “cracked” crop oils. SUNRISE is one of only two state research groups included in the 2008-2013 North Dakota National Science Foundation (NSF) Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) infrastructure improvement research grant.

Student focused

Student involvement is an essential component in SUNRISE Renewables, Seames said.

“I left the industry in 1995 and enrolled in graduate school to become a professor to a great extent because I was concerned that the fraction of engineering faculty with applied engineering experience had seriously declined,” Seames said. “Engineering students need exposure to real-world opportunities.”

SUNRISE Renewables will employ seven people in its offices located at the Skalicky Tech Incubator in UND’s Center for Innovation. An additional eight people, many UND students, will be working at the new REAC 1 pilot center turning crop oils into a jet fuel that meets federally mandated standards, as well as chemicals and polymers that are direct replacements for products currently derived from crude oil or natural gas.

“I came to UND to teach and train students — not to build a commercial company,” Seames said. “If I couldn’t involve students in these endeavors, I would not be at UND. Fortunately, UND and particularly Jim Petell have provided an environment where we can accommodate student training into our commercialization activities.”

SUNRISE Renewables is one of six new companies moving into REAC 1, and one of two new companies formed in North Dakota under the guidance of Petell, formerly associate vice president for intellectual property commercialization and economic development at UND. Petell now serves as the executive director of the UND Research Foundation (UNDRF), which is affiliated with the University and oversees management of REAC 1 and the surrounding 20-acre Research Enterprise and Commercialization park.

Collegial duo

Paul Overby, who just graduated from UND’s School of Engineering and Mines in August, already is a key player in the SUNRISE Renewables team that is designing the special thermal-cracking and acid neutralizing reactors that aid in the production of hydrocarbons used to fuel jet aircraft.

“It’s a great opportunity and one of the more exciting things that I’ve been involved in,” Overby said. “Most chemical engineering graduates go to work for a large petroleum company and they get kind of pigeonholed in one particular area. But what I get to do here is work on the entire process of something that’s never been done before.”

Overby, 24, a graduate of Reynolds (N.D.) High School, is working on the project with Bill McDonald of Crown Iron Works, Inc., Roseville, Minn.

Crown Iron Works (CIW) has extensive experience in the biodiesel industry, having supplied process equipment to more than 20 industrial-scale facilities worldwide. SUNRISE approached CIW to work with its production process and help with the detailed engineering of its technology.

Overby keeps in regular communication with McDonald. He refers to McDonald as the more experienced engineer of the duo and, in many ways, a mentor.

But, McDonald, who in 1987 also graduated from UND with a degree in chemical engineering, said he views the relationship as one of colleagues, and one in which he has actually learned a thing or two from the younger engineer.

“He (Overby) has done a great job on the computer model of the process, including creating chemical species in the software and outlining unit operations used to get from the raw material (vegetable oil) to the product (renewable jet fuel), so that others, especially myself, can make our contributions,” McDonald said.

A new paradigm

Overby said his job is to find ways to optimize the process to make it better.

"There might be some new things that we find out along the way,” he said. “It’s kind of a big science project in that sense.”

Overby lives in Grand Forks with his wife, Maria, and their two boys, Marques, 2, and Faron, 1.

Unlike years past, when major multinational companies and their research and development organizations were the only ones churning out innovations, today most of that activity happens in universities, Seames observed. The best of these innovations are turned into commercially viable technologies in small companies, such as SUNRISE Renewables.

“SUNRISE Renewables provides a model for this new world paradigm and enriches our ability to equip students to participate in this exciting future,” Seames said.

David Dodds | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.und.edu/

More articles from Power and Electrical Engineering:

nachricht Open, flexible assembly platform for optical systems
23.01.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Produktionstechnologie IPT

nachricht A big nano boost for solar cells
18.01.2017 | Kyoto University and Osaka Gas effort doubles current efficiencies

All articles from Power and Electrical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Quantum optical sensor for the first time tested in space – with a laser system from Berlin

For the first time ever, a cloud of ultra-cold atoms has been successfully created in space on board of a sounding rocket. The MAIUS mission demonstrates that quantum optical sensors can be operated even in harsh environments like space – a prerequi-site for finding answers to the most challenging questions of fundamental physics and an important innovation driver for everyday applications.

According to Albert Einstein's Equivalence Principle, all bodies are accelerated at the same rate by the Earth's gravity, regardless of their properties. This...

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Tracking movement of immune cells identifies key first steps in inflammatory arthritis

23.01.2017 | Health and Medicine

Electrocatalysis can advance green transition

23.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

New technology for mass-production of complex molded composite components

23.01.2017 | Process Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>