By Colleen Carow
The state of Ohio's Research Scholars Program has awarded Ohio University and lead partner Ohio State University almost $10.5 million to establish a collaborative cluster in advanced energy systems.
Aiming to better align Ohio's research investments with economic development, the Ohio Research Scholars Program provides funding for senior research talent and related facilities and equipment. The grant will link Ohio University's research on cleaner coal technologies with similar efforts at Ohio State.
Researchers in the Russ College of Engineering and Technology have received more than $8 million since 2000 for research on more efficient ways to generate electricity and heat from coal that also create less pollution. Engineers are studying fuel cells, converting coal to syngas (gasification) to make electricity and fuels, and using algae to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from coal.
As part of the grant, Ohio University and Ohio State each will receive one endowed research scholar position. Ohio University's endowed chair in coal research will be created with about $2.5 million from the award, with matching funds from Russ College endowments.
"Being able to recruit these kinds of faculty members enables us to envision Ohio University as a fairly major player in energy," said Russ College Dean Dennis Irwin. "We will be able to make a real difference in education, research, intellectual property development and fostering job creation around energy."
The new scholar will focus on "syngas utilization." Research may be conducted on generating electricity from coal more efficiently using gasification as well as creating diesel or jet fuels from coal. Ohio State's position will focus on "subsurface sequestration," or storing carbon dioxide underground.
"We hope to link the two programs through the hiring process and also through Ohio University's Air Quality Center, which provides air quality monitoring and modeling for the Ohio River Valley and Midwest region," said David Bayless, director of the university's Ohio Coal Research Center and the Loehr Professor of Mechanical Engineering.
Funds also will be used to support coal research staff and graduate students and to upgrade research space for the Institute for Sustainable Energy and the Environment. The institute, the umbrella organization for the coal and air quality centers, also oversees laboratories that specialize in fuel cells and biofuels.
The universities expect to receive the funds in mid-July at the earliest, with searches to fill the research scholars positions and efforts to launch other aspects of the collaboration to follow.
Jointly funded and administered by the Ohio Department of Development and the chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents, the Ohio Research Scholars Program provided more than $143 million -- and 26 new research scholars -- to 10 collaborations between University System of Ohio schools, private universities and industry partners throughout the state.
The organizations were selected through a competitive proposal process. Applicants were required to request funds for new scholars in one or more of the state's targeted technology/research focus areas: advanced materials; biosciences; instruments, controls and electronics; information technology; and power and propulsion.
"I'm excited that the Ohio Research Scholars Program supported our work in advanced energy systems, as this is one of Ohio University's key research programs," said interim Vice President for Research Jim Rankin. "The new funds will help us advance our strategic plans."
Ohio University clean coal research is part of a larger research initiative, the Consortium for Energy, Education and the Environment (CE3), launched in 2003. It unites engineers in fuel and air quality research with scientists and scholars in the College of Arts and Sciences and Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs who study watershed reclamation and develop government policy solutions.
"This is an affirmation of the work we've been doing over the last five years, building relationships across the university and with other university partners," said Scott Miller, CE3 director. "The new funding will build Ohio University's ability to meet the advanced energy research needs for the state of Ohio."
Andrea Gibson contributed to this story.
Updated 9:40 a.m. June 2, 2008.