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New energy and environment institute gives voice to Ohio Valley region

ATHENS, Ohio (Feb. 24, 2004) -- Ohio University has formed the Ohio River Valley's first research institute to improve environmental quality and foster economic development. Researchers at the Institute for Sustainable Energy and Environment, which comprises Ohio University's Ohio Coal Research Center and Center for Air Quality, will assist industrial, state and federal agencies in addressing local and regional air pollution issues.

Ohio University is at the center of the Ohio River Valley Region, one of the nation's major regions for coal-fired power generation. More than 40 power-production facilities in the region provide a vital of portion electricity to the eastern part of the U.S. But the recent passage of the new air quality standards for particulate matter and ozone, and increased emphasis on mercury and air toxics, put new pressures on Ohio and the rest of the area to reduce emissions.

Currently, the Ohio Coal Research Center works to develop techniques to reduce coal emissions during the generation of electric power, while the Center for Air Quality concentrates on urban- and regional-scale air-quality research. Together, they will support and coordinate research, educational programs and community outreach programs regarding the region's energy emissions and how they affect the surrounding environment.

David Bayless, Ohio Coal Research director and associate professor of mechanical engineering at Ohio University's Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ College of Engineering and Technology, notes Ohio has a great opportunity to improve its image – and even become a leader in environmental policy. "Ohio is seen as a black hole for pollution, and that's not good for the state. This doesn't help us in terms of economic growth, and it certainly doesn't help us in setting the environmental agenda," Bayless said.

The institute leverages engineering, science, and economic development experts from across Ohio University. Faculty and staff in the Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ College of Engineering and Technology, College of Health and Human Services, College of Arts and Sciences, Institute for Local Government and Regional Development and other campus centers staff the institute. Michael Prudich, chair of the Russ College's Department of Chemical Engineering, oversees the institute.

Kevin Crist, Center for Air Quality director and associate professor at Ohio University's School of Health Sciences, hopes the institute will help government agencies collaborate to solve some of the region's environmental problems. Currently, the institute is working toward forming a consortium with the George V. Voinovich Center for Leadership and Public Affairs to address policy matters and pinpoint air-water interface resources.

"This region has never had a unified voice – one that's both technical and policy-driven. This is what makes the institute unique and the first of its kind," Crist said.

Current work at the Center for Air Quality includes a $1.6 million project, supported by U.S. Department of Energy, to evaluate the emission, transport and deposition of mercury, arsenic and associated fine-particulate matter from coal-based power plants in the Ohio River Valley region. The center recently received $800,000 from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) science and technology toward its work. Other sponsors include the Ohio Air Quality Development Authority and Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

Research at the Ohio Coal Research Center ranges from biological greenhouse gas control to membrane-based wet electrostatic precipitation, which can control harmful fine particulate such as acid aerosols better than any currently available air pollution control technology.

The center's flagship project, supported by a $4 million U.S. Department of Energy grant, aims to find ways to use coal – the environmentally dirtiest but most abundant fossil fuel in the world – to power high-efficiency fuel cells. The goal is to eliminate pollution from the start – and then generate electricity more efficiently using coal. "We want to have a whole bunch of fuel cells so that Ohio University can produce its own electricity right here. That will make us relatively independent from the electrical grid," Bayless said.

For more information on the Institute for Sustainable Energy and Environment, visit www.ohio.edu/isee/.

The Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ College of Engineering and Technology at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, educates well-rounded professionals with both technical and team-project skills. The Russ College offers undergraduate and graduate degrees across the traditional engineering spectrum and in technology disciplines such as aviation, computer science, and industrial technology. Research areas currently receiving significant funding include avionics, distributed and secure computing, fuel cells, oil and gas pipeline corrosion, and environmental pipes and culverts. Named for alumnus Fritz Russ and his wife Dolores, the Russ College is home of the Russ Prize, one of the top three engineering prizes in the world. For more information, visit www.ohio.edu/engineering/.

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Media Contacts: Russ College Director of External Relations Colleen Girton, girtonc@ohio.edu or (740) 593-1488, or Media Specialist Jack Jeffery, (740) 597-1793 or jefferyj@ohio.edu

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