For the first time, the Utah Energy Research Triangle is awarding grants to fund seven research projects that will be key to solving Utah energy challenges.
The $445,000 in funds have been divided up among projects associated with three of Utah’s major research universities, including Utah State University, Brigham Young University and The University of Utah, to support and inspire the next generation of Utah talent to focus on energy research.
The seven grant projects cover a wide variety of energy issues. University Principal Investigators will collaborate on research topics ranging from Uinta Basin air quality to the conversion of carbon dioxide to liquid methanol, which can be used as a valuable chemical feedstock or transportation fuel additive. A third project will examine the flow characteristics in pipelines for Utah’s waxy crude oil traveling from the Uinta Basin to refineries.
In addition to providing grants for collaborative energy research among University Principal Investigators, the Utah Energy Research Triangle is working to cultivate Utah’s next generation of scientific talent by offering grants to Bachelor’s, Master’s and Ph.D. candidates at Utah’s premier Universities to pursue applied energy research. One student will explore new photovoltaic solar technology opportunities. Another will study electric vehicle battery performance in cold weather conditions to analyze how well these new vehicles will fare in Utah’s climate. In another inventive project, a Utah State University Ph.D. candidate will delve into the mechanics behind solar-powered hydrogen fuel cell technology. A fourth student will explore magnesium compounds (Utah is the largest magnesium producer in the US), to learn how to use waste heat to produce electricity through high-performance magnesium nanostructures for thermoelectric materials. More information about each of these research projects can be found at: http://energy.utah.gov/utah-energy-research-triangle/
Awarding these research grants represents further progress on the Governor’s 10-Year Strategic Energy Plan, which called for not only the creation of an Office of Energy Development, but also an Energy Research Triangle to build cooperation among Utah’s top universities to advance energy innovation in the State. The Utah Science Technology and Research Initiative (USTAR), the Department of Workforce Services (DWS), the Office of Energy Development (OED) and the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) all contributed to these one year grants, which address wide-ranging issues including energy transportation and infrastructure, environmental quality, resource management and responsible energy development.
Al Walker, the executive director of the Energy Research Triangle says that collaboration between the research universities in Utah will highlight complementary capabilities.
“Sometimes, universities don’t fully pursue collaboration outside their own campuses,” said Walker. “For the Uinta Basin air quality project, USU was looking for a collaborator at BYU. The USU-led research team connected with a BYU scientist who they had never previously worked with, but who had the ideal capabilities to complement the team’s research.”
As the organization that supports Utah’s economic engine through initiatives that help employers and job seekers, DWS also recognizes the value of such cross-cutting research partnerships. Nic Dunn from DWS says, “As one of the most important economic sectors in the State, energy bears special relevance for Utah today and for generations to come. And the only way to keep advancing as a high-tech economy is to keep innovating in our energy sector. To that end, DWS provided funds to the Energy Research Triangle to aid in this innovation that will chart the course of our energy sector and our economy–and ultimately will create jobs and economic growth.”