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Innovative Research and Educational Collaboration to Boost the Development of Bioenergy Sector

A pioneering partnership with an exclusive workforce development factor will facilitate pushing new technologies to the front of the bioenergy sector.

Innovative Research and Educational Collaboration to Boost the Development of Bioenergy Sector.
Meltem Urgun-Demirtas, right, a group leader at Argonne, along with the University of Michigan and Northwestern University will lead a bioenergy industry consortium with a workforce development component to develop new technologies. Image Credit: Argonne National Laboratory.

The Integrated Biochemical and Electrochemical Technologies (IBET) to Convert Organic Waste to Biopower partnership will be guided by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), the University of Michigan and Northwestern University. It will be a platform to assemble waste-to-energy (W2E) technologies from each institution and then test these technologies with industry.

The IBET partnership utilizes developments in advanced bioreactor design, separations and process modeling and control. With this new platform, industry will be able to create large-scale high-purity methane from mixed organic waste streams and support a circular economy.

The project’s goal is to unite Argonne researchers together with their counterparts at universities in Mexico, the United States and Canada; wastewater resource recovery facilities; ANL; and private companies. This partnership will aim to create both unique bioenergy technologies and the future labor force.

We believe that integrating our research with innovative, educational efforts will be a particularly effective formula to advance both W2E technologies and next-generation workforce development, while addressing risks and challenges in the development of new technologies.

Meltem Urgun-Demirtas, Group Leader of Bioprocesses and Reactive Separations, Applied Materials Division, Argonne National Laboratory

Partnerships between Argonne and five North American universities — Michigan, University of Toronto, Northwestern, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico and Tecnológico de Monterrey — will help participants comprehend in a better manner the existing state of W2E in North America. Collaborations and cost-sharing among the practitioners will intensify the impact of the projected work.

The opportunity provided to conduct research, develop novel technologies, and educate the future generation of W2E professionals through this collaboration is second to none. Our work will be even more meaningful through the direct involvement of partners from industry.

Lutgarde Raskin, the Vernon L. Snoeyink Distinguished University Professor of Environmental Engineering and Project’s Principal Investigator, University of Michigan

Corporate partners, the Great Lakes Water Authority, a major utility in Michigan and a prospective end-user for W2E technologies; including inCTRL Solutions Corp., a biogas and wastewater treatment modeling and control company; and Carollo Engineers, an environmental engineering firm whose wastewater innovations group has concentrated on carbon management and energy production, among other subjects.

These companies will create and review technical reports to match the requirements of practitioners. They also will act as industry advisers and provide internship openings for students who are keen to pursue a career in utility or industry.

The integration of research and education within the collaboration will support future workforce development for W2E fields. By connecting these two missions closely, students within the collaboration will receive a more holistic perspective on the W2E field.

Meridith Bruozas, Manager, Educational Programs, Argonne National Laboratory

This partnership will boost knowledge on bioenergy technologies and broaden collaborative opportunities by offering Ph.D., masters and undergraduate students the chance to extend their research capabilities in technology development, contribute to shared professional development, and get involved in cross-institutional bioenergy research and internship openings.

Thereby, widening the participation of underrepresented minorities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics within the bioenergy technology group and publicly spreading educational and research information.

Students who take part in the partnership will gain knowledge regarding W2E technologies by taking courses, joining workshops and carrying out research at universities and ANL. They also will get practical experience by working in partnership with utilities and industry partners. Coursework, research, workshop and practical training will all be customized to the career interests of the different participants, said Bruozas.

The Bioenergy Technologies Office of the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy in DOE (EERE-DOE) provided funding support to the University of Michigan, ANL, and Northwestern for the collaboration.

EERE’s mission is to fast-track the research, development, demonstration and utilization of technologies and solutions to rightfully transition America to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions economy-wide by at least 2050, and guarantee the clean energy economy benefits for all Americans, generating good-paying jobs for the American people — particularly workers and communities affected by the energy transition and those historically inadequately serviced by the energy system and overstrained by pollution.


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