A groundbreaking collaboration with a unique workforce development component will help to bring new technologies to the forefront of the bioenergy industry.
The Integrated Biochemical and Electrochemical Technologies (IBET) to Convert Organic Waste to Biopower collaboration will be led by the University of Michigan, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory, and Northwestern University. It will bring together waste-to-energy (W2E) technologies from each institution and opportunities to test these technologies with industry.
The IBET collaboration uses developments in separations, advanced bioreactor design, and process modeling and control. This new platform will help industry produce high-purity methane from mixed organic waste streams at large scales and support a circular economy.
“ … integrating our research with innovative, educational efforts will be a particularly effective formula to advance both W2E technologies and next-generation workforce development, …” — Meltem Urgun-Demirtas, Argonne’s Bioprocesses and Reactive Separations group, Applied Materials division
The overall goal of this project is is to bring Argonne scientists together with their counterparts at universities in the United States, Mexico and Canada; Argonne National Laboratory; wastewater resource recovery facilities; and private companies. This collaboration will seek to develop both novel bioenergy technologies and the future workforce.
“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,” said Meltem Urgun-Demirtas, group leader of Bioprocesses and Reactive Separations in Argonne’s Applied Materials division.
Collaborations between Argonne and five North American universities — Michigan, Northwestern, University of Toronto, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico, and Tecnológico de Monterrey — will help participants better understand the current state of W2E in North America. Partnerships and cost sharing among the practitioners will amplify the impact of the proposed 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,” said Lutgarde Raskin, the Vernon L. Snoeyink Distinguished University Professor of Environmental Engineering at Michigan and principal investigator of the project. “Our work will be even more meaningful through the direct involvement of partners from industry.”
Corporate partners include inCTRL Solutions Corp., a biogas and wastewater treatment modeling and control company; the Great Lakes Water Authority, a major utility in Michigan and a potential end user for W2E technologies; and Carollo Engineers, an environmental engineering firm whose wastewater innovations group has focused on carbon management and energy production, among other topics.
These companies will shape and review technical reports to meet the needs of practitioners. They also will serve as industry mentors and provide internship opportunities for students who are interested in a utility or industry career.
“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,” said Meridith Bruozas, manager of Educational Programs at Argonne.
This collaboration will increase knowledge sharing on bioenergy technologies and expand collaborative opportunities by providing Ph.D., masters and undergraduate students opportunities to deepen their research capabilities in technology development, participate in shared professional development and engage in cross-institutional bioenergy research and internship opportunities; broadening participation of underrepresented minorities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics within the bioenergy technology community; and publicly disseminating research and educational information.
Students who participate in the collaboration will learn about W2E technologies by taking courses, participating in workshops and conducting research at universities and Argonne. They also will gain real-world experience by collaborating with utilities and industry partners. Coursework, workshop, research and practical training will all be tailored to the career interests of the diverse participants, said Bruozas.
The Bioenergy Technologies Office of the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy in DOE (EERE-DOE) awarded the University of Michigan, Argonne, and Northwestern funding to support the collaboration.
EERE’s mission is to accelerate the research, development, demonstration, and deployment of technologies and solutions to equitably transition America to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions economy-wide by no later than 2050, and ensure the clean energy economy benefits all Americans, creating good paying jobs for the American people—especially workers and communities impacted by the energy transition and those historically underserved by the energy system and overburdened by pollution.
Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation’s first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America’s scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit https://energy.gov/science.