Illinois Sustainable Technology Center - University of Illinois

ISTC News Digest

Widespread Groundwater Contamination Found in Southwestern Illinois

Geologist sampling water from a cave poolResearchers from ISTC, the Illinois Natural History Survey, and the Illinois State Water Survey detected prescription drug contamination in Illinois groundwater. Analysis of water samples from southwestern Illinois springs and cave streams was reported in the journal Science of the Total Environment. MORE




In Race to Capture Carbon Dioxide, Remember the Need to Use It

Kevin O'Brien in front of the ghgt-13 banner in the main hall of the auditorium in Lausanne, SwitzerlandThe capture and utilization of CO2 provides a unique opportunity to create jobs, build new markets, and Illinois is leading this charge, said ISTC Director Kevin O'Brien in a presentation Nov. 15 at the International Conference on Greenhouse Gas Technologies (GHGT-13) in Lausanne, Switzerland. MORE





Illinois Success Story a Model for Sustainable University

Researcher performing an experiment while wearing protective nitrile glovesKimberly-Clark has recognized two Big Ten Champions in the recycling of nitrile gloves – the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign and Purdue University. The company highlighted success stories at universities who have developed programs to keep millions of single-use gloves out of landfills. MORE





Congratulations to the 2016 Award Winners!

governor's award plaques lined up at the ceremonyTwenty-five Illinois companies and organizations were honored for their commitment to sustainable business and operations at the 30th Illinois Governor's Sustainability Awards Ceremony held Tuesday, Nov. 1 at the Union League Club of Chicago. Also keynote talks highlighted the sustainability efforts at two major global corporations – General Motors and Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company. The morning technical symposium featured important advances in technology for carbon capture and utilization, as well as for large-scale production of biofuel. MORE

U.S. Army Lab Engineer Spending Fruitful Year Collaborating with Illinois Peers

Steve Cosper standing in front of pull up banners that read Energy, Water, Reuse of Materials, Contamin. each banner has an image related to its wordSteve Cosper is in the middle of a busy sabbatical year collaborating with ISTC researchers on a range of projects of mutual benefit spanning energy, water, and waste issues. It is the latest highlight of a closer relationship between the Prairie Research Institute (PRI) and the Army’s major research center in Champaign. MORE




ISTC Sponsored Research Evaluates Acoustic Leak Detection Network

leak detection with acoustic sensorsThe Billion Gallon Water Challenge has released a video of a research collaboration with American Water and Echologics to demonstrate new leak detection technology for residential drinking water distribution systems that demonstrated accuracy of 90 percent. MORE





Academic/Government Partners Work Toward the Next Level in Home Water Filtration

gold membrane water filtrationISTC researchers Nandakishore Rajagopalan and Wei Zheng are part of a team of experts from government and academia who are working to improve the filtration of household drinking water using new ultrathin nanoparticle-based membranes to remove trace organic contaminants (TrOCs). MORE





Illinois Teachers Prepare for Lessons on Impact of Drugs in Environment

teachers workshop on drug disposalSchool teachers from across Illinois attended a workshop at the Illinois Sustainable technology Center June 15-16 to help them develop curricula about the risks of improper disposal of pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) and impacts of these emerging contaminants in the environment. MORE





It's Not Mr. Fusion, But It's A Whiz at Energy Production

waste to fuel research"Mr. Sewer" is a multi-stage waste-to-biofuel production system under development by ISTC which can extract 100 percent of energy from a wide variety of wastes. By combining hydrothermal liquefaction of wastes with algae farming, the process can extract three to 10 times the energy in the waste alone. A commercial-scale plant is now being optimized on the University of Illinois campus. MORE

 

PRI Watersheds Initiative Recognized by White House Summit

Remains of Thomson's compound
   

The White House Water Summit today highlighted the Resilient Watersheds Initiative of the Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois in its announcement of new measurable steps being taken across the country to address key water issues. The Resilient Watersheds Initiative seeks to provide a science-based and data-driven approach to promoting resilient, sustainable Illinois watersheds. The interdisciplinary approach includes expertise from the Prairie Research Institute (PRI), Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, other departments across the University, as well as researchers at the National Great Rivers Research and Education Center in Alton, Ill.


Governor's Awards Applications are Now Being Accepted

Blue Governor's Awards Trophy

Applications are now open for the Illinois Governor’s Sustainability Awards (IGSA) through May 20. The award has recognized Illinois sustainability champions for 30 years and is the nation’s longest standing state environmental award program. Winners are rewarded for their efforts in minimizing environmental impact and having positive economic and societal consequences for their sustainability actions. Businesses, organizations, and communities are encouraged to register. Learn MORE


Assay of Archaeological Find Reveals Desperate Times for the Sick in 1850

Remains of Thomson's compound
   

Life was hard in 1850. Tuberculosis (consumption) was rampant, and one was likely to be dead by 40. A 'medicine' bottle discovered by Illinois State Archaeological Survey (ISAS) during a dig at Meredosia, Illinois, and analyzed in ISTC's laboratories, gives evidence of the desperation they faced. The results were disclosed at an ISAS symposium on Feb. 19.




Sharma Named Fellow of National Engineering Society

Engineer honored as society fellow 

B.K. Sharma, senior research engineer at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, has been elected a fellow of the Society of Tribologists and Lubrication Engineers (STLE). He is one of six new 2016 fellows to be honored at the 71st STLE Annual Meeting and Exhibition May 17 in Las Vegas. STLE boasts 13,000 individual- and 200-corporate and organizational members.




Senator Durbin Backs Research to Capture More Carbon from Coal Plants

Green Office Challenge 

Senator Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) toured the Abbott Power Plant at the University of Illinois on Jan. 15 for a briefing on Prairie Research Institute (PRI) research to develop next-generation carbon capture technology. The first-hand look at the project was an "eye opener," Durbin said. Also, PRI has just released an informative video introduction to the work underway at the Abbott Power Plant.




Green Your Office, Join the Challenge

Green Office Challenge 

Registration is now open for the 2016 Illinois Green Office Challenge (IGOC), a friendly competition to see which Illinois organization can accumulate the most points by conserving energy and water, reducing waste, and saving money.


ISTC Signs Call for Action to Limit Global Warming

Paris call for actionThe Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) has become a signatory to The Paris Pledge for Action, a world-wide call to action to reduce environmental impacts and limit global warming to less than two degrees. "Minimizing the impact of climate change will require global innovation and cooperation," said Kevin O'Brien, director of ISTC at the University of Illinois' Prairie Research Institute (PRI). "There is not one solution to this societal, governmental, and technological challenge," he added, "there are as many as we can think of."




ISTC Feted for Leadership in Pollution Prevention and Sustainability

Governor's awardsThe 30th Anniversary Celebration of the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) on Nov. 9 brought together some of its founding fathers and significant players that put Illinois at the forefront of pollution prevention and sustainability. It was a great time to look back... and to the future.





Power Plant at University of Illinois Proposed as Site for New Carbon Capture Technology

Governor's awardsThe U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has selected a multi-national team led by the University of Illinois to develop a proposal for retrofitting the University’s Abbott Power Plant in order to capture the CO2 emissions. The team includes ISTC and the Illinois State Geological Survey at the U of I - both part of the Prairie Research Institute, and the Linde Group and BASF (developers of capture technology), and Affiliated Engineering. The Phase I award is for detailed engineering and planning and is slated to have a total value of approximately $1.3 million. This is the first time the DOE has sponsored a large-scale pilot R&D project for the capture of CO2 emissions.


Cheap Technique Provides New Fracking Water Tracking Tag

Governor's awardsA multi-disciplinary team at the Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has developed a quick and inexpensive technique to screen for water contamination from fracking oil recovery operations. The technique targets fluorescent compounds in the "produced" waters generated from oil extraction wells, meaning that a distinct marker for different companies could be introduced to fracking compounds that then could identify specific sources of any subsequent contamination.




Illinois Governor's Sustainablity Award Winners Announced

Governor's awardsNineteen Illinois companies and organizations were honored October 27 at the Chicago Sheraton Hotel and Towers for their demonstrated leadership in implementing sustainable principles and practices. The Illinois Governor’s Sustainability Awards, the "Emmy Awards for Sustainability," were presented to 12 first time winners including Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium, ComEd and Cook County. See the News Release for more information.




Register Now for Oct. 27 Illinois Governor's Sustainability Award

iSEE Congress 2015 Water Planet, Water Crisis? cover imagesRegistration is now open for the Illinois Governor's Sustainability Award Ceremony on Tuesday, Oct. 27 at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers. Harry Moser, founder and and president of the Reshoring Initiative, will deliver the keynote address at the luncheon. Other speakers include Kyle Kietzmann, president and COO of Bell Racing USA, and Kate Zerrenner, climate and energy project manager for the Environmental Defense Fund. The event provides an excellent networking opportunity for Illinois businesses leaders as some of their peers are recognized with one of the world's first awards for sustainable development. Sponsorship opportunities are also available. Registration and Event Information.



Examining the Problem of Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products in the Environment

iSEE Congress 2015 Water Planet, Water Crisis? cover imagesThe occurrence of emerging contaminants such as pharmaceutical and personal care products (PPCPs) and steroid hormones in our waterways has been recognized as a critical environmental issue. To learn more about new research in that area and to provide opportunities for collaborations, ISTC has organized a consortium of researchers and individuals interested in working together to advance the state of knowledge about these contaminants - their fate, transport, and environmental and human health effects. The group met on Thurs., Sept. 24,and will be meeting again in Dec. as part of a series of quarterly meetings. If you are interested in joining the consortium, please contact Nancy Holm.

In addition, on April 4, 2016, ISTC is organizing a conference , along with IL-IN Sea Grant and funded by the U of I Extension, titled "PPCPs in the Environment". The event will be held at the I-Hotel Conference Center in Champaign. The call for abstracts will be announced in December. More information on the conference will be available on the ISTC website at that time.



Water Expertise at U of I Gathered into New Information Hub

iSEE Congress 2015 Water Planet, Water Crisis? cover images The Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment (iSEE) launched a new addition to their website on July 30 titled "Water at Illinois" to serve as an information hub for all the water-related research expertise available at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. This access point will also serve as a repository for opportunities in the water field, including grants, educational areas, and jobs. ISTC Director Kevin O’Brien is chairman of iSEE’s Water Council which helps to coordinate the Illinois Water Scholars group, including researchers at ISTC, who are working across a number of disciplines on water issues. More on Water at Illinois.



U of I Awarded Second Santucci Greenovation Award for Reducing Solid Waste

iSEE Congress 2015 Water Planet, Water Crisis? cover images ISTC and the University of Illinois received their second Greenovation Award July 28 from Kimberly-Clark Corporation for their leading roles in supporting the recycling of nitrile gloves in laboratories, kitchens and housing facilities on campus. The local recycling program originated with engineers at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) and was quickly taken up by the University's Housing, as well as Facilities and Services Departments. Bart Bartels, technical assistance engineer at ISTC, is assisting the university with its program.
More on Award





Sustainable Solutions for the Power and Industrial Sector

image for Carbon Management Technology ConferenceISTC Director Kevin O'Brien will be chairing a new session titled "Sustainable Solutions for the Power and Industrial Sector" at the upcoming Carbon Management Technology Conference which will take place November 17 - 19 in Sugar Land, Texas. The focus of this session is to "discuss products, services, and approaches that are being examined which are part of or in addition to Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage activities that impact the overall management of carbon at power generation and industrial facilities". Abstracts for this session can be submitted through August 15, 2015.



Nano-Carbo-Scavengers Studied for Superior Oil Spill Recovery

oil slick in Timor SeaISTC is part of a multidisciplinary team awarded a research seed grant from the University's Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment (iSEE) to develop carbon nano particles as a more environmentally friendly technique for cleaning oil spills.




Cook County Recycling Helps Keep America Beautiful

forest preserves expand recycling capabilitiesA zero waste audit by ISTC for the Forest Preserves of Cook County led to an expansion of the parks' recycling capabilities, thanks to a grant from the Coca-Cola/Keep America Beautiful (KAB) Recycling Bin Grant Program. One of the recommendations from the waste audit was to apply for the KAB grant. The new recycling bins are now used at large special events at the preserve attracting up to 4,000 visitors.



Bioenergy Investments Bode Well for Green Economic Growth

bioenergy investments boost green growthThere is increasing interest in biofuels not only to lessen dependency on foreign oil but also to promote sustainable fuels and the growth of a greener economy. ISTC's researchers currently are exploring greener alternatives for fuels used in the automotive and aviation fields. Progress is being made by them and others in using waste biomass, hard-to-recycle plastics, and other wastes for fuels. The NY Times recently reported that United Airlines is investing $30 million in Fulcrum Bioenergy to produce sustainable aviation biofuels.

Recycling Opportunities Improve Across Campus this Spring

several projects extended recycling efficiency on campus this springPeople at the University of Illinois who care about recycling think about changing human behavior. They wonder how to make the distinction between the landfill bin and the recycle bin so convenient and so obvious that even the most stressed and preoccupied student hits the right target. At the Champaign-Urbana campus, zero-waste is a serious commitment. It is included as a component of the Illinois Climate Action Plan which obligates the U of I to achieving carbon neutral status by 2050.






ISTC Laboratories Contribute to Biomedical Breakthrough

ISTC partners on biomedical breakthrough Labs at ISTC participated in a biomedical breakthrough by Beckman Institute faculty who developed a fast and inexpensive way to produce carbon nanoparticles. Measurements by John Scott, ISTC senior chemist, helped demonstrate that the particles can carry payloads of pharmaceutical drugs for targeted medical treatments. Scott used one of the Center's state-of-the-art instruments that can simultaneously measure fluorescence and absorbance of carbon nanoparticles. The work required extreme sensitivity in the parts per billion range.







The Army is Greenest in Workplace Sustainability

Team aqua ally won the competitionThe U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Construction Engineering Research Laboratories in Champaign was the 2015 champion for green workplace achievements. It and nine other winners of the first Illinois Green Office Challenge were announced Thursday. More on the Challenge winners.






An Updated Look at PCBs in Illinois Published at University of Illinois

Team aqua ally won the competitionThe report stemming from the Sept. 17 scientific workshop on "PCBs and Their Impact in Illinois" has been published by the Prairie Research Institute. The one-day workshop on the University of Illinois Chicago campus gathered leading authorities on the history and science about the persistent pollutant. PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) are a class of synthetic chemicals widely used in industry as a coolant and electrical insulator. The report, titled "An Updated Look at PCBs," videos of panel presentations, and other useful information are available for viewing on the PCB workshop website.



Finalists for Governor's Sustainability Award to be Announced in Fall

Team aqua ally won the competitionApplications for the 2015 Illinois Governor’s Sustainability Award closed on May 22, 2015. Please check back soon for more details about the 2015 award ceremony that will take place on Oct. 27, 2015 in Chicago. More on Governor's Awards





Study Finds Biomass Gasification Ash is Right Stuff for Strong, Light Masonry

Team aqua ally won the competitionAsh produced from biofuel production by biomass gasification is suitable for use in bricks and concrete and lowers costs, according to a recent technical report (TR057) published by ISTC. More on BGA bricks






Wood Waste Market Research Could Benefit Illinois Business

Wood waste could be energy sourceThe U.S. Forestry Service (USFS) has engaged sustainability experts at the University of Illinois, Western Illinois University (WIU), and the Metropolitan Mayors' Caucus to investigate the use of wood waste by businesses as a cheaper and renewable source of heat energy.




Stand Out in Sustainability: Applying for the Illinois Governor's Sustainability Award

Governor's Award Webinar Calendar reminder - May 7Thinking about applying for the Illinois Governor's Sustainability Award this year?  Want to learn more about it?  Join Cassie Carroll, associate sustainability specialist, at 10 a.m. on Thursday, May 7 for a webinar to uncover key tips and strategies about applying for the Illinois Governor’s Sustainability Award. A basic overview of the Award will be covered in the beginning, but then she will dive further into Award application requirements and evaluation, review winning application examples, and tips on how to write a great application.

So, if you’re on the fence about applying for the Award, or plan on applying and want to brush up on the requirements, this is a great webinar to help your organization or business write a great Governor’s Sustainability Award application. All are welcome to attend, so please feel free to share this invitation with others that may be interested in applying. Watch the recorded webinar "Stand out in Sustainability: the Illinois Governor's Sustainability Awards" for more information successful Award applications!

Community Enjoys 6th Naturally Illinois Expo

Video stillThe Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) pulled out all the stops for this year’s 6th Naturally Illinois Expo which was held April 17 and 18. Because 2015 is ISTC’s 30th anniversary, an Open House was held as part of the Expo with approximately 20 exhibits here in our building showing many of our current research projects as well as one highlighting the history of ISTC.  There were roughly 500 attendees at ISTC over the two days. More on the Expo


Center Experts Help Lock in Innovations

Aqua Ally LogoTwice a year a group of U of I students lock themselves away for 24 hours. They don’t come out until they have made the world a better place. For this spring semester the “Extreme Entrepreneurial Lock-In” challenge theme or focus was “Sustainability in the Home.”  This event is part of the university’s Innovation Living-Learning Community (LLC) which gives students another stage to test their ideas for starting a business.



Forgotten Resource Studied for Sustainable Energy Crops

Team aqua ally won the competitionYou see acres and acres of it on most of your car trips. Grasses. Along rights-of-way and medians it grows along much of Illinois' 16,500 miles of state highways.These long, narrow green spaces are important for pedestrian and motorist safety as well as habitat for native insects, birds, and animals surrounded by cultivated fields. Taxpayers money is used to mow the grass from springtime into fall.

Evidence of Bacterial Resistance to Triclosan Found in Sediments

bacterial resistance shown in natural environmentThe latest ISTC Research Report details recent research which demonstrates that the compound triclosan, a key active ingredient in many antibacterial products, produces resistance in environmental bacteria.Rapid urbanization in the U.S. during the 20th century has meant wastewater treatment plants today deal with unprecedented loads and complex mixtures of potential pollutants, including many antibacterial compounds found in personal care products and other consumer items.

PCBs and Their Impact on Illinois

An updated look at pcbsThe report stemming from the Sept. 17 scientific workshop on "PCBs and Their Impact in Illinois" has been published by the Prairie Research Institute. The one-day workshop held on the University of Illinois Chicago campus. PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) are a class of synthetic chemicals widely used in industry as a coolant and electrical insulator. The report, titled "An Updated Look at PCBs," videos of panel presentations, and other useful information from the workshop are available for viewing on this ISTC website.

Illini Zero-Waste Team Scores Nine Tons in Big Ten Challenge

Picture of coalA scrappy team of rookies swept into Memorial Stadium Oct. 25 to eliminate waste, and they left little in their wake. The national Gameday Recycling Challenge in December announced that the Illini zero-waste event during the Homecoming football game in Oct. placed fourth in the Big 10 with a 60 percent diversion rate of 'trash' from landfills.


Homecoming Kicks Off More than Great Football

gameday recycling challenge at memorial stadiumThis year's University of Illinois Homecoming game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers is about more than Orange and Blue -- it is also about Green.For the first time, various campus and community partners are working together to raise awareness and have a positive lasting impact at the inaugural Zero-Waste Football Game.

Three New Patents Promote Multiple Green Industry Benefits

Aquapod Image
ISTC researchers Kishore Rajagopalan, Vinod Patel and B.K. Sharma were recently awarded patents for inventing more sustainable industrial processes. One process reveals a new method for using a polymer to improve forward osmosis in which both the polymer and the solvent medium can be recycled in the system. Patents also outline the production of renewable industrial lubricants from vegetable oils.




Scaled-up Coal Dewatering Method Passes Latest Test

dewateringResearchers at ISTC have successfully demonstrated a process for dewatering coal mining slurry, showing significant potential for reducing the ecological impact of mining. For several years, Nandakishore Rajagopalan, associate director, and ISTC colleagues Hafiz Salih and Vinod Patel have been studying forward osmosis as an alternative to slurry ponds for dealing with tailings from coal mining.

Campus Promotes Sustainable Future with Gameday Recycling Challenge

volunteers in team photo on football field The Fighting Illini and their fans cleaned up during the Homecoming football game against Minnesota Oct. 25. The team won and the crowd diverted 60 percent of the day's trash from landfills.This first Gameday Recycling Challenge on campus was directed by Bart Bartels along with other ISTC staff and involved the teamwork of 44,000 fans, 150 volunteers, the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics, Facilities & Services, the Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment, and ISTC.

Extension Grant to Help Keep Medicines, Other Chemicals Out of Environment

Senior Research Chemist Wei Zheng and his ISTC colleagues have been tracking the influence of PPCPs in nature for years The University of Illinois Extension Friday announced it has funded a program to deepen our understanding of medical drugs and personal care products (PPCP) in the environment, and to put the benefits of university research to work in extension offices statewide.Extension's statewide network of educators and county-based offices provide programming in economic development, health and nutrition, agriculture and natural resources, and youth development.

Dining Services Lends a Helping Hand to Campus Recycling Pilot

Picture of Nitrile GlovesA pilot program with University of Illinois Housing and Dining Services is recycling rubber gloves to be used in new products. Taken up across campus, the work could keep 3.2 million Illini gloves out of landfills annually."





Federal Economic Development Strategy Includes ISTC Sustainability Expertise

ISTC has partnered with a metals manufacutring consortium in Chicago ISTC, with nearly 30 years of experience in improving sustainability in Illinois industries, has joined a partnership in the Chicago Metro Region to renew manufacturing industry growth through workforce development, supply chain improvements, technological innovation, and focused efforts of local governments and planning agencies.

Maturing Plot Opens a Window on Campus to a Prairie State of Mind

restoration technicians celebrate the removal of an invasive plant A rainy 2014 and dedicated husbandry are at last allowing discerning visitors to Florida Avenue and Orchard Street to enter a Prairie State...prairie. On this high-profile real estate a tipping point was reached in the fall at the two-plus acre site where the Prairie Research Institute and community experts and volunteers have worked for five years to establish a ‘reconstructed’ prairie in Urbana, said John Marlin, research affiliate at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center and manager of the project for the past few years.

Summer Offers College Students Valuable Exposure to Green Research

Intern brock bursott at Mueller co in decaturCollege students interested in sustainability research are making summer count at ISTC and in workplaces across the state. They are counting kilowatts reduced, tons of waste diverted, dollars saved, and other profitable metrics.





Indoor Air Quality Researchers Participate in Alaska Cookstove Study

EPA is a leading proponent of safer biomass cookstoves Indoor air quality concerns will take ISTC researchers to Alaska as part of a U.S. EPA initiative to study the use of indoor cookstoves for cooking, heat and light. Different biomass fuel sources are traditional in different parts of the world and teams from six universities are assessing emissions through seasonal cycles.




Triclosan Shown to Trigger Resistance in Aquatic Ecosystems

triclosan shown to trigger resistance Researchers at ISTC, Loyola University Chicago, and the Cary institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, NY have demonstrated that a widely used compound to prevent bacterial contamination is persisting in the environment and creating antibacterial resistant strains of bacteria.




First Training Accreditation to Improve Home Weatherization in Illinois

Program earns IREC accreditationTraining programs for Energy Auditors and Quality Control Inspectors at the University of Illinois' Indoor Climate Research & Training (ICRT) program have been awarded accreditation by the Interstate Renewable Energy Council, Inc.(IREC).




Conservation Program Wins National Recognition, Saves Illinois $6 Million

most valuable pollution prevention awardA conservation and pollution prevention program which has saved more than $6 million for central and southern Illinois communities and businesses was awarded a national MVP2 Award by the National Pollution Prevention Roundtable (NPPR) Sept. 19 in Washington D.C.



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