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Sustainability News

ASU LightWorks director named clean air champion

May 25, 2016

Sun Clean Cities CoalitionThe Valley of the Sun Clean Cities Coalition is one of 90 coalitions across the country designated by the U.S. Department of Energy to reduce the use of petroleum motor fuel. These efforts are directed under the Clean Air Act and Energy Policy Act to reduce air pollution and dependence on foreign oil.

Every two years, Valley of the Sun and Tucson Regional Coalitions stage a Legislative Breakfast, where legislators, staff and civic leaders are invited to learn the latest in the means of reducing the use of petroleum fuel. This event features key speakers and a comprehensive display of alternative fuel vehicles.

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Understanding climate and energy through environmental humanities

May 18, 2016

Screen Shot 2016-05-16 at 11 52 44 AMEnvironmental humanities is a rapidly growing field focused on the study of human imagination, perception, behaviors and the relationship with their surrounding environments, both social and natural. Arizona State University humanist research is led by sustainability scholar Dr. Joni Adamson. Her research defines how and why, in the face of seemingly non-imminent danger, humans choose to act as they do and what would make them shift direction rapidly.

This approach is being integrated into all climate and energy research at ASU. This work will contribute substantially to the understanding of human behaviors, motivations, and decision-making, both individually and collaboratively. This research aims to catalyze the rapid social transitions needed to address global energy transitions and climate change.

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Designing solar-powered cyanobacteria for production of biofuels

May 18, 2016

J06088 Lightworks BIFOLD 3 PDFP2Green chemicals and biofuels are projected to become major players in the economy. This is incredibly important as CO2 levels rise and fossil fuel use becomes a liability.

Dr. Willem Vermaas, a senior sustainability scientist,  and his team have been researching a novel concept to use photosynthetic microorganisms or cyanobacteria as biocatalysts that use solar energy and carbon dioxide to produce and secrete fatty acids for direct production of biofuels without major production of biomass.

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A glimpse into the future of algae

View Source | May 11, 2016

summerfeld_and_algae-5One of the nation’s top experts on algae, ASU sustainability scientist Milton Sommerfeld, has spent half of a century exploring the possibilities of the plant as a super food, fuel, fertilizer and more.

Sommerfeld – co-director of the Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation at ASU's Polytechnic campus – explains that there are roughly 75,000 different types of algae, and that certain strains are more optimal for given uses than others.

According to Sommerfeld, the most immediate impact from algae will be in bioremediation – a waste management technique that uses organisms to remove or neutralize pollutants from a contaminated site. He expects commercial algal biofuels further down the line, as production will require scaling the small cultivation operations of the present to an industrial level.

Profitable agriculture through recovered energy, nutrients and solids

May 2, 2016

J06088 Lightworks BIFOLD 1 PDFP1Currently, organic waste management in agriculture presents huge economic and environmental problems. These problems include regulatory risk, the loss of nitrogen and phosphorus, water and air pollution, and the lack of investment in anaerobic digestion. However, ASU researchers led by Bruce Rittmann are developing innovative systems to convert organic wastes into high-value products. These products can lead to improving employment and economic development in rural areas, and turn a liability into profit.

Rittmann and his team are developing smart, interconnected systems that synergistically produce renewable and high-value energy, fertilizers and soil amendments from organic wastes. They aim to increase profits for farmers by converting and recycling organic wastes into an assortment of value-added products.

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Creating energy and clean water in arid environments

May 2, 2016

2016 Reseach Portfolio NewestWorldwide, water security in arid regions is threatened by unsustainable use of groundwater and population growth. In order for villages, towns, and cities to be sustainable and prosperous, clean water is essential. This requires efficient treatment and reuse of wastewater.

ASU researchers led by Peter Lammers have developed an innovative system that employs a heat-tolerant strain of microalgae in a closed system for efficient wastewater treatment under hot, arid conditions at the Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation (AzCATI). The bio-solids and algal biomass are then converted into energy, such as liquid fuel, through hydrothermal liquefaction or anaerobic digestion.

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International innovation through partnership with Beijing Normal University

April 28, 2016

Joint International Research Laboratory of Disaster Risk and Sustainability SciencesStrengthening Arizona State University’s commitment to innovation, ASU and Beijing Normal University have agreed to establish the Joint International Research Laboratory of Disaster Risk and Sustainability Sciences. The mission of the Joint Lab is to establish an international innovation platform for fostering research, training and education programs in both disaster risk and sustainability sciences, with an emphasis on integrated risk governance for sustainable development.

The ultimate goals for the Joint Lab are to understand the transformation of social-ecological systems in the context of global climate change, to provide the knowledge required for societies elsewhere in the world to deal with risks posed by global environmental change, and to seize sustainable development opportunities in a transition to global sustainability.

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Partnership drives international sustainability education

April 28, 2016

ASU and BNU joint education programArizona State University is developing a long-term partnership with Beijing Normal University through a joint education program. This program between ASU and BNU allows the universities to drive their shared vision of sustainability through education.

We’re excited to announce that BNU and ASU have agreed to establish a collaborative education program known as the “BNU-ASU 3+1+2 Program.” This program allows qualified undergraduate students enrolled at BNU to successfully complete three years of their curriculum at BNU, and then transfer to ASU for another year to finish their undergraduate program. When students complete the first four years in the program, they receive a bachelor’s degree from BNU, after which they have the option to pursue a two-year Master of Science in Sustainability degree at ASU's School of Sustainability.

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Faculty Highlight: Klaus Lackner

April 21, 2016

lackner-carbon-capture-e1460415938931-300x300Arizona State University’s President Michael Crow has hired Center for Negative Carbon Emissions Director Klaus Lackner twice.

The first time was when Crow was vice provost at Columbia University. He attracted Lackner in 2001 from Los Alamos National Laboratory to join Columbia's Earth Institute and become a professor.

Crow knew he was hiring a big picture thinker: Lackner’s interest in self-replicating machine systems had been recognized by Discover magazine in 1997 as one of seven ideas that could change the world, and his work in mineral sequestration of carbon dioxide in silicate minerals appeared in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment report.

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A promising path to negative carbon emissions

April 21, 2016

negcarbon_scenariorgbCarbon dioxide is a potent greenhouse gas and its steady accumulation poses ever-increasing risks of harmful climate change. The need for collection of carbon waste and its permanent and safe disposal will not stop even if the world succeeds in abandoning fossil fuels. Halting the rise of carbon dioxide at any reasonable concentration demands a transition to a net zero or even net negative carbon economy.

Negative carbon emissions via air capture provide an important and largely neglected tool for mitigating climate change. Air capture could recover carbon flows that were allowed to escape into the atmosphere, whether intentionally or unintentionally.

Therefore, we aim to create a Center of Excellence within ASU’s Center for Negative Carbon Emissions (CNCE) to research negative carbon emissions and direct capture of carbon dioxide from the ambient atmosphere.

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Joint decision-support analysis of water and energy systems

April 21, 2016

John SaboThe increasing global demand for energy will stress water resources because energy production requires water for refining and cooling processes. Additionally, deployment of new clean-energy technologies must be well established based on the geography and hydroclimate.

Arizona State University researchers led by Senior Sustainability Scientist John Sabo, are developing Net-WEST, a data hub and analytics platform, that will engage key decision makers from the water and energy sectors to co-develop systems thinking tools for the planning of energy infrastructure. This project will involve public-private partnerships among national energy laboratories, power authorities, water agencies and utility companies.

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Human energy analytics

April 8, 2016

Graph of human-centered principlesASU's  Human Energy Analytics group, led by Jacqueline Hettel, creates new informatics tools and resources to catalyze, accelerate and improve the human outcomes of global energy-systems change.

ASU researchers work with energy companies to change their organizational cultures; with communities to invent new energy futures; and with policy leaders to accelerate energy innovation. This work leads to a better understanding of how to improve clean-energy technology adoption in diverse, complex communities.

By embodying human-centered principles in data design, tool development and analysis, human energy analytics can identify reliable signals of human values and motivations to optimize the social value of energy transitions.

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Micro-grid innovations for sustainable communities

April 8, 2016

asu-lightworks-microgridsReliable access to electricity is widely regarded as a keystone to overcoming poverty. Micro-grids are localized energy grids that can be used to provide reliable, safe, and low-cost power to 1.4 billion people lacking access today.

The micro-grids research team lead by Nathan Johnson has developed a suite of solutions for off-grid power applications that accommodate residential, commercial and industrial sectors. Additional work by the group includes exploration of solar thermal applications and direct current power architectures.

All projects leverage public-private partnerships to drive energy innovations from concept to construction. On-site deployment, testing and scale-up of technologies are completed in conjunction with NGOs or entrepreneurs to spur local business development.

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LightWorks draws VIP crowd at energy innovation summit

View Source | March 16, 2016

Al-Gore-ARPA-E-LightWorks-ASUTaking part in a high-visibility event near the nation’s capital means you need to be on your toes. Just ask sustainability scientist Zak Holman, an assistant professor in the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering in ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. He was displaying a technology at the recent ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit near Washington, D.C., when Al Gore, the former vice president, walked up and asked him about the PVMirror Holman had invented.

Holman’s PVMirrors were part of an ASU LightWorks display put on by Arizona State University for the ARPA-E (Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy) summit. ASU professors, staff and students took part in the three-day event. They had the chance to show off their work to several people, including dignitaries like Jim Yong Kim – president of the World Bank – who was also impressed by Holman's technology.

Report outlines new utility regulatory pathways

January 7, 2016

powering-tomorrow-energy-reportTempe, Ariz., Jan. 7 – As more electricity providers enter the energy market, the way consumers obtain electricity is becoming more and more decentralized. Today, the leaders of the Powering Tomorrow Initiative released their Phase Two report, which defines industry structures and regulatory packages that accommodate a growing number of market participants, while securing the vitality of existing utilities and a fair playing field for new market entrants.

Powering Tomorrow has been co-directed by Kris Mayes, a professor of practice at the ASU School of Sustainability and the School for the Future of Innovation in Society, Darrell Hanson, a former Iowa public utility commissioner and two other former utility commissioners. ASU has been a participant in Powering Tomorrow, and will continue to assist in future phases of the effort.

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Cleaning up wastewater through algae

November 5, 2015

PeteLammers-310x372It’s easy to associate algae as being a nuisance. Noticing slimy green algae building up on the sides of your crystal blue pool might have you rushing to remove it. But before you prepare to scrub it away, let’s take a moment to consider how algae could actually benefit our water, particularly in wastewater treatment.

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ASU LightWorks to engage military in energy-related research

View Source | October 29, 2015

Wind turbines in a fieldASU LightWorks recently received funding through the Naval Enterprise Partnership Teaming with Universities for National Excellence (NEPTUNE), a pilot program of the Office of Naval Research. The $1.5 million in seed grants over seven years will support six energy-related research projects at Arizona State University that will engage veterans or active-duty military.

Recognizing that energy challenges pertain to both technology and people, the projects will invite participation from the ASU veteran community through the Pat Tillman Veterans Center, as well as from local bases with active-duty military personnel. The projects aim to provide military members with experience, training and resume-building that is beneficial in post-military careers.

Deliberate dystopias: Uncovering our climate futures with Paolo Bacigalupi

October 14, 2015

paoloFor many of us living in the Southwest, the sprawl of desert combined with a growing number of people serves as a constant reminder of water security and how we will sustain it in the future. With neighboring California experiencing a record drought, at nearly half of the state hitting driest levels, whether or not Arizona is close to follow has become a serious possibility. This then, begs the question—what would happen if Phoenix lost access to water?

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ASU LightWorks commits to brighter future in Ethiopia

View Source | September 17, 2015

Yellow solar tulip among upturned solar panelsWith the aim of transforming Ethiopia into a carbon-neutral middle-income country by 2025, ASU LightWorks, Addis Ababa Science and Technology University, and Adama Science and Technology University have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with AORA Solar - a leading developer of solar-biogas hybrid power technology.

The memorandum seeks to expand the three academic institutions’ common interest in promoting mutual cooperation in the area of education and research. In this instance, the goal is to promote academic cooperation for the development and advancement of renewable energy technologies to support the implementation of Ethiopia’s Climate Resilient Green Economy Strategy.

Collaboration will include joint activities for research park development, in addition to the development and strengthening of renewable energy curricula for solar electric, solar thermal, photovoltaics, wind and sustainable fuel technologies.

Capturing carbon

August 3, 2015

lackner-carbon-captureFor many of us, it can be easy to let the relationship we share with our environment go unnoticed. Let’s get back to basics. Every time you take a breath, you take in oxygen and give out carbon dioxide (CO2).

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