recent news from ISTC 

22 named winners of Illinois Sustainability Awards

2017 ISA award ceremony

From global corporations to small specialized businesses, sustainability champions gathered Oct. 24 in Chicago to share their achievements as winners of the Illinois Sustainability Awards for 2017. University of Illinois alums were among the winners.

DOE backs public-private partnership to put CO2 to work producing animal feed

algae growing reactor

Prairie Research Institute researchers are embarking on an effort to give troublesome carbon dioxide gas more of what it currently lacks -- value -- by demonstrating its feasibility for producing animal feed.

Researchers identify a cheaper, greener biofuels processing catalyst

workshop planned on plastic recycling

Common bacteria and a precious metal form the latest strategy by ISTC Senior Researcher B. K. Sharma to move biofuels into the mainstream of liquid fuels. He and collaborators at the University of Birmingham in England have produced a bio-catalyst for removing nitrogen and oxygen contaminants from biocrude.

Symposium to explore plastic recycling

workshop planned on plastic recycling

“Revitalizing Plastics Recycling” will be the topic for a symposium hosted by the Illinois Recycling Association and the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center on Sept. 12.


Sustainability Award winners to be announced Oct. 24

2017 ISA award ceremony

Registration is now open for the Illinois Sustainability Award Ceremony and Symposium on Tuesday, Oct. 24 at the Union League Club of Chicago. Keynote speakers for the event will be Rich Berger, vice president of engineering, food supply, for Clif Bar & Company, and Nancy Liaboe, director, global EHS governance & product stewardship, at Abbott.


Project moves forward to turn state roadways into a renewable energy source

video link to research on using grass mowed along highways into energy

The Illinois Department of Transportation has approved implementation of a renewable energy demonstration project using grasses collected from mowing highway rights-of-way (ROW).


Demonstrations yield cleaner wastewater with energy benefits

Two new clean water technologies under development at ISTC were demonstrated on campus June 2 that address basic problems in both urban and rural wastewater treatment.

Small companies save big with tech advice

technical assistance available for small businessISTC offers technical assistance for companies in smaller towns and rural areas which has saved Illinois business an estimated $24 million dollars during its first eight years. ICORE finds ways to save energy, waste, and water so companies are more profitable and sustainable.

Army to pilot ISTC innovation to improve installation resilience, energy security

illinois sustainability awardThe U.S. Army has funded a project to demonstrate technology developed on the University of Illinois’ South Farm that disposes of wastewater biosolids by turning them into energy.

Illinois Sustainability Award keynote shows power of green business

illinois sustainability awardWith only one week left to submit entries for the 2017 Illinois Sustainability Award, ISTC has released the video of one of the 2016 Awards Ceremony's Keynote Speakers -- John Bradburn, global waste reduction manager at General Motors Corporation.

Volunteers flip this corner of campus for a ‘natural’ makeover

south arboretum woodsAs Earth Week approaches, volunteers are working to change the South Arboretum Woods closer to its “natural” state with plantings of native wildflowers and many other improvements. It is the latest project funded by the Student Sustainability Committee, and led by John Marlin, ISTC research affiliate, for sustainable landscaping volunteers on campus.

WANTED: Environmental champions to apply for the Illinois Sustainability Award

illinois sustainability awardIllinois sustainability champions have made huge enhancements to the quality of life and the profitability of our state’s economy since 1987. Each year they are recognized with the Illinois Sustainability Awards (ISA). Last year alone, participants in the program saved 112 million gallons of water, 36.9 trillion watts of electricity, and avoided releasing 1.2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into our skies.

New research helps narrow the choice between affordable and long-lasting roads

recycled materials used in road constructionA two-year study of asphalt binders will improve the use of recycled material in making long-lasting roads. Research by ISTC, the Illinois Center for Transportation and the Illinois DOT advances knowledge of the role of chemistry and composition on asphalt binders’ performance.

Challenges of carbon utilization have regional solutions

clip art compilation of plants, vegetable oil, and chain sawEmerging technologies for carbon dioxide (CO2) utilization present significant opportunities for job creation and economic growth, said Kevin OBrien, director of the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC), in a presentation to the Eighth Carbon Dioxide Utilization Summit Feb. 22 in San Antonio, Texas.

Researchers develop eco-friendly solution to oil spills in bodies of water

clip art compilation of plants, vegetable oil, and chain sawOil spills have a new nemesis in the form of tiny carbon spheres developed by a U of I team, including researchers at ISTC, which have demonstrated more than 80 percent removal rate while accelerating natural remediation of the remainder. The work, the result of funding by the Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment (iSEE), was reported in Nature Publishing, a publication of Scientific Reports.

Biobased lubricants improving, gaining favor in natural work zones

clip art compilation of plants, vegetable oil, and chain sawNon-petroleum biobased lubricants are an increasingly important strategy for preventing pollution in environmentally sensitive workplaces, such as forest, agricultural, and marine applications. B.K. Sharma’s new book focuses on the promising area of eco-friendly lubricants made from vegetable oil.

New CarbonSAFE awards target mitigation of industrially sourced carbon emissions

Kevin O'Brien in front of the ghgt-13 banner in the main hall of the auditorium in Lausanne, SwitzerlandISTC is a partner in two major CarbonSAFE projects awarded to the Illinois State Geological Survey by the U.S. Department of Energy to develop new technologies to mitigate industrially sourced carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels.

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.


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.



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.

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.

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).

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

multi-stage biofuel system“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

PRI resilient watersheds initiative

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.

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

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

B.K. Sharma named fellow of stleB.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

Sen. Durbin tours Abbott power plantSenator 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

Illinois Green Office ChallengeRegistration is scheduled to open in the fall for the 2016-2017 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 pledge 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

ISTC 30th anniversary celebrationThe 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 Rauner at Abbott Power PlantThe 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, as well as 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

Flourescence suggests a new fracking water trackerA 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.

2015 Illinois Governor's Sustainablity Award Winners Announced

illinois governor's sustainability awardNineteen 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

Illinois Governor's sustainability award trophyRegistration 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

PPCPs in the environmentThe 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

water at illinois information hubThe 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

greenovation awardISTC 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 the award.

Sustainable Solutions for the Power and Industrial Sector

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 Aug. 15, 2015.

Nano-Carbo-Scavengers Studied for Superior Oil Spill Recovery

oil slick in the 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

recycling at the forest preserves of cook countyA 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

biofuel in the airline industryThere 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

campus recycling improvesPeople 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

carbon nanoparticle measurementLabs 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

army corps of engineers

The 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

PCB reportThe 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

Governor's Sustainability award trophyApplications 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

bricks made with biomass ashAsh 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 as 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

Webinar on Governor's sustainability awardThinking 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

naturally illinois expo 2015The 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

student innovation lock-inTwice 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.