News Digest

Recent news from ISTC

Food and beverage manufacturers learn new sustainability approaches at ISTC workshop

On June 20, twenty-one people from seven different food manufacturing companies gathered in Champaign to learn how to take sustainability to the next level at a workshop sponsored by ISTC’s Technical Assistance Program, the Illinois Manufacturing Extension Center (IMEC), Ameren Illinois, and Energy Resources Group, Inc.

Biochar may boost carbon storage, but benefits to germination and growth appear scant

Biochar may not be the miracle soil additive that many farmers and researchers hoped it to be, according to a new study by ISTC researchers and collaborators at the USDA Agricultural Research Service and Loyola University. 

Highlights from the 2019 Emerging Contaminants in the Environment Conference

The Illinois Sustainable Technology Center and Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant co-hosted the 2019 Emerging Contaminants Conference (ECEC19) on May 21-22 in Champaign, IL. The fourth annual conference featured presentations on the latest in emerging contaminant research, policies, and outreach strategies.

This year’s conference focused on a variety of pollutants in water, soil, and air ranging from pharmaceuticals, viruses, algal toxins and endocrine disruptors to pesticides, flame retardant chemicals, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), and microplastics.

Microplastic contamination found in common source of groundwater, researchers report

Microplastics contaminate the world's surface waters, yet scientists have only just begun to explore their presence in groundwater systems. A new study is the first to report microplastics in fractured limestone aquifers – a groundwater source that accounts for 25 percent of the global drinking water supply.

Story by Diana Yates, Life Science Editor, U of I News Bureau; Photo by L. Brian Stauffer, U of I News Bureau 

Team converts wet biological waste to diesel-compatible fuel

In a step toward producing renewable engine fuels that are compatible with existing diesel fuel infrastructure, researchers report they can convert wet biowaste, such as swine manure and food scraps, into a fuel that can be blended with diesel and that shares diesel’s combustion efficiency and emissions profile.
Story by Diana Yates, Life Science Editor, U of I News Bureau; Photo by L. Brian Stauffer, U of I News Bureau 

Wastewater Treatment Plant Efficiency Program Offered

clarifying pool at a wastewater treatment plant

The Illinois EPA Office of Energy is teaming up with ISTC and the U of I’s Smart Energy Design Assistance Center (SEDAC) to help municipalities reduce the cost of wastewater treatment. ISTC and SEDAC will be providing free energy usage assessments. Find out how you can save energy and money in your wastewater treatment plant by visiting our informational page and applying for a site visit.

27 Illinois Organizations Honored for Achievements in Sustainability

Twenty-seven Illinois companies and organizations were honored today for their significant achievements in protecting the environment, helping sustain the future, and improving the economy. The winners were announced during a ceremony at the Union League Club in Chicago.

New ISTC Annual Report Now Available

ISTC’s annual report for the period July 1, 2017-June 30, 2018 is now available. The report features ISTC’s technical and research efforts during the period. Highlights include ISTC's success with winning awards for all five of the DOE grant applications that our researchers submitted in fall 2017. The report also details new initiatives such as solar panel recycling and free assessments for wastewater treatment plants to reduce operating costs. With these efforts, ISTC continues to advance sustainability in Illinois and beyond. Check out the report for more details.

Registration is now open for the 2018 Illinois Sustainability Awards

Registration for the 32nd Annual Illinois Sustainability Awards is now open. Join us to learn more about cutting-edge sustainable business strategies and celebrate the 2018 award finalists. Register here.

US DOE Grant Awarded for Large Pilot Testing of CO2 Capture Technology

Abbott Power Plant

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently announced funding for ISTC’s project titled ”Large Pilot Testing of Linde/BASF Advanced Post-Combustion CO2 Capture Technology at Coal Fired Power Plant.” ISTC Director Kevin OBrien who is leading the project stated that the overall goal is to design, construct, and operate a 10 MWe capture system based on the Linde-BASF advanced amine-based post-combustion carbon dioxide (CO2) capture technology at a coal-fired power plant in IL. The Phase I feasibility study part of the project will be conducted over the next 16 months.

Advancing Carbon Capture Adsorption Technology - from Lab Scale to Bench Scale

team photo of the people working on the pilot scale project

Research is progressing on a novel biphasic solvent absorption method that holds promise as an innovative, cost-saving alternative to the conventional CO2 capture process in power plants. ISTC researchers have been assisting the Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS) on a lab-scale (10KWe) U.S. DOE-funded project developing a biphasic CO2 absorption process (BiCAP) with multiple stages of liquid-liquid solvent phase separation, which improves CO2 absorption kinetics and increases the carbon capture capacity.

Now the research efforts are ready for the next step. Recently U.S. DOE announced $3M of additional funding for ISGS and ISTC to conduct a three-year bench-scale (40KWe) study of their BiCAP technology. The proposed technology is aimed at achieving a CO2 capture cost of $30/tonne and >95% CO2 purity to meet DOE’s Transformational CO2 Capture goals.


Researchers tap problematic e-waste surplus to recover high-quality polymers


BK and Sri

Mixed-plastic electronics waste could be a valuable source of reusable polymers, a new study led by Illinois Sustainability Technology Center scientists suggests. The team has developed the first energy-efficient and environmentally friendly process that separates mixed polymers so that they can be recycled into new, high-quality plastic products.

Read an additional article about this research from the ACS news room.

Photo by L. Brian Stauffer
Article by Lois Yoksoulian
both from Illinois News Bureau

July 18 Open House Offers a Look at Renewable, Carbon-Neutral Heating with Grasses


top part of the ISTC newsletter

A demonstration of a waste grass-powered commercial heating system is scheduled for 10 a.m.- 2 p.m. Wednesday July 18, at the Country Arbors Nursery, 1742 County Rd. 1400 N., Urbana, IL 61802. The open house and demonstration is for those interested in the potential for heating agricultural buildings, schools, churches and other structures with grass and other biomass fuels.

Spring 2018 Newsletter

top part of the ISTC newsletter

The spring 2018 newsletter is now available. Keep up to date with all of ISTC's activities by joining the newsletter email list.

Sharma is named fellow of international chemistry society

BK Sharma

B.K. Sharma, senior research engineer at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC), has been admitted as a fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry and is entitled to use the designatory letters FRSC for his accomplishments and his contributions and impact in the field of chemistry sciences.


Apply for the Illinois Sustainability Award

Illinois Sustainability Award

The Illinois Sustainability Awards (ISA), one of the original environmental awards, is now accepting applications online. Since inception of the Award more than 30 years ago, participants have racked up huge and continuing benefits in energy and water conservation, waste reduction, and sustainability innovation. 

Aquapod© water treatment studied for water conservation at power plants


power plant water conservation

A low-energy water treatment system developed at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) has been selected for development by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) as an improved technology for water conservation in power plants. ISTC will evaluate scaling up the patented technology for use at power plants where it is estimated to double to quadruple water recovery.


Emerging Contaminants Conference announced for June 5-6 on U of I campus


Emerging contaminants in the aquatic environment will be the focus of the June 5-6, 2018 conference on the University of Illinois campus. Along with ISTC, organizers will be Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

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 OBrien 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 OBrien 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 OBrien 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