MRI: Acquisition of a Gas Chromatograph with Dual Detection Capabilities to be Used in Sustainable Energy Research

Grants and Contracts Details


Overview The aim of this proposal is to acquire a gas chromatograph with dual detector capabilities, which stands to benefit several institutions across Kentucky. Indeed, while this instrument represents the single most powerful tool used for the analysis of biofuels, the state currently lacks an instrument of this type altogether. The latter is made particularly unfortunate by the fact that available instruments do not have dual detector capabilities, which leaves room for ambiguity in the interpretation of the data they produce. Against this backdrop, the acquisition of this particular piece of equipment is greatly needed not only to further the cutting edge work on biofuels being performed in Kentucky, but also to support other areas of energy research that would benefit from it, such as battery-related work. Intellectual merit The use of fossil fuels to power most forms of transport is a practice known to cause a host of environmental, economic and even geopolitical issues. With this in mind, a number of research groups in Kentucky have been exploring novel alternatives to fossil fuels for a number of years, working in areas ranging from the development of renewable carbon-neutral biofuels to the development of electric vehicles that employ electricity produced in a renewable and carbon neutral fashion. Through their work, these researchers have become well established in the alternative energy field and have progressively acquired the expertise necessary to undertake increasingly challenging and potentially ground-breaking projects. In recent years, however, the experience and the needs of these research groups have begun to exceed the capabilities of some of the equipment currently available. This disparity between the potential of the available human resources and the tools at their disposal constitutes one of the main factors that spurred the preparation of this proposal. In short, the acquisition of the instrument sought will contribute to solve important energy-related challenges by greatly assisting a number of well-qualified researchers to continue their transformative work in the field of alternative energy. Broader Impacts The modernization of the equipment utilized for renewable-energy research in Kentucky has the potential of attracting new talent both to the region and to the field. In turn, the technologies developed with the use of the state-of-the-art equipment requested stand to positively impact existing commercial activities (such as agriculture in the case of biofuels), as well as emerging industries in the state (e.g., battery manufacturing through battery R&D). This has the potential of making the benefits of energy-related research patent to society at large by creating green jobs and by contributing to the education of the workforce needed to fill these jobs. Indeed, besides advancing the research mission of several institutions within Kentucky, the acquisition of the instrument sought will also have a positive impact in the educational mission of these institutions. Moreover, this instrument will allow the researchers involved not only to integrate research and education, but also to broaden the participation of students from groups traditionally underrepresented in the sciences. Notably, the researchers involved in this proposal have an extensive record of involving high school, undergraduate and graduate students in research and, by allowing these students to gain hands-on experience in the use of this instrument, this grant will provide the opportunity both to extend this initiative and to synergize with another NSF-funded project aiming to increase the participation of minority students in scientific research. This in turn will provide the participating students with the specialized knowledge and skills needed for them to pursue a career in the field of renewable energy, either in an academic or an industrial setting. In this way, this project will also contribute to satisfying the growing demand of the biofuels sector for highly-skilled scientists and engineers, all while helping to assuage the underrepresentation of minorities in science and engineering. Last but not least, this grant will also help start new outreach efforts focused on integrating the instrument into the academic curricula of academic programs in the community.
Effective start/end date8/15/157/31/18


  • National Science Foundation: $101,613.00


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