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We’re writing a fresh chapter in the history of Dayton innovation.
On a crisp, sunny summer morning, I walked from my office in St. Mary’s Hall to the corner of Main and Stewart streets. Under a tent on an expanse of green lawn, I joined leaders from Emerson Climate Technologies and the region to announce that the University of Dayton is leasing this land to Emerson to build a global innovation center.
On our campus. On land that once housed NCR’s booming cash register manufacturing facilities.
I gazed out over the lawn and envisioned the future.
When the Emerson Innovation Center is up and running in late 2015, students from various disciplines — engineering, marketing, even dietetics — will head over to a world-class facility to take classes, work as interns or co-ops, or collaborate on research. Our researchers and faculty, who are experts in advanced materials and energy efficiency, will help Emerson’s engineers drive innovation. The technologies of tomorrow — from smart thermostats for homes to smaller, more efficient air conditioning systems — will be showcased in this building.
The University’s master plan devotes space on this part of campus for attracting high-tech companies that can spur research, serve as real-world classrooms for students and spark economic development for the Dayton region. I believe universities that will thrive in the future are the ones that forge strategic partnerships to advance innovation, provide students with priceless experience and create jobs.
In 2013, GE Aviation opened a $53 million research center nearby. It was recently named the state’s best economic development project. In the same year, Midmark moved its world headquarters to the 1700 South Patterson Building, where we house the Research Institute and offer graduate classes, executive training and lifelong learning courses. Our students intern and co-op with both companies.
With the vision of our trustees, administrators and faculty, and with the support of so many regional partners, I believe this portion of our campus will stand as a testament to what imagination and collaboration can accomplish.
We are among just a handful of universities nationally that are partnering with companies to establish large research facilities on campus, according to Rich Overmoyer, executive director of the University Economic Development Association. He called these partnerships “the future for research institutions.”
The University of Dayton has always looked forward, has always embraced the possibilities. Brother Ray Fitz, S.M., my predecessor, worked with the city, Miami Valley Hospital and Citywide Development Corp. to reinvigorate the Fairgrounds neighborhood with new housing. That sparked the redevelopment of Brown Street and led to the renaissance we’re seeing today on the land we purchased from NCR.
As we build for the future, we are called to be builders of community.No Comments
Sometimes, it’s OK to spend the summer indoors.
For the one to two undergraduate students chosen each year for a Lancaster-McDougall Award, devoting a summer to scholarship is a luxury. As one past recipient wrote, “It allowed me to devote my time to research without needing a part-time job.” A summer job pays the bills — but a summer of research paves the way to graduate programs and fruitful careers.
Like that of Wayne Lancaster ’69, a professor in Wayne State University’s Center for Molecular Medicine and Genetics. He and his wife, Lucy Grégoire, felt so strongly that student research is the key to future success that in 2010 they created a sustainable scholarship endowment to fund an undergraduate research award in biology. It is named after Lancaster and his mentor, the late Kenneth McDougall, who served as Lancaster’s master’s thesis adviser.
Such opportunities are what set the UD biology curriculum apart, says Mark Nielsen, department chair. “A unique strength of ours is our ability to get undergraduates involved in research. At larger institutions, they simply don’t have the room in their laboratories; at smaller schools, they don’t have the resources. Our faculty really depend on students to help further their research,” he said.
The emphasis on student-driven study starts with their Lancaster-McDougall application. The process is competitive, with students drafting their formal grant proposals in National Institutes of Health — the foremost funding agency for biomedical research — format. They identify a faculty mentor who will support them in the lab. And they tackle real problems that others need answers to.
“No one’s giving money away,” Nielsen explained. “It’s important that students learn how to earn money for their research and explain what it’s for. When you’re spending other’s money, you better have a hard, solid idea in mind, and be able to make it interesting.”
May 2014 biology graduate Georgios Tsissios’ solid idea involved softer surfaces. After attending a tissue regeneration seminar given by Panagiotis Tsonis, director of the University’s Center for Tissue Regeneration and Engineering, Tsissios became a molecular biology devotee. In summer 2013, a Lancaster-McDougall Award allowed him to experiment on the newt, an organism capable of regenerating an entire organ.
“Why do newts have this tremendous capability to regenerate part of their bodies, when other animals don’t? If we figure out the why, maybe one day we can apply this principle to other animals including humans,” Tsissios explained.
Tsissios, like many other Lancaster-McDougall graduates, says the summer research was just a beginning. He returned to UD this fall as a doctoral candidate in biology, where he will join Tsonis in his laboratory.
“At the very moment that I stepped in the laboratory, something changed inside me,” Tsissios said. “More than ever, I was sure that this is the discipline that best suits my ambitions. For the first time, I had to create my own experiment and hypothesis. I never felt more alive in all of my academic years than this time. Without this experience, I would probably have chosen a different career path.”
Michael Moran ’14 (at left, right), a 2012 Lancaster-McDougall recipient, is pursuing a master’s in immunology on his way to medical school, a plan spurred only after he worked on a project examining specific genes in eye development and their effect on Alzheimer’s disease.
Lauren Shewhart ’14 (at left, left) arrived at UD undecided on a major — and left as a mentor for other biology undergradutes. “The honor of winning this award gave me confidence that what I’m doing, other people care about,” she said.
Brittany Demmitt ’11 won a Lancaster-McDougall Award to study the impact of nanoparticles on the gut microbial community, a current hot topic in finding solutions to conditions that don’t have a clear genetic basis, such as diabetes, autism and multiple sclerosis. Today, she continues this research as a graduate student at the University of Colorado Boulder.
That’s the beauty of research, Nielsen says. Answering the question isn’t the the end; it’s a jumping off point to keep discovering.No Comments
In 1875, there were 3,112 patents granted by the British Intellectual Property Office. In 2014, one of them — Patent No. 2168 — can be found in the University of Dayton archives.
Brought to Albert Emanuel Library by the late Brother James Loughran, S.M., in March 1949, the patent has, since then, remained ensconced in its original protective case — a heavy, round clay box that reminds you more of a tortilla warmer than a legal document safe.
“From the possessions of Mrs. Connolly of Washington, D.C.,” wrote Loughran on the note attached to his delivery. At the time, Loughran was on the maintenance staff of Dayton’s Chaminade High School; he relocated soon after to California, where he spent nearly 30 years on staff at Marianist high schools there. He died in 1977.
“I believe it’s what is called a letters patent,” said Jennifer Brancato, University archivist. “The patent itself — which opens to nearly 30 inches wide by 20 inches tall — appears to be made of parchment, which needs the same conditions as paper, so it can last an extremely long time with the proper temperature, humidity and storage.”
While we don’t know why Loughran brought a 75-year-old patent to UD, nor how it came to be in his possession, we do know something about its technology. Filed by James Samuel Brooks of Pittsburgh, the application was for “an invention of an improved method of and apparatus for backing electro-type shells.”
First invented in 1838, electrotyping is a chemical method for forming metal pieces that produce an exact facsimile of an object with an irregular surface, such as a coin or sculpture. By the late 1800s, electrotyping had also become the standard method for producing plates for letterpress printing, a practice that was widespread into the 1970s.
The method Brooks invented made the process more efficient. Machinists would pour metal around forms that often shifted or floated, then spend hours trimming excess from the edges and smoothing uneven areas. Brooks’ invention kept the form still, resulting in smooth surfaces that were the exact thickness desired, saving time and labor.
“Generally, an American inventor would seek a patent in another country to protect the invention in that country,” notes Michael Jacobs, a registered patent attorney and Distinguished Practitioner in Residence in the UD School of Law’s program in law and technology. “The patent may have some historical significance, but it is hard to tell. I wasn’t able to find much information, nor trace it back to a corresponding U.S. patent. It remains a mystery.”
While Brooks’ method was handy, it wasn’t especially fruitful, and the patent expired in 1895. Several similar patents were filed in the U.S. in the 1930s.
UD faculty are no strangers to the patent office. See Page 6 of the Autumn 2014 issue for the latest invention from a biology professor.No Comments
A book by Mara Lohrstorfer Purnhagen ’95.What if you had ghost hunters for parents? What if the myth behind a ghostly game came true? These are a few of the questions Mara Purnhagen asked herself when writing her five-book series, Past Midnight. Those questions become reality for the main character, Charlotte Silver, who struggles to be normal in a paranormal world. In One Hundred Candles, the second book in the series, Charlotte encounters spirits unleashed from a weird party game. Although the series’ first novel was originally meant to stand alone, Purnhagen described the ensuing works as a great accomplishment. “The best stories always start with ‘What if,’” she said.No Comments
A book by Dan Baker ’78 and Gwen Nalls ’82.
Between 1965 and 1975, Dan Baker was a Dayton police officer, while his wife, Gwen Nalls, attended Dayton’s segregated public schools. Their book, Blood in the Streets, describes actual events following the Civil Rights Act in 1964: a 1966 drive-by murder of a black man by a racist serial killer, the violent riots that ensued and how reconciliation of racial groups within the city was reached. The authors pooled archival resources from the time as well as their own experiences. Nothing is sugarcoated, Baker said. “Many Dayton natives don’t know this part of the city’s history. We wrote the story in belief that history forgotten may be history repeated.”No Comments
A book by Julie Desloge Dubray ’88.
In Goodnight St. Louis, longtime residents Julie Dubray and co-author June Arthur Herman lead readers through a whimsical journey of their beloved city. With rhyming words and colorful illustrations, as well as an informational section on featured landmarks, the picture book’s appeal goes beyond childhood. The pair collaborated with the Visitor’s Commission to identify the top 25 landmarks to include. “We revisited our favorite places to capture the whole experience, and our kids would joke, ‘You’re not really working, are you?’” Dubray said. “We love sharing the magic of St. Louis with the world.”No Comments
A book by James Lindgren ’72.
In the third installment of his historical series, Preserving America’s Past, SUNY Plattsburgh history professor James Lindgren explores the past 50 years in the South Street Seaport district of Lower Manhattan, highlighting how the oldest neighborhood in the city has remained standing despite urban development, 9/11 and Hurricane Sandy. “I’ve learned how very fragile the past can be,” he said. “America is so focused on the here and now, but preservation is a way to build a strong historical consciousness.” The book is dedicated to the late Edwin “Sandy” King, a UD professor who inspired open-mindedness and ambition in the author.No Comments
Call it an outbreak of the Red Scare.
Splotches of red appeared and spread. From the floor to the rafters, UD fans packed tournament sites for the 2014 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship. They sold out ticket allotments, bought from online resellers and haggled on street corners. Any seat would do, because nearly every seat was adjacent to a Flyer fan.
At least that’s how it felt, even to coach Archie Miller down on the floor.
“I always say I don’t know how we’re going to play, but I know [the fans will] be there, and they’ll be loud,” he said after the March 27 Sweet 16 victory. “I just didn’t know how many.”
So numerous that every section was freckled with Flyer gear. So thunderous that this writer’s decibel meter overloaded in the Memphis roar. So deafening that the rosary prayers of a young girl in the highest seats were likely heard by only holy ears. So fervent that as the final moments wound down on the Flyers’ Elite Eight loss to Florida, above the gator-chomping, a unified chant rang clear:
“Thank you, (clap clap) UD. (clap clap)”
“Thank you, (clap clap) UD. (clap clap)”
This season was defined by the “True Team” dedication the players declared on their warm-up shirts, when starting pride took a backseat to an all-in enthusiasm and unwavering faith in one another. But there was another set of T-shirts that could have been printed and worn by thousands: “True Fan.” They’d waited 30 years for a stage this big to show their Flyer colors and community pride.
And what a show it was.
IT WAS A TOUGH WINTER many would rather forget: the polar vortex; snowstorms with names like Greek gods and Transformers; and a 1-5 losing slump that sent Flyer fans reeling.
After they racked up early wins against the likes of Georgia Tech and Gonzaga to roll to a 12-3 record in non-conference play, to have the Flyers falter against the A-10 seemed improbable. Call-in shows and Twitter chatter devolved toward extremes, with fans speculating about the longevity of the coach just halfway through his third season. “I imagine Archie must be wearing a fake beard and dark glasses when he runs out for milk and bread,” one fan wrote.
Little did fans know that, in the cold of winter, UD was signing a contract extension for Miller through 2019.
That slump, it turned out, would be golden. It gave the team permission to regroup and focus on what was important, said senior and team co-captain Devin Oliver.
“[Coach Miller] started preaching play-to-win. And guys were kinda like, ‘ehhhh,’” Oliver said, vocalizing the team’s uncertainty, “and he was like, ‘Just play. Just play basketball.’
“And once we started winning and had a little more organization, we knew what we were trying to accomplish.”
Their goal: UD’s first NCAA Division I men’s tournament bid since 2009, when the Flyers advanced to the second round after beating West Virginia, 68-60, in Minneapolis.
One key to season success was cohesion. Players, in the past, were known to follow their own agendas.
“We didn’t have enough pride to listen to one another last year,” said senior and team co-captain Vee Sanford. “This year, as a team, every day was just helping each other and trying to teach. We can all learn from one another.”
They also drew energy from the coaching team and Miller’s palatable drive to win, said senior Matt Kavanaugh.
“His confidence, passion and enthusiasm just rubs off on all the players because, if you’re not bringing it at the same level as him, you’re not going to play, you’re not going to be successful,” he said. “I think he brings it every day in practice, and that gives us a sense of toughness, and that just transfers over into the games.”
It worked. They busted the slump with a 9-1 winning streak that propelled the Flyers into the NCAA tournament and to Buffalo, N.Y., to face Ohio State.
SELECTION SUNDAY was a time for rejoicing for many and of soul-wrenching agony for others who found their loyalties tested by the 11th-seeded Flyers’ match-up against sixth-seeded Ohio State. Sophomore Ryan Phillips, the next president of Red Scare, UD’s student fan club, is from one such house divided. Literally, he has Ohio State to credit for his existence.
“My parents met at OSU. It’s in my blood, my family,” he said. “If I had gone there, I would have been a fourth generation.”
Instead, he is a Flyer. So he chose — in good fun — to leave a voicemail for his father: “I’m 100 percent behind the Flyers. If you don’t want to talk to me Thursday, it’s fine.”
On March 20, Phillips — wearing a red Dayton Flyers pullover and black basketball shorts — joined hundreds of students who gathered throughout campus to watch the game. He chose the basement of Kennedy Union where the Hangar’s bowling alley sat silent as students piled in front of the big screen.
It was a nerve-wracking game with 15 lead changes that had Phillips doing calisthenics. With 3.8 seconds left on the clock, Sanford drove to the basket and kissed the game-winning shot off the glass to give the Flyers a 60-59 victory. It was a shot that launched Phillips into his friend’s arms.
“I almost went out and kissed the Chaminade statue,” he said. “It was probably the most exciting game I have ever seen. I don’t think I’ve hugged so many random people in my life.”
It was a bracket-busting way to start off March Madness. Dayton’s win left just 17 percent of the Quicken Loans Billion Dollar brackets intact after the first game of the second round, reported Yahoo.
The upset win was just one of many good storylines for the media to report throughout the tournament. Others included junior Jordan Sibert, who transferred from Ohio State and scored nine points in the win over his former school; Miya Oliver, the sister of Devin Oliver and the darling of CBS Sports, which highlighted her as the Flyers’ greatest fan; and the Miller brothers — Archie of Dayton and Sean of Arizona — who would become the first brothers to coach Elite Eight teams in the same tournament.
There was another storyline that grabbed the heartstrings during the third-round Dayton-Syracuse game: the birth of Maeve Maloney.
Chelsie Berry Maloney ’07 and her husband, Adam, watched the first half of the March 22 game from the delivery room at Kettering Medical Center near Dayton. Chelsie delivered Maeve at halftime and watched the second half while holding her new bundle of joy.
“UD has always been a part of our family,” said proud grandma Eileen Murphy Maloney ’80. “[Chelsie and Adam] had their first date at a basketball game at the arena, and their wedding reception was at the Flight Deck [at UD Arena]. Maeve is certainly destined to be a Flyer.”
While the Maloneys had a good reason to stay in Dayton, many fans refused to let a six-hour drive and occasional blinding snow keep them from the First Niagara Center in Buffalo. Fans sold out Dayton’s 550-ticket allotment and scavenged for more.
Longtime season ticket holder Jeff Lecklider traveled with 14-year-old grandson Jack Welsh, who always wears to games the same good-luck red socks. Welsh said the cheers of Flyers fans were incredible. “We were overtaking Syracuse,” he said.
On TV, it looked like a Syracuse home game, with the university only 150 miles away. The Flyers on the court, though, could hear the Dayton pride.
“When we played Syracuse, you could look up and see nothing but orange,” said Sibert. “But to be able to see our crowd and be able to hear them just as loud as the Syracuse fans, it means the world to us and it gives an edge to us in every game.”
Said senior Brian Vonderhaar of the Flyer Faithful, “They’ve always traveled well. Just because it was on a bigger stage, it was even more.”
The fans in the stands make a difference on the court, said the team. They can hear the roar during timeouts or free throws, but even when the players are completely focused, the energy can bleed onto the court and help the team gain momentum.
“Especially if we go on a run,” Sanford said. “That’s when it’s pretty big, the fans yelling ‘Go UD.’ It kind of gets everybody amped up to keep going.”
That energy overtook the team that night, with freshman Scoochie Smith and Sibert making late baskets to give the Flyers the lead, and sophomore Dyshawn Pierre sinking free throws to finish off the Orange, 55-53.
Then it was on to Memphis, Tenn., for the Sweet 16, where the Flyers would find themselves the belle of the ball.
SURE, IT’S NICE TO BE AMERICA’S CINDERELLA at first — you get dressed up for the big dance, everyone pays attention to you, wants to be your fan. But in the fairytale, Cinderella just happened to fit the shoe. The Dayton Flyers knew it took skill and sweat and the support of a cast of thousands spanning generations to get back to the place the men’s team last inhabited in 1984.
“The whole Cinderella thing is kind of out the door,” said Sanford in Memphis. “I just feel like a lot of people don’t know about the Dayton program, but it’s a really great program with a lot of tradition. … Nothing about the University of Dayton is Cinderella or small. We have the best facilities. We are on top of our game academically.”
It was, though, a bit like magic for fans. They rolled into Memphis by the thousands and were treated to a royal ball. In the historic Cadre building with its crystal chandeliers and towering columns with hand-painted gold-leaf molding, Fiore Talarico ’74 and the UD alumni relations staff threw a party for the first 1,300 Flyer fans to arrive. Kevin Davidson ’06, known for his animated halftime dance to “Sandstorm” while a member of Red Scare, stood in the ballroom wearing his trademark sunglasses and red stocking cap. Bill Uhl Jr. ’89, who played for the Flyers from 1986-90, hugged fans and posed for pictures. Everywhere there was free food and drink, with an R&B band and the Flyer pep band keeping the house rocking.
“It’s such an adrenalin rush,” said Curtis Schultz ’01. He had watched the Flyers win in Buffalo, then drove home to Cincinnati to pack up the family for Memphis. He stood in the Cadre building in the quietest corner he could find with wife Erin Wietmarschen Schultz ’01, brother Nick Schultz, and children Will, 8, and Annmarie, 6, who peeked out from behind a giant foam finger.
Former football coach Mike Kelly took the mic and told the jubilant crowd that UD fans had purchased more tickets in Memphis than any other school. “Let’s make this place tonight just like the UD Arena, baby,” he shouted.
And they did. The announcers from Flyer Radio promised listeners at home that they were not turning up the volume; the FedExForum was really that loud. Small children covered their ears with both hands, pointed elbows jutting into raucous space.
Flyer fans sold out their 950-ticket allotment and nabbed available seats anywhere. At one point, there were three Flyer will-call ticket lines compared to one for each of the other three Sweet 16 teams.
In section 208, row Q, near the roof, a family of five could barely contain themselves during the Stanford game. Mom, Dad and kids came packing prayers in case the team needed backup. A few times, the littlest girl started saying the “Hail Mary.” “Not yet! It’s too soon,” Dad coached, not wanting his team to peak too early.
That night, 10 Dayton players would score as the Flyers beat 10th-seeded Stanford, 82-72. Said Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins, “They were relentless. They came in waves, and they had two players at every position. … Not only do they keep putting bodies out there, but they’re all good.”
Just as the team was becoming known for its high-energy mass attack, the Flyer fans were gaining notoriety for their size and loyalty. Shots of historic Beale Street showed a sea of Flyer red while security guards at Graceland wondered if there was anyone left in Dayton.
On the day between games, Oliver ventured out on Beale Street to meet his family for lunch.
“I figured someone would come up to me, a fan,” he said. “But it was pandemonium. I started walking and people started crowding me and taking pictures. Old ladies were giving me hugs. I took about 40 pictures. That’s when I met Roosevelt Chapman (from the 1984 Flyer Elite Eight team). We shook hands and people started cheering.”
Such a reception was likely not contained to Dayton players, but there was one moment Saturday, March 29, that clearly contrasted the anecdotal differences among schools. At the restaurant Alfred’s on Beale, the University of Florida alumni association hung a banner for its alumni reception on the patio deck with a capacity of 200. Across the street in Handy Park, the UD alumni association threw an epic pre-game. An estimated 2,000 fans flowed in under an archway of red and blue balloons. Alumni in jeans and Flyer T-shirts emblazoned with “Fly to the Occasion,” “Our House” and “Archie’s Army” bumped into dear friends usually removed by 500 miles or 15 years or more.
“UD always preaches community and togetherness, and that was the mindset of our team,” said Oliver of his explanation for the outpouring from the fans. “People were getting together. It’s an overall commitment to the mindset of the University.”
THAT NIGHT AT THE ELITE EIGHT GAME in Memphis, FedExForum again rocked like UD Arena. Just as the crowd energized the players, the players stoked the fire. With 8:08 left in the first half, Oliver let fly a long three off a Pierre assist to bring the Flyers within three points of first-seeded Florida. Oliver threw both arms into the air, amping up the sound a few more decibels. He then turned and pointed to section 112 where his family and those of his teammates stood cheering. He threw up another fist as if to say, “That’s for you.”
The night would be a fight for the Flyers, who would take the lead but once as Florida pulled away to a 62-52 win that ended Dayton’s best season since 1984.
Later that night, after the players shook hands and posed for dozens more photos with fans back at the hotel, Oliver posted a tweet to his 5,000 followers.
“Flyer Nation, we made HISTORY. I’m so proud to call myself a Dayton Flyer. Thank you to everyone who has been alongside us for this run!”
That sweet, elite run will stay monumental in the eyes of those who witnessed it near and far.
They don’t call them Flyer Faithful for nothing.
Michelle Tedford ’94 sat courtside on press row for the Elite Eight game. Sometimes, this job is simply amazing.No Comments
UD has proven that what proliferates in your kid’s fish tank can also survive the deep freeze of a polar vortex. The Research Institute’s new outdoor modular algae system holds promise for alleviating environmental and energy ills by taking the solution to the point of pollution. In the process, we’re growing young minds with some of the most innovative ideas in the algae industry.
The green, slimy film might make you think twice about taking a dip in the pond — even on the hottest summer day — and it makes cleaning out the aquarium a time-consuming chore.
But algae are emerging as one of the most promising renewable energy sources in decades. The tiny organisms pack a big punch for challenges ranging from climate change to economic security.
Scientists and students at the University of Dayton Research Institute have taken the research a step further by creating a new way to grow algae — adjacent to the source of pollution and no matter the weather. This modular algae system, they say, can significantly reduce carbon emissions headed for the atmosphere, creating a new solution to a growing problem while growing a new generation of problem-solvers equipped to address issues from foreign oil dependence to water
“This is all about cleaner air, cleaner water and cleaner energies,” said Sukh Sidhu, head of UDRI’s Energy Technologies and Materials Division and professor of mechanical engineering.
THE SKINNY ON FAT ALGAE
UDRI has been performing research on algae and developing and testing algae-growing systems for pollution control and alternative energies since 2009. That’s when it received a $980,000 pollution-reduction contract from the Air Force Research Laboratory Materials and Manufacturing Directorate. In all, Air Force funding to UDRI for algae research and development totals $3.5 million.
Algae are among Earth’s oldest living organisms, but only recently have they been cultivated on a large scale for fuel, feed and food. Algae are photosynthetic organisms that occur in most habitats, from marine and freshwater to desert sands. They vary greatly in size from single-celled to complex multicellular forms; kelp, the largest algae, can grow to be 200-feet long. And, according to the department of botany at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History, algae are found in fossil records dating back
3 billion years.
Fast-forward from Precambrian times to the modern day, and the many benefits of algae are coming to light. From their rapid growth to their ability to store energy in the forms of oils and carbohydrates, algae are among the most promising long-term sustainable sources of biomass and oils for fuel and food.
As oil crops, the unassuming green organisms are hundreds of times more viable
than corn, soybeans and canola, according to Sidhu. Compared with corn yields of 20 gallons of oil per acre, the “fattest” varieties of algae — those with the highest lipid contents — have the potential to yield more than 14,000 gallons of oil per acre, 700 times the yield of corn.
“You would need to take every single acre of food and nonfood cropland that exists in the United States today, multiply it by eight and dedicate it solely to corn to produce enough corn-based ethanol to meet even half of the nation’s transport fuel needs,” Sidhu said. “But only 1 percent of the equivalent of existing acreage would be needed to produce the same amount of biodiesel, jet fuel and ethanol from algae.”
Producing the highly desirable oil is one benefit. But if algae can be grown year-round near the source of air pollution, algae have the potential to be major players in carbon
NEITHER SNOW NOR RAIN …
Despite their widespread abundance, algae are actually fragile — vulnerable to fluctuations in weather and temperature, which has been a limiting factor for researchers and commercial growers alike. Despite an unseasonably long and cold winter in southwest Ohio, UDRI has been producing a high volume of algae in a new, outdoor system.
“This is a fully automated, closed system designed to operate 24/7, 365, regardless of the weather,” Sidhu said. “Our goal was to design and build an economical and efficient system that could be constructed or implemented anywhere, easily assembled and operated in any climate, and we’ve done just that.”
Initial research focused on testing varieties of algae as well as conditions needed for optimal production. UDRI researchers discovered that there were no “best strains” of algae, rather that variables like weather and temperature were key factors in producing a high yield. Certain strains do, however, respond differently to these variables.
“That’s why most systems are open, such as natural or man-made ponds, and found in warmer climates,” Sidhu said. “And that’s why our system is different. It will operate in any location, regardless of season or climate.”
Operating in this year’s very cold weather — including 11 days of below-zero temperatures — was a concern, said Moshan Kahandawala, the program’s principal investigator.
“The unusually cold ambient temperatures experienced in the Miami Valley were particularly challenging,” he said. They found strains of algae that could grow to approximately 5 degrees Celsius, but below freezing they had to create methods to prevent the
water from freezing.
“Ideally we would rely on waste heat from a CO2 source, but in our case we relied on a boiler to provide and simulate the waste heat needed to make it through the winter at our outdoor facility,” he said.
The UDRI system is a low-energy, high-throughput photobioreactor. Each module fits in a space equivalent to about a dozen parking spaces. The size and number of modules in a given system can be scaled depending on biomass, biofuel and carbon capture requirements of a particular site.
Water and algae are added to the photobioreactor tubes and, because the tubes are clear, algae process light through photosynthesis to grow. A number of factors can affect growth and biomass yield. One is the gas liquid exchange — the balance between carbon dioxide consumed and oxygen released to maintain high growth rates. Others include lighting, water pH, temperature and the algae species selected.
As algae grow, their density increases. The thicker the algae, the less light is available at the center of the tubes, and growth plateaus. Then it’s time to harvest. Algae and water are separated. The separated water is re-circulated into the photobioreactor for reuse. The harvested algae can have many uses, including oil extraction, pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals (health food), bioenergy and cosmetics coloring.
UDRI’s system is less expensive to operate than similar systems and, according to Sidhu, is already producing algae at or above the target rate established by the U.S. Department of Energy for 2022 — 50 grams of algae biomass per meter squared per day.
“It’s a beautifully symbiotic system — algae feed on carbon dioxide and convert it to a highly desirable oil, which accounts for as much as 70 percent of the organism’s body weight in some strains,” Sidhu said. “So, we capture carbon dioxide from stacks of coal boilers and other combustion processes before it is released into the atmosphere and run it through algae growing systems.”
Other pollutants can also be captured and run through the system to benefit the algae and the environment. Nitrogen and phosphorus are nutrients that are natural parts of aquatic ecosystems, but too much — from agricultural fertilizer runoff or wastewater treatment plants — can contribute to both air and water pollution. Running this water through the algae can reduce the need for expensive water treatments. When harvested, algae can be used as fertilizer itself.
And then there’s the oil-producing ability Sidhu mentioned. Algae store energy in the form of oil and carbohydrates. These can be extracted chemically or mechanically — such as by pressing — allowing the oil to be used to create biofuels such as biodiesel, ethanol, biojet fuel and “green gasoline.”
And, when you’re done, the dried algal biomass can be pelletized and used as fuel in industrial boilers.
NOT BUSINESS AS USUAL
Change is not an option but a necessity, according to a recent report by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Control. The IPCC report presented in April, “Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change,” shows global emissions of greenhouse gases have risen at unprecedented levels despite implementation of a growing number of policies designed to reduce climate change. Emissions grew more quickly between 2000 and 2010 than in each of the three previous decades and will need to be slashed by as much as 70 percent by mid-century to keep global temperatures in check, the report states.
“There is a clear message from science: To avoid dangerous interference with the climate system, we need to move away from business as usual,” said Germany’s Ottmar Edenhofer, co-chair of the IPCC working group.
According to the report — which analyzed more than 1,200 scenarios from scientific literature — a substantial financial investment would be needed. But it is possible and economically feasible to avert catastrophic climate change.
“Avoiding further delays in mitigation and making use of a broad variety of technologies can limit the associated costs,” Edenhofer said.
The report doesn’t endorse a single approach but rather a wide range of changes and actions. These include emission reductions from energy production, an overall reduction in energy use and afforestation as well as combining electricity production from biomass and carbon dioxide capture and storage.
The UDRI algae growing system could be an effective alternative to traditional carbon dioxide capture and storage methods.
“We consider this a far better alternative for dealing with CO2 emissions than geosequestration, where carbon dioxide is pumped deep into the earth,” Sidhu said.
Aside from being more cost efficient, UDRI’s growing process is greener — in the environmental sense — than most algae-growing systems, which use chemical fertilizer as a nutrient source.
“Producing algae with fertilizer is expensive and leaves a huge carbon footprint. We use livestock and chicken manure, the same type of nutrient source responsible for the algae blooms at Grand Lake St. Mary’s, Ohio, and other lakes affected by agricultural runoff,” Sidhu said.
Among the team members contributing to the progress of algae research at the University of Dayton are UD students.
One was Nilesh Chavada ’12, whose master’s thesis examined factors that affect algae growth in photobioreactors.
He worked with other team members to assemble the pilot scale system and, more recently, helped construct heat exchangers, critical to sustaining algae during the winter.
“When I graduated, algae and its associated research was the current trend and most sought after,” Chavada said. He now works full time for UDRI as a biomass production engineer.
Algae research has been part of the education for 15 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students since the project began in 2009.
“An effort at this scale requires a significant investment of human capital,” said principal investigator Kahandawala. “Access to students from various science and engineering fields helps look at problems from various perspectives. During their undergraduate years, we have the opportunity to benefit from their curiosity while they benefit from work experience. It also allows senior staff to take on more challenging efforts by delegating day-to-day or previously established activities to students.”
Saikumar Chalivendra ’11 has been working on algae research since he completed his master’s degree requirements in 2009. He is scheduled to complete his dissertation on
algae technology this year.
He said he gained a greater understanding of techniques to most efficiently produce biofuels as well as ways to reduce the cost of otherwise expensive wastewater treatment methods. He also learned analytical skills needed for the next discoveries in the algae field.
“I had the opportunity to provide solutions for real-time industrial problems,” Chalivendra said. “The biotechnology field will have some of the most exciting opportunities over the next 20 years. The work experience I gained from this project helped me to attain the skills and technical knowledge necessary to be placed in the top biotechnology or nutraceutical companies.”
According to Chalivendra, participating in such research projects provides an invaluable experience for all students.
“Undergraduate students usually work in the summer and, during that period, they gain more comprehensive knowledge of the subject under study, without specific applications in mind. They also get the excitement of learning new things in real research,” he said. “For graduate and doctoral students, working on research projects like algae will help students go through individualized training and will create an opportunity to work in a diverse research environment that is rich in intellectual and technical resources.”
This diverse environment includes various disciplines — mechanical, chemical and electrical engineering — and a range of nationalities. At one time, algae group employees hailed from the United States, Sri Lanka, Colombia, Puerto Rico, Russia, Mexico, Pakistan, Gabon and India, said electrical engineer Anupriya Krishnan ’06.
“Everyone’s styles and backgrounds are different, so it’s such a learning opportunity,” said Krishnan, an electrical engineer who is working on the automation of the algae photobioreactor. “It’s like a baby; you see it from the time it’s crawling — five tubes — to the 80 that are out here.”
Krishnan said UDRI does an excellent job identifying people with potential and providing them with opportunities to learn and grow in new industries, such as algae. Fellow team member Michael Butcher agrees.
“This project has given me the opportunity to broaden my horizons in a new field of work,” said Butcher, a full-time technician for the algae group. “I have worked in other technical industries, but this has been the most satisfying position that I have held.”
According to a recent algae industry survey conducted by the Algae Biomass Organization, the algae industry is growing, from increased production of biomass and oils to increased hiring and development of a wider variety of end products.
The survey, conducted in March 2014, included more than 280 responses from companies and individuals involved in directly producing and buying algae or algae-derived products, as well as equipment manufacturers, research laboratories, providers of equipment or materials, government agencies and service providers. Respondents this year continued their optimism that algae-derived fuels are likely to be price-competitive with fossil fuels by 2020; that production will increase in existing and new facilities; and that improved supportive federal policy would accelerate both the production of algae-based fuels, feeds, fertilizers and other products as well as the number of jobs across the industry. The ABO projects the potential for creation of 220,000 jobs in this sector by 2020.
At UDRI, the next step, after demonstrating the technology — which includes proprietary system designs engineered by Kahandawala — will be to investigate the potential application of a fully operational system at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Then, there is the possibility of commercialization.
“The University of Dayton Research Institute has developed the technology to generate a cost-competitive biofuel intermediate in the United States,” Sidhu says. “We’ve taken it from beakers and jars in the lab to full-size and fully operational modules that can be transitioned to the marketplace for commercial use. And we’re pretty proud of that.”
Debbie Juniewicz is an adjunct professor for the department of communication. She wishes the algae in her daughter’s fish tank could be employed to solve the world’s problems.No Comments
First, there was the tree in the backyard your parents told you not to climb. Then came the rock wall at the mall your friends said was too high. Next was whitewater rafting the summer between sophomore and junior year in college. You remember when you “accidentally” chose the more dangerous left route, even though it’d made news earlier in the week for all the wrong reasons.
Even if these don’t describe the kind of adventures you’ve been on in the past, it’s not too late to start.
“There’s not an age limit on being adventurous,” says Emily Wilk, assistant director of UD’s outdoor education programs. “It all depends on what a person is comfortable with doing.” Campus recreation members can feel more comfortable thanks to UD’s Outdoor Engagement Center. Opened last August near RecPlex in a building that alumni may remember as Rudy’s Fly-Buy, it offers outdoor gear rental, a DIY bike repair station and education clinics.
Wilk offers five tips for anyone seeking a successful time in any neck of the woods.
1. Be spontaneous, at first. Wilk says sitting down and considering all the ins-and-outs is fine once you decide where you want to go. As far as deciding what you want to do, “Go with your gut,” she says. “But also know your limits.”
2. Do some research. Taking a class may seem like a bit of a drag for a spontaneous backpacking trip, but for someone who’s never done it before, it can be invaluable. Wilk says learning as much about the area, the adventure and the people you’re with is always helpful. “It shouldn’t just be about the rush of adrenaline,” she says. “By knowing what local bookstores, restaurants or buildings are nearby, you’ll get a whole new set of places to discover along your path.”
3. Have a plan. What are you going to do first? Where are you going to set up? Wilk says having a plan in mind is important because it helps you make the most of your time. Without one, you could spend hours wandering around. “This is where the research you’ve done comes in handy,” she says.
4. Be prepared. After you figure out where you’re going and what you’re doing, make sure you have what you need. “The last thing you want to happen is to try and go rappelling and realize you have no rope.” Wilk says you also should make sure you’re going to be with a group of people you know, or at least have a friend with you. The Outdoor Engagement Center gives students and staff the materials they need — including backpacks, stoves, tents and sleeping bags — for trips ranging from one day to one week.
5. Have fun. “New experiences are wonderful,” Wilk says. “You get to see new things, meet new people and learn about the part of yourself that you may have thought never existed.” Adventuring, she adds, is one of the most pleasant ways to enjoy the outdoors.No Comments