Sustainability: Oct. 15, 2011

Research is essential to every aspect of developing greener, cleaner alternative vehicles.

“Basic research is what feeds the innovation pipeline,” said Eric Isaacs, director of the Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois.

Bringing together many types of expertise, national laboratories work closely with both academia and industry to create “the kind of energy that drives automobiles, and the kind of energy that drives innovation,” according to Isaacs.

Argonne specializes in energy storage for alternative transportation and is one of 17 U.S. Department of Energy labs around the country focusing on research and development to improve engineering and design of advanced vehicles and the batteries and fuel to run them.

We are fortunate to have the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden zeroing in on energy-efficient advanced vehicles and environmentally friendly fuels.

At the energy laboratory’s Center for Transportation Technologies and Systems, engineers and scientists from public and private organizations are developing advanced vehicle and fuel technologies to create affordable, reliable products.

The advanced vehicle group, the fuels performance group and the testing and analysis group are hard at work to meet the urgent need for more sustainable transportation options.

Take a few minutes to watch a fascinating video at http://www.nrel.gov/learning/advanced_vehicles_fuels.html.

Boulder is home to the Colorado Center for Biorefining and Biofuels, aka C2B2, a cooperative research and educational center devoted to everything related to biofuels.

The center is a collaborative effort of the University of Colorado, Colorado State University, the Colorado School of Mines and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

More than a dozen industry sponsors help the center improve fundamental understanding of biofuels and develop new technologies for growing and refining biomass.

Learn more about the research center at http://www.c2b2web.org.

Colorado State University’s Amy Prieto was named ExxonMobil Fellow for 2011 by the American Chemical Society for her innovative work on the Prieto Battery. She invented a prototype for a 3-D lithium-ion battery utilizing nanowires made from a mineral compound including copper.

The groundbreaking discovery is safer and much more efficient than existing batteries. The unique, non-toxic battery has more storage capacity, captures more regenerative power and recharges much more quickly.

Our state also is home to the Rocky Mountain Institute, which “aims to free the global economy from dependence on fossil fuels.” The institute practices what it preaches with highly energy efficient offices in Boulder and Snowmass.

Transportation is one of four areas highlighted in the institute’s Reinventing Fire campaign to create a blueprint to a new energy era. Scientists at the institute, including cofounder Amory Lovins, think vehicle efficiency is the key to mobility. Learn more at http://www.rmi.org/rmi.

A little closer to home, Fiberforge is a Glenwood Springs company specializing in thermoplastic composites strengthened with glass, carbon and other fibers.

Fiberforge’s ultralight material is 10 times stronger than steel and will be an integral part of a revolution in auto design, improving both mileage and safety.

Company founders Jon Fox-Rubin and David Cramer are engineers and former institute employees.

“Fiberforge will play a highly supportive role in benign and recyclable solutions during the transition to composites for the auto industry,” Fox-Rubin said.

The technology company currently makes a wide range of products including manufacturing equipment for the auto industry and aerospace parts.

The advantages of carbon fiber, used to construct the fuselage and wing structure of the new Boeing 787, already have produced quiet flight conditions and a 20 percent reduction in fuel usage.

Colorado has a proven track record as a leader in research and innovation for efficient vehicles.

Now we must demand continuing, long-term investment in the kind of science needed to develop a more sustainable generation of advanced vehicles.

Adele Israel is a Grand Junction writer who has been involved in sustainability efforts for some 20 years. Have a question or column idea for Adele? Email her at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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