The current vision of SUNRISE incorporates three main areas of research: 1) coal-related research; 2) agriculture-related research; and 3) diffuse energy sources.
Coal-related research has focused on understanding and mitigating environmental impacts from coal combustion in order to make the use of coal more sustainable from an environmental perspective. This work will include impacts associated with CO2 sequestration technologies. As we move forward we want to leverage our expertise and infrastructure in the development of fuels and chemicals from crop oils to begin researching the development of fuels and chemicals from coal. We will also expand our biomass combustion and biomass/coal co-combustion research program.
Ag-related research has focused on developing fuels, chemicals, polymers, and composites from crop oils particularly soybean oil and canola oil. Our work is centered upon the use of cracking and other catalytic reaction technologies to generate the building blocks and components necessary for fuels and chemicals. As we move forward we will move towards the commercialization of the first half dozen or so inventions from this work, including pilot scale and demonstration scale facilities.
We will study the cracking and reaction processes in order to better understand the fundamental mechanisms of our processes and characterize cracked materials in order to identify additional opportunities to produce high value by-products. We will look at novel crops as a means to develop better or additional products. Another area we will explore is the use of algae-produced lipids as the feedstock oils for use in our processes. Finally, we will begin looking at the feasibility of using lower cost cellulosic- and lignin-based raw materials as feedstocks to produce fuels and chemicals.
Diffuse Energy Sources Research
Harvesting Diffuse Energy Sources is focused on helping to develop North Dakota's wind resources by transferring wind energy into an energy carrier (H2) that can be stored and used as a fuel for both the electric generation and transportation sectors. Activities are focused on improving the economic viability of producing, storing, and utilizing wind-generated hydrogen.
Current activities of improving electrolysis performance, developing alternative compression techniques, and integrating power electronics and control will continue. Organic photovoltaic materials will be developed for solar power collection. We will also study the development of polymeric materials for fuel cell and hydrolysis cell membranes and the development of novel polymeric materials for use in wind turbine blades.