Category Archives: Green

Glass Coating Improves Battery Performance

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Sean Nealon in UCR Today on March 2, 2015.)

Photo Credit: UCR
Photo Credit: UCR

Lithium-sulfur batteries have been a hot topic in battery research because of their ability to produce up to 10 times more energy than conventional batteries, which means they hold great promise for applications in energy-demanding electric vehicles.

However, there have been fundamental road blocks to commercializing these sulfur batteries. One of the main problems is the tendency for lithium and sulfur reaction products, called lithium polysulfides, to dissolve in the battery’s electrolyte and travel to the opposite electrode permanently. This causes the battery’s capacity to decrease over its lifetime.

Researchers in the Bourns College of Engineering at the University of California, Riverside have investigated a strategy to prevent this “polysulfide shuttling” phenomenon by creating nano-sized sulfur particles, and coating them in silica (SiO2), otherwise known as glass.

The work is outlined in a paper, “SiO2 – Coated Sulfur Particles as a Cathode Material for Lithium-Sulfur Batteries,” just published online in the journal Nanoscale. In addition, the researchers have been invited to submit their work for publication in the Graphene-based Energy Devices special themed issue in RSC Nanoscale.

Ph.D. students in Cengiz Ozkan’s and Mihri Ozkan’s research groups have been working on designing a cathode material in which silica cages “trap” polysulfides having a very thin shell of silica, and the particles’ polysulfide products now face a trapping barrier – a glass cage. The team used an organic precursor to construct the trapping barrier.

“Our biggest challenge was to optimize the process to deposit SiO2 – not too thick, not too thin, about the thickness of a virus”, Mihri Ozkan said.

A schematic illustration of the process to synthesize silica-coated sulfur particles. Photo Credit: UCR Today
A schematic illustration of the process to synthesize silica-coated sulfur particles. Photo Credit: UCR Today

Graduate students Brennan Campbell, Jeffrey Bell, Hamed Hosseini Bay, Zachary Favors, and Robert Ionescu found that silica-caged sulfur particles provided a substantially higher battery performance, but felt further improvement was necessary because of the challenge with the breakage of the SiO2 shell.

“We have decided to incorporate mildly reduced graphene oxide (mrGO), a close relative of graphene, as a conductive additive in cathode material design, to provide mechanical stability to the glass caged structures”, Cengiz Ozkan said.

The new generation cathode provided an even more dramatic improvement than the first design, since the team engineered both a polysulfide-trapping barrier and a flexible graphene oxide blanket that harnesses the sulfur and silica together during cycling.

“The design of the core-shell structure essentially builds in the functionality of polysulfide surface-adsorption from the silica shell, even if the shell breaks”, Brennan Campbell said. “Incorporation of mrGO serves the system well in holding the polysulfide traps in place. Sulfur is similar to oxygen in its reactivity and energy yet still comes with physical challenges, and our new cathode design allows sulfur to expand and contract, and be harnessed.”

This advancement in battery technology is an outstanding model of Seizing Our Destiny’s catalyst for innovation pillar.  The students and staff at UC Riverside cultivate and support ideas, research, and products that accelerate the common good for all.  Creativity and innovation permeate all that we do in Riveside, which makes our community a trendsetter for the region, California, and the world to follow.

The work was funded by the Winston Chung Global Energy Center at UC Riverside.

To read the full article, click here.

Novel Pretreatment Could Cut Biofuel Costs By 30 Percent Or More

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Sean Nealon and published in UCR Today on February 23, 2015.)

Charles Wyman, the Ford Motor Company Chair in Environmental Engineering at UC Riverside. Photo Credit UCR Today
Charles Wyman, the Ford Motor Company Chair in Environmental Engineering at UC Riverside. Photo Credit UCR Today

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside have invented a novel pretreatment technology that could cut the cost of biofuels production by about 30 percent or more by dramatically reducing the amount of enzymes needed to breakdown the raw materials that form biofuels.

As partners in the BioEnergy Science Center (BESC), the team from the Bourns College of Engineering Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering and Center for Environmental Research and Technology (CE-CERT) have shown that this new operation called Co-solvent Enhanced Lignocellulosic Fractionation (CELF) could eliminate about 90 percent of the enzymes needed for biological conversion of lignocellulosic biomass to fuels compared to prior practice. This development could mean reducing enzyme costs from about $1 per gallon of ethanol to about 10 cents or less.

The BioEnergy Science Center is a U.S. Department of Energy Bioenergy Research Center focused on enhancing science and technology to reduce the cost of biomass conversion through support by the Office of Biological and Environmental Research in the Department of Energy Office of Science..

“As recent months have shown, petroleum prices are inherently unstable and will likely return to high prices soon as expensive sources are taken off line,” said Professor Charles Wyman, the Ford Motor Company Chair in Environmental Engineering at UC Riverside. “We have created a transformative technology that has the potential to make biofuels an economic sustainable alternative to petroleum-based fuels.”

“These findings are very significant because they establish a new pretreatment process that can dramatically reduce enzyme loadings and costs, thereby improving the competitiveness for biological conversion of lignocellulosic biomass to fuels,” said Wyman, who has focused on understanding and advancing biofuels technologies for more than 30 years. “Understanding the mechanisms responsible for achieving these intriguing results can also suggest even more powerful paths to improving the economics of converting non-edible biomass into sustainable fuels.”

This advancement in biofuels is an outstanding model of Seizing Our Destiny’s catalyst for innovation pillar.  The students and staff at UC Riverside cultivate and support ideas, research, and products that accelerate the common good for all.  Creativity and innovation permeate all that we do in Riveside, which makes our community a trendsetter for the region, California, and the world to follow.

For the full article, click here.

What’s For Lunch? More Often, It’s Fresh And California-Grown

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Dayna Straehley and published in The Press Enterprise on January 2, 2015.)

Photo Credit: Stan Lim, The Press Enterprise
Photo Credit: Stan Lim, The Press Enterprise

On California Thursdays at Hillcrest High School, lunches made with fresh vegetables sell out first.

California Thursdays started Oct. 23, and is already a hit at schools such as Hillcrest. The center worked with school food service directors, farmers and produce distributors to develop recipes that students enjoy and can be made from scratch with fresh ingredients grown in-state.

They’re an alternative to frozen, processed, prepackaged meals shipped from out of state and reheated for schools, according to the center, a nonprofit dedicated to education for sustainable living and based in Berkley. Sometimes produce from California is shipped to Chicago and other distant locations for processing before it comes back to schools, the center said.

Photo Credit: Stan Lim, The Press Enterprise
Photo Credit: Stan Lim, The Press Enterprise

The California Thursdays entree features broccoli buds andcelery slices from Salinas, sliced red peppers from the Coachella Valley, sliced onions and matchstick carrots, rice grown in California and chicken. Food service workers put the vegetables on baking pans with a little water and into the oven. The cooked vegetables are then placed on top of the chicken and rice.

Although the full entree of only California-grown food is a weekly feature, Alvord Child Nutrition Services Director Eric Holliday said his department works with Sunrise Produce to include as many fresh fruits and vegetables as possible to serve students every day.

The fruit also has fewer preservatives and the apples aren’t waxed like the ones in supermarkets, said Lisa Marquez, vice president of sales for Sunrise, which works with farmers and 75 to 80 school districts in Southern California.

Holliday said schools try to educate students about food and teach them where it comes from. Those education efforts encourage students to eat more fresh foods that may be unfamiliar initially.

Located in beautiful Southern California, Riverside has weather that is conducive to the production of year-round produce and excellent recreational opportunities.  Riverside is a location of choice for those that desire a healthy lifestyle.

To read the full article, click here.

Battle Of The Bugs: Good News For California Citrus Growers

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Iqbal Pittalwala and published in UCR Today on Dec, 9 2014.)

The first release of a new wasp drew a crowd, mostly people who are personally involved in raising wasps. Photo Credit: Michael Lewis
The first release of a new wasp drew a crowd, mostly people who are personally involved in raising wasps. Photo Credit: Michael Lewis

Toward the end of 2011, Mark Hoddle, an entomologist at the University of California, Riverside, first released into a citrus grove on campus a batch of Pakistani wasps that are natural enemies of the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP), the vector of a bacterium that causes Huanglongbing (HLB), a lethal citrus disease.

On Tuesday, Dec. 16, Hoddle, the director of UCR’s Center for Invasive Species Research, released the wasp Diaphorencyrtus aligarhensis, a second species of ACP natural enemy, also from the Punjab region of Pakistan.  Chancellor Kim A. Wilcox and others involved in rearing insects on and off campus helped release the tiny wasps from vials.

Photo Credit: Mike Lewis, CISR, UC Riverside
Photo Credit: Mike Lewis, CISR, UC Riverside

Successful biocontrol of citrus pests in California sometimes requires more than one species of natural enemy because citrus is grown in a variety of different habitats – hot desert areas like Coachella, cooler coastal zones like Ventura, and intermediate areas like Riverside/Redlands and northern San Diego County.

Hoddle’s lab has developed a release plan for Diaphorencyrtus. Initial releases will focus on parts of Southern California with ACP infestations in urban areas but whereTamarixia has not been released.

“This is because we want to minimize competition between these two wasp species in the initial establishment phase,” Hoddle explained. “Further, we will work closely with the California Department of Food and Agriculture on identifying places to concentrate our release efforts.”

Hoddle’s plan is to gradually transition production of the new wasp over to the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) then onto private insectaries interested in rearing this natural enemy. For the first 12-18 months, UCR and then later the CDFA will be leading the rearing and release program for this new ACP natural enemy.

Through commitment and dedication, UCR is always improving and making strides in becoming a green machine.  Exemplifying Seizing Our Destiny’s catalyst for innovation pillar, UCR values the cultivation and support of innovation within our community acting as a trendsetter for the region, California, and the world to follow.

About ACP-HLB:

ACP-HLB is a serious threat to California’s annual $2 billion citrus industry. This insect-disease combination has cost Florida’s citrus industry $1.3 billion in losses, production costs have increased by 40 percent, and more than 6,000 jobs have been lost as citrus trees have died and the industry has contracted.

When ACP feeds on citrus leaves and stems, it damages the tree by injecting a toxin that causes leaves to twist and die. The more serious issue is that ACP spreads a bacterium that causes HLB. Trees with HLB have mottled leaves and small bitter fruit.  Trees die within about 8 years of infection. To date there is no known cure for HLB.

To read the complete article, click here.

Chemists Fabricate Novel Rewritable Paper

(This article contains excerpts from an article by Iqbal Pittalwala published in UCR Today on December 2, 2014)

Photo Credit: Yin Lab, UC Riverside
Photo Credit: Yin Lab, UC Riverside

Chemists at the University of California, Riverside have now fabricated rewritable paper in the lab, one that is based on the color switching property of commercial chemicals called redox dyes.  The dye forms the imaging layer of the paper.  Printing is achieved by using ultraviolet light to photobleach the dye, except the portions that constitute the text on the paper.  The new rewritable paper can be erased and written on more than 20 times with no significant loss in contrast or resolution.

“This rewritable paper does not require additional inks for printing, making it both economically and environmentally viable,” said Yadong Yin, a professor of chemistry, whose lab led the research. “It represents an attractive alternative to regular paper in meeting the increasing global needs for sustainability and environmental conservation.”

The rewritable paper is essentially rewritable media in the form of glass or plastic film to which letters and patterns can be repeatedly printed, retained for days, and then erased by simple heating.

The paper comes in three primary colors: blue, red and green, produced by using the commercial redox dyes methylene blue, neutral red and acid green, respectively.  Included in the dye are titania nanocrystals (these serve as catalysts) and the thickening agent hydroxyethyl cellulose (HEC).  The combination of the dye, catalysts and HEC lends high reversibility and repeatability to the film.

Research like this is an example of Seizing Our Destiny’s catalyst for innovation pillar. The students and staff at UC Riverside cultivate and support ideas, research, and products that accelerate the common good for all.  Creativity and innovation permeate all that we do in Riveside, which makes our community a trendsetter for the region, state, and the world to follow.  

Study results appear online in Nature Communications.

For the complete article, click here.

Old Buses Turned Into Green Machines

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by David Danelski and published in The Press Enterprise on Nov 30, 2014.)

Photo Credit: The Press Enterprise
Photo Credit: The Press Enterprise

An old Indianapolis bus looked more like a skeleton than a mass-transit workhorse as it sat in the workshop of a Riverside bus re-manufacturing company.

Gone were the seats, windows, floorboards as well as the diesel engine.

In a few weeks, the transformation was complete. What had been a soot-emitting behemoth became a nonpolluting, all-electric, green machine capable of traveling more an 130 miles before needing to be recharged.

Photo Credit: The Press Enterprise
Photo Credit: The Press Enterprise

Complete Coach Works has been rebuilding used buses at its plant off Spruce Street for more than 29 years. But it is now winning recognition for turning old polluters into zero-emission models.

The company got a big boost this spring when it won a $12.2 million contract from the Indianapolis transit agency to turn 22 worn-out diesel buses into clean electric vehicles.

“We are really excited,” said Justin Scalzi, an account manager for the company during a tour of company’s facilities in October. “Once we have these buses out on the road in Indiana, the other transit agencies will realize that we are the real thing.”

The company’s non-polluting bus propulsion system was recently recognized by the South Coast Air Quality Management District for advancing air pollution control technology, and the air district provided the firm $395,000 toward its research and development efforts.

Complete Coach Works development of zero-emission buses is a great example of Seizing Our Destiny’s catalyst for innovation pillar by leading the way in clean public transportation.

To read the full article, click here.

Electric Vehicles Touted As Way To Cut Inland Pollution

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Melanie C. Johnson and published in The Press Enterprise on November 16, 2014.)

Photo Credit: The Press Enterprise
Photo Credit: The Press Enterprise

Riverside resident Diana Howlett climbed into a Nissan Leaf and awaited the noise from the engine. She heard nothing like the usual roar that comes with turning the ignition. “It’s really smooth and quiet,” she said of her first experience driving an electric car. “I turned it on, and I didn’t even know it was turned on.”

She and husband Kyle Howlett came with friends to Riverside Electric Vehicle Day on Sunday. The event, which took place at UC Riverside’s Center of Environmental Research & Technology on Columbia Avenue, was co-hosted by the center, the Charge Ahead California campaign, and CALPIRG UCR student chapter. It featured several speakers, an array of electric cars from Fiats to BMWs to Smart cars the attendees could peruse and test drive, and information on rebates and financing options.

Riverside Councilman Mike Gardner said for more than seven years, his primary mode of transportation for getting to City Hall has been his Segway. Because of Southern California’s landscape, fine-particle air pollution from Los Angeles and Orange County is blown to the Inland Empire, making it tough to meet federal ozone standards, he said. Increasing the number of electric and other zero-emissions vehicles could provide much-needed relief, he said.

“That’s an immediate local benefit for us for our health,” Gardner said.

Events such as Riverside Electric Vehicle Day offer participants a chance to learn how beneficial these alternative modes of transportation are to the environment. Reducing pollution throughout Riverside will help us continue to be able to hold year-round outdoor activities and improve the quality of life of our city.  Riverside Electric Vehicle Day exemplifies Seizing Our Destiny’s location of choice pillar by encouraging our residents to do their part in creating a healthy and livable city.

To read the full article, click here.

UC Riverside Celebrates Three Megawatts of Solar Power

(This article contains excerpts from an article written by Kris Lovekin and published in UCR Today on November 5, 2014.)

UCR has a solar farm that provides more than three megawatts, or the equivalent of 960 houses. Photo Credit: Ross French, UCR Today
UCR has a solar farm that provides more than three megawatts, or the equivalent of 960 houses. Photo Credit: Ross French, UCR Today

UC Riverside has opened a brand new solar farm that will produce up to 6.6 million megawatt hours of electricity each year. That is the equivalent of powering 960 homes for a year.

The ribbon cutting, at 11:30 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 13, will include Chancellor Kim A. Wilcox, local government officials, student leaders, and representatives of SunPower Corporation. It will be held on the solar farm site, which is next to UCR’s Community Garden. Parking will be available in Lot 30.

The project supports the system-wide University Policy on Sustainable Practices, which calls on each campus to contribute to the production of up to 10 megawatts of on-site renewable power by 2014.  Wendell Brase, UC Irvine’s vice chancellor for administrative and business services, will attend the ribbon cutting. He is co-chair of UC President Janet Napolitano’s Global Climate Leadership Council.

UCR’s solar array is currently the largest solar array in the University of California system. Other campuses are also quickly adding more solar technology. For instance, UC Irvine opens a large system next year:

UCR signed a 20-year power purchase agreement that allowed the SunPower Corporation to construct, operate and maintain the facility, with the university purchasing the power. UCR spent $350,000 on site clearing and preparation, as well as interconnections costs with the existing substation. The projected savings to the university is $4.3 million over the length of the contract. UCR will also receive carbon and LEED credits that provide additional financial and environmental savings.

The solar farm went online as scheduled on Friday, Sept. 19. It has 7,440 panels across the 11-acre site using GPS tracking to slowly follow the sun across the sky. The massive sea of shiny panels is visible from Highway 60 as thousands of cars pass the campus.

“This is a big step forward, and we plan to do more,” said John Cook, director of the UCR’s Office of Sustainability. “On a hot and sunny day we will be producing nearly a third of UCR’s total energy needs with this system. But over the course of the year, with variable weather, it will amount to 3 percent of our total energy needs.” He said Riverside’s typical sunny climate will make UCR an especially efficient place to invest in solar technology. With the growing concern of climate change and pollution from fossil fuels, UCR is taking steps to reduce their foot print on the environment and promote the quality of life for all through intelligent growth of their campus.

For the full article, click here.

Riverside Named “Coolest” City

(This article includes excerpts from the article written by David Danelski, published in The Press Enterprise on October 23, 2014.)

Riverside Mayor William “Rusty” Bailey, center, leads the pack at a “Bike with the Mayor” event held in March 2013. The city won a statewide contest that fostered bicycle riding and other measures to the reduce carbon emissions linked to climate change. Photo credit: Press Enterprise, David Bauman
Riverside Mayor William “Rusty” Bailey, center, leads the pack at a “Bike with the Mayor” event held in March 2013. The city won a statewide contest that fostered bicycle riding and other measures to the reduce carbon emissions linked to climate change. Photo credit: The Press Enterprise, David Bauman

To reduce his contribution to global warming, Taher Bhaigee started taking a bus from his home in Riverside’s Canyon Crest neighborhood to his job downtown. “I bought a monthly pass, and that really reduced my driving,” said Bhaigee, 23, a recent UC Riverside graduate who works as an intern in the mayor’s office. Bhaigee also replaced his incandescent lights with energy-efficient CFC bulbs. He was also more careful about turning off the air conditioner and lights when they weren’t needed.

Bhaigee was among more than 1,100 Riverside residents who tracked their energy savings online and helped the city win a contest sponsored by state air quality officials to encourage people to slash their energy use. The California Air Resources Board announced winners in the CoolCalifornia City Challenge on Thursday at a meeting in Diamond Bar. Riverside edged out runners-up Claremont and Rancho Cucamonga to be the “coolest city” in California.

Another Riverside resident, Ryan Bullard, worked on big-ticket items to reduce his carbon footprint. “I have all LED lighting, an efficient AC unit and all energy efficiency appliances from washer to fridge,” said Bullard, who works for Riverside’s electric utility. “In fact, I use about half of the energy a typical household in Riverside uses. “I also frequently walk to work, dinner and more since I live about a half mile from downtown,” Bullard said.

Bhaigee and Ryan are everyday examples of Riversiders working together to address local issues and building an even more Unified City.

For the complete article, click here.

What have YOU done to slash energy use? Let us know and comment below.

Riverside Bike-Sharing Program In The Works

(This article contains excerpts from an article by Alicia Robinson, published in the Press-Enterprise on September 16, 2014)

In Riverside’s continuing quest to expand public transit offerings and foster a “bicycle culture,” the city plans to launch what is likely the Inland area’s first public bike sharing program.  A city wide bike-share program would be a great opportunity for all Riversiders, providing one more reason why Riverside is a location of choice.  Not only would this provide Riversiders with more convenient public transportation options, it would be a fun opportunity for people to stay active and enjoy the great climate and environment that Riverside has to offer.  Our city is increasingly becoming the location of choice for people and organizations from all over the world.     

People check out bicycles from a Citi Bike station in New York City's Central Park. Riverside plans to test a bike share program, possibly starting in 2015.  Photo credit: Matthew Christensen
People check out bicycles from a Citi Bike station in New York City’s Central Park. Riverside plans to test a bike share program, possibly starting in 2015. Photo credit: Matthew Christensen

The bike share concept isn’t new. Community bikes were used in Amsterdam as early as the 1960s. The first organized programs in the U.S. date to the 1990s, said Susan Shaheen, co-director of UC Berkeley’s Transportation Sustainability Research Center.  Esri, a Redlands geographic information systems company, offers free shared bicycles as an employee perk.

Riverside’s pilot project, which could start in 2015, will likely include four bike kiosks – one near City Hall, one at the downtown Metrolink station and spots near the UC Riverside and Riverside City College campuses, said Brandi Becker, a senior administrative analyst in the city’s public works department.  For most systems, pricing is set to encourage trips of a half-hour or less. Denver’s B-cycle, for example, starts at $8 for a 24-hour pass or $80 for a year, with weekly and monthly passes also offered. With all passes, trips up to 30 minutes are free; extra hourly charges apply for those who keep bikes out longer.

Many bike shares are still ironing out financial and logistical issues, but Riverside should be able to learn from others’ early mistakes, said Charlie Gandy, a bike consultant and vice president of the California Bicycle Coalition.    Gandy expects a bike share to fuel even more interest in cycling, whether for work, fun or fitness.   “Cities that take on this type of project see a major shift in people’s attitudes towards bicycling,” he said.

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