ISTC receives grant to create biochars to reduce nutrient runoff from agricultural land

Midwestern farms use subsurface drainage to manage water on their fields.  The process uses perforated conduits to remove excess water from soil, which increases crop production and promotes soil conservation. However, these drainage systems can also transport large quantities of nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus from agricultural fields to surrounding watersheds.

ISTC researchers Wei Zheng and BK Sharma have received a $414,380 grant from the Illinois Nutrient Research and Education Council to develop designer biochars that will capture and recycle phosphorus from tile drainage systems. The project will run from January 1, 2019 – February 28, 2023.

The objectives of this project are to:

  • create designer biochars to effectively adsorb phosphorus,
  • construct refillable biochar-sorption-channels to capture phosphorus from subsurface tile drainage, and
  • recycle phosphorus-captured biochars as a slow-released fertilizer.

The overall project goal is to develop a method that will minimize nutrient losses, keep phosphorus in the closed agricultural loop, and improve crop yields by enhancing nutrient use efficiency.

The research team will conduct laboratory experiments to produce designer biochars by pyrolysis of biomass pre-treated with lime sludge, evaluate their sorption capacities on phosphorus, and optimize their production conditions.

The team will also complete a field study to capture phosphorus losses from subsurface drainage systems via biochar-sorption-channels. The field study will be performed at the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District’s Nutrient Loss Reduction Research site in Fulton County. Furthermore, they will conduct a greenhouse experiment to use  phosphorus-captured biochars as a slow-released fertilizer to improve crop yields.

Finally, they will perform a cost-benefit analysis and compare their technique with other best management practices (BMPs) on phosphorus removal studied at the same field location.

The successful completion of this project will offer an innovative, feasible, and cost-effective method for enhancing nutrient utilization, which will increase crop production and protect water quality in the Midwest.

Technical Assistance Program awarded $338,549 grant to assist food manufacturers

ISTC’s technical assistance program engineers have been awarded a $338,549 pollution prevention (P2) grant from U.S. EPA Region 5 to provide on-site pollution prevention technical assistance, including Economy, Energy and Environment (E3), to Illinois food and beverage manufacturers and processors. This assistance will result in reduced water and energy usage, hazardous materials generation, and reduce business costs.

This grant is part of the ongoing Illinois Conservation of Resources and Energy (ICORE) project.

Principal investigator Dan Marsch says, “Since its inception, ICORE has been a very successful program providing on-site P2 technical assistance to businesses in underserved communities across Illinois. ICORE is one of U.S. EPA Region 5’s flagship programs, delivering consistent results and leadership in sustainability within the region.”

Food and beverage manufacturers, processing facilities, and their direct suppliers and supporting industries are all eligible for assistance under through this project. Interested companies may contact:

Northern Illinois

Shantanu Pai
(630) 586-9168
spai@illinois.edu

Central Illinois

Troy Walker
(217) 300-1596
twalk@illinois.edu

Southern Illinois

Dan Marsch
(217) 300-4199
djmarsch@illinois.edu

New Year’s Reflections and Resolutions

The new year is a good time to reflect on the previous year’s accomplishments, as well as make plans for the year ahead. Last year was a successful one for ISTC’s researchers. They were awarded five out of the five grants they submitted to Department of Energy, as well as one from Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant. They include:

  • Researchers Nandakishore Rajagopalan and Kevin OBrien’s effort to examine the scalability of Rajagopalan’s patented waste heat coupled forward osmosis (FO)-based water treatment system, Aquapod©, to improve wastewater quality and reduce water usage in a coal-fired +500 megawatt power plant.
  • A public-private partnership that demonstrates the feasibility of producing animal feed and/or biofuels at a significantly lower cost. The project combines technologies for bio-energy production that have been developed at ISTC in collaboration with HeliosNRG, headquartered in East Amherst, NY.
  • A large pilot scale test of technology to remove CO2 from power plant flue emissions. ISTC partnered with two multinational companies, Linde and BASF, to develop a new solvent based system to capture CO2 from power plants. They have partnered with Affiliated Engineers Inc. (AEI) and Affiliated Construction Services (ACS), which have extensive experience with designing and building systems for power plant applications. The team led by ISTC received $850,000 in spring 2018 for Phase I of the pilot testing project, which involves designing a 10 MW capture system that would be retrofitted to a central Illinois power plant. The group plans to compete for subsequent phases, which could lead to the development of a supply chain for captured CO2.
  • Advancing carbon capture absorption technology from lab to bench scale. ISTC has been assisting with an Illinois State Geological Survey lab-scale project to develop a biphasic CO2 absorption process (BiCAP) with multiple stages of liquid-liquid solvent phase separation, which increases carbon capture capacity. ISGS and ISTC have received an additional $3 million to conduct a three-year bench scale (40 KWe) study of their BiCAP technology.
  • Validating two innovative technologies that have the potential to significantly reduce flue gas aerosol concentrations from large-scale coal-fired power production. The technologies will be tested at the University of Illinois Abbott Power Plant. The results will be used as a benchmark for comparing their performance and cost to those of existing options.
  • An expansion of on-going research being conducted by John Scott and his team. Through funding from the Hazardous Waste Research Fund and the Annis Water Resource Institute at Grand Valley State University, they are studying the effects of microplastic type and deployment time in Lake Muskegon sediments and the water column on sorption of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) to microplastic particles. The investigation includes legacy contaminants like chlorinated pesticides, polybrominated biphenyl ethers (PBDEs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). New funds from Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant will allow the team to broaden their scope to study the role of microplastics as a carrier of PFAS in water and sediment.

Read more about these and other projects in ISTC’s 2018 annual report. If you’re looking for suggestions on making this year more sustainable, check out some of our blog posts from 2018.

2019 Notice of Funding Opportunity for Coastal Management Program Grants

The IDNR Coastal Management Program will soon be accepting pre-applications for projects of $1,000 to $100,000 to protect, preserve, and restore Illinois’ Lake Michigan natural and cultural resources.

Funding will be available for projects that:

  1. improve the health of the coast and Lake Michigan;
  2. enhance coastal public access, recreation, and coastal-dependent economic development;
  3. advance coastal community resilience; or
  4. create beach management plans.

Eligible applicants include local governments, universities, and non-profits. These are federal pass-through grants and match is required.

Successful pre-applicants will be invited to submit full applications. Grant guidelines, application materials, maps, and other resources will be available after November 19th at http://www.dnr.illinois.gov/cmp/Pages/grants.aspx. The pre-application submission deadline is Friday, January 18, 2019.

We strongly encourage potential applicants to attend a grant information session. CMP will be hosting two sessions in November and December:

Chicago Loop
When: Tuesday, 11/27/18 from 3:30-5pm
Where: 160 N. LaSalle St., N 502, Chicago, IL 60601
Registration: https://goo.gl/forms/6c5S8M2eUFRUAmIX2

Webinar
When: Friday, 12/7/18 from 11am-noon
Registration: https://illinois.webex.com/illinois/onstage/g.php?MTID=e0fc2753264dc8285e9c0ca13a492d7ea

If you cannot attend the grant information session or have additional questions, sign up for an optional grant consultation. Please contact lisa.cotner@illinois.gov for more information.