Veteran Researcher Named State Pollution Prevention Scientist

Nandakishore Rajagopalan has been appointed the Illinois Pollution Prevention Scientist.


The new designation was established in August 2013 by the Illinois State Legislature to serve as the authoritative spokesperson on matters of pollution prevention fact and policy for the state.


The announcement of this appointment was made on Nov. 22 by Prairie Research Institute Executive Director Bill Shilts.


Rajagopalan is an Associate Director at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, a division of Prairie Research Institute, where he oversees the Applied Research on Industrial and Environmental Systems (ARIES) group. He has over 20 years of experience in plant operations, green process development, separation technologies, and pollution prevention research.


An active researcher, Rajagopalan holds three U.S. patents and has authored more than 30 peer reviewed journal articles. His research interests involve the integration of separations research to advance green process development with a special focus on membrane processes.


The Illinois Pollution Prevention Scientist also represents the state on national panels concerned with pollution prevention issues.


Shilts also appointed members of the Institute’s other divisions to serve as Illinois State Archeologist, Biologist, Climatologist, Entomologist, Geologist, and Hydrologist. It is another way in which the Institute marshals its expertise for the benefit of the state.


Nandakishore Rajagopalan







Wood Biochar Offers Promise of Cheap Supercapacitors

ISTC is investigating wood-biochar’s use as a supercapacitor. The material offers equal power capabilities as activated carbon, but is much less expensive.


A team led by Senior Engineer Junhua Jiang published results in the journal Electrocimica Acta, demonstrating the natural microstructures of biochars can be provide effective surface area for electrodes. Currently supercapactitors are often manufactured with corrosive chemicals that create elaborate structures of out of activated carbon.


Such procedures are far more expensive and can have environmental consequences.
Supercapacitors are super because they have far greater surface area electrodes than regular capacitors, allowing the rapid collection and release of ions. Cousins of electrochemical batteries, supercapacitors do not yet store as much energy, but they can release energy very quickly, recharge quickly and have high cycling stability. In other words, supercapacitors permit much faster discharge and recharge cycles than a battery is capable of, as well as tolerance of a larger number of discharge/charge cycles.


The Illinois Hazardous Waste Research Fund and the HeteroFoaM Center (an Energy Frontier Research Center funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Basic Research) supported this study.


For more on biochar supercapacitors, visit

Triclosan Shown to Trigger Resistance in Aquatic Ecosystems

A widely used compound to prevent bacterial contamination is persisting in the environment and creating antibacterial resistant strains of bacteria.


That is the conclusion of a study by researchers at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) in Champaign, IL, Loyola University Chicago, and the Cary institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, NY. The study was published in Environmental Science and Technology a journal of the American Chemical Society.


Triclosan is a broad-spectrum anti-microbial compound used in a large variety of consumer products from soap to cosmetics to clothing. The Food and Drug Administration approved the substance and after reports of possible side effects, recently reviewed their own findings, announcing that there is not enough evidence to determine the substance is hazardous.
Meanwhile Proctor and Gamble announced recently they are phasing out the use of Triclosan in its products.


John Scott, ISTC’s senior chemist, was co-Principal Investigator with Loyola Biology Professor John J. Kelly in the research which confirmed the presence of Triclosan in stream sediment in the Chicago metropolitan region. Sources for Triclosan contamination includes domestic wastewater, traced to broken sewer pipes and releases of untreated wastewater during high rainfall events.


First they conducted field surveys which indicated Triclosan concentrations increased in more highly urbanized areas. They found a significant correlation between the concentration of Triclosan on the stream bottom and Triclosan-resistant bacteria present. Controlled experiments in an artificial stream confirmed the compound triggers resistance and shifts the diversity and composition of bacterial communities. The consequences of altered bacterial communities have not been determined.



Sphingobacteria is one type most impacted for community composition by Triclosan.

Champaign County Electronics Collection Event – October 12, 2013

Pile of abandoned computers and monitors in empty school classroom.http___www.ccrpc

Do you have electronics piling up in your garage or other storage area? Wonder what you can do with them? You are in luck. The Champaign County Electronics Collection event is coming up on October 12, 2013. This is a free drop off for specific items such as: televisions, computers and laptops, computer monitors, keyboards, mice, cables, printers and scanners, radio and stereos, VCRs and DVD Players, mobile phones, office electronics, digital camera, communication devices, microwaves, and gaming systems.  There is a limit of 10 items per resident.  Many recyclers have stopped accepting TVs and computer monitors because of the problem of proper recycling of the CRT (leaded glass) in those units, so this event is a perfect opportunity to get rid of those items now. The event is being held at 3202 Apollo Drive (News-Gazette Distribution Center) in Champaign from 8 a.m. to 12 noon and will be held rain or shine. If you participate in the county’s recycling survey, you could enter to win a $50 Amazon gift card. Visit to complete the survey. For more information on the Illinois landfill ban, please see the Illinois IEPA website.


There are other businesses that accept electronics during the year including: Goodwill (912 W. Anthony Drive, Champaign, 217.359.8729 and  111 Calvin Street, Savoy, 217.290.1864), Habitat for Humanity ReStore (119 E. University Avenue, Champaign, 217.355.6460), Marco Steel* (302 S. Market Street, Champaign, 217.352.4707), Mack’s Twin City Recycling* (2808 N. Lincoln Avenue, Urbana, 217.328.2100), Green Purpose* (807 Pioneer Street, Champaign, 217.954.1450), Best Buy* (2117 N. Prospect Avenue, Champaign, 217.352.8883), Office Depot* (111 Convenience Center, Champaign, 217.373.5202), Staples* ( 2005 N. Prospect Avenue, Champaign, (217.373.8490). There are restriction on items accepted at locations with an asterisk (*), so it is advisable to call first.

Campus-wide Sustainable Electronics Consortium Formed

On Oct. 2, 2013, a group of interested individuals on the U of I campus met to discuss the issues involving the environmental and social impacts of electronics and the current relevant policies, education, and research taking place.  As a major public university that purchases, uses and disposes of thousands of electronics, we have a duty to address these issues and lead by example to “green up our act.”


An overview of the issues and what ISTC (through its Sustainable Electronics Initiative) and other entities are doing on campus with regards to electronics involving  education, research, and operations was explained by Joy Scrogum (SEI Co-Coordinator), who led the meeting, as well as possible activities and goals for this campus group. Attendees provided feedback on these suggestions, group structure, and themes for possible future smaller group meetings focusing on those three categories of research, education, and operations. ISTC/SEI will distribute minutes, make arrangements for the themed focus group meetings, and coordinate the sharing of information among those subgroups.


The result was a new Sustainable Electronics Campus Consortium which explored ways to address the issue. Present were engineers, faculty, administrators, students and participants from off-campus communities.  Anyone interested in joining the Sustainable Electronics Campus Consortium talks can contact Joy Scrogum to be added to the email list of upcoming meetings and topics or visit the SEI Campus Consortium page.



Congrats to Technology Assistance Program at U of I

The Technology Assistance Program which helps local governments and companies prevent pollution and conserve resources received a national MVP2 Award in Washington DC earlier this month. The ICORE program received its Most Valuable Pollution Prevention Award for saving Illinois more than $6 million over the past four years.

The National Pollution Prevention Roundtable (NPPR) award went to ICORE’s PI, Debra Jacobson and to ISTC environmental engineers Dan Marsch, Mike Springman. The Illinois Conservation of Resources and Energy (ICORE) project is part of the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) and focuses its efforts on populations in small, rural communities in parts of the state which have had little access to conservation or pollution prevention programs. More about the program and the award is available at:


(L to R) Jeff Burke, Executive Director the National Pollution Prevention Roundtable congratulates Dan Marsch and Michael Springman on the award of a Most Valuable Pollution Prevention Award in Washington D.C.


(L to R) Jeff Burke, Executive Director the National Pollution Prevention Roundtable congratulates Dan Marsch and Michael Springman on the award of a Most Valuable Pollution Prevention Award in Washington D.C.

Trash Into Treasure: New Advances in Upcycling Electronic Waste

Innovative companies are adding upcycling to their repertoire of materials reuse for electronic waste. Upcycling brings added quality or environmental value to things we throw away. ERS International develops and utilizes new technologies which allow them to obtain maximum recovery value of electronics via electrostatic separation & particle classification. But ERS has also made significant headway in this untapped field of upcycling.  They have discovered how to conjunctionally reuse waste materials from other industries as well – such as natural stone waste.


At noon Thursday, Sept. 26, Jeff Mendez, Global Communications Director of ERS International will present “Recycling and Upcycling of Electronic Waste,” in the ISTC’s next “Sustainability in Action” seminar/webinar.  The presentation will be broadcast live from Toronto, Canada and can be viewed at the Stephen J. Warner Conference Room at ISTC (One Hazelwood Dr., Champaign), or at Room  218 Mechanical Engineering Building at U of I (1206 W Green St. in Urbana).


The webinar will also be simulcast live by registering at  The presentation will also be archived on the ISTC website for later viewing.


Engineer to Share Latest Research for Recycling LCD Screens

Old TVs and monitors are becoming old TVs and monitors at record rates as screen size and new capabilities grow and prices shrink. Most of their toxins build up in landfills where they can leach into the environment. If it works sell it or donate it. If it doesn’t,  check with a local repair shop to see if they will refurbish it. See if you can return it to the store where you purchased it, or watch for a recycling day from your local waste management service. Commercial electronics recyclers may charge you to drop off your old TV.


As researchers are constantly improving television technology they are also advancing technology for recycling their complex remains at the end of their lives. At noon this Thursday, Sept. 5, Dr. Fu Zhao, Associate Professor, School of Mechanical Engineering, Purdue University-West Lafayette will present “Recycling of Liquid Crystal Displays for Maximum Resource Recovery” as part of the ISTC’s Sustainable Technology Seminar Series “Sustainability in Action.”


Dr. Zhao will be speaking at ISTC with a live webinar of the presentation broadcast in Room 218 MEB).  You can also register at: to watch the broadcast live.


Here is Dr. Zhao’s abstract: “Hundreds of millions of liquid crystal displays (LCDs) will reach their end of life in the next few years, and most of them have cold cathode fluorescent lamps as the backlights. These mercury containing backlights bring challenges to the end of life treatment of LCDs. Communications with electronic waste recyclers indicate that recycling LCDs using available equipment and tools is not profitable in U.S. due to high equipment/labor cost. With the support of an EPA P3 Phase I grant, our team at Purdue University developed a four-step procedure for LCD disassembling. Appropriate tools for these steps have been designed and fabricated and the team was able to limit the total disassembling time to less than five minutes, the breakeven time suggested by e-waste recyclers. All the tools can be readily built using low-cost tools available on the market. The disassembling time can be shortened further after optimization. Toward the end of the talk, lessons learned from the project and challenges associated with developing sustainable electronic products will be discussed.”

ISTC Co-Sponsors C-U Area Medicine Take-back Program

The C-U Area Medicine Take-back Program will give area residents the opportunity to safely dispose of unwanted or expired medications 24 hrs. a day, 7 days a week, via locked collection boxes in the lobbies of the Champaign, Urbana, and University of Illinois Police Departments. The program is a partnership between the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, Champaign Police Department, Urbana Police Department, University of Illinois Police Department, Champaign County sheriff’s office, the National Prescription Pill and Drug Disposal Program, the cities of Champaign and Urbana, Illinois American Water, the University of Illinois Student Sustainability Committee, the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, Champaign County Regional Planning Commission, Champaign-Urbana Public Health Department, WCIA and the Prairie Rivers Network.


This is the first pharmaceutical take-back program in Champaign County to be able to collect controlled substances. Both prescription and over-the-counter medicines, as well as veterinary pharmaceuticals will be accepted. The goals of the program are to reduce accidental poisonings of children and pets, prevent drug diversion and abuse, and limit environmental impacts from storage or improper disposal of unwanted or expired medicines.


ISTC’s Elizabeth Luber will be on hand at the Champaign Police Department on May 24th from 4-6 p.m. for the kick off of the new collection program.


See the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant news release on the program, as well as the News-Gazette article, for more information.

2013 Naturally Illinois Expo


The Prairie Research Institute presents the fifth annual Naturally Illinois Expo on March 8-9, 2013, on the University of Illinois Urbana campus. Families, teachers, and students of all ages are invited to attend and enjoy exhibits, demonstrations and hands-on activities that showcase the work of the Institute, home of the State Scientific Surveys (Illinois Natural History SurveyIllinois State Archaeological SurveyIllinois State Geological SurveyIllinois State Water Survey, and Illinois Sustainable Technology Center).  Continue reading “2013 Naturally Illinois Expo”