The electric power industry is evolving from its historical business structure. The vertically integrated utility of the past has been replaced by multiple players providing unbundled services using market-oriented decision-making. Challenges for success in this demanding business environment are being raised by new market structures and ways of doing business, new technologies, the demands of customers for customized services, strategic choices between centralized and decentralized technologies, institutional changes creating mega-RTOs, a graying industry that needs well-trained power engineers, and new environmental priorities. Yet the basic function of the industry—to produce and to deliver power, safely and reliably—has not changed. The challenges call for new strategies, technologies, analytical capabilities and tools, and operating practices, along with sound public policy guidance.
The Power Systems Engineering Research Center (PSERC) draws on university capabilities to creatively address these challenges. Under the banner of PSERC, multiple U.S. universities, including Iowa State University, are working collaboratively to investigate these topics. Faculty members at Iowa State University are involved in several research projects sponsored by PSERC.
Website URL: www.pserc.org.
The Microelectronics Research Center develops and characterizes advanced semiconductor materials, devices, and processing technology. The Center researches and develops new semiconducting materials and technology for the next generation of electronic and photonic devices, interacts with industry in the commercialization of these new technologies, and provides a state-of-the-art learning laboratory. The primary goal is to accomplish world-class research in a few carefully selected niche areas, including thin film electronic and optical devices. The primary emphasis is on electronic and optical materials and devices for photovoltaic conversion, photonic bandgap devices and sensors. These include fundamental studies of high-efficiency photovoltaic solar energy conversion materials, research on nanostructural electronic devices, intelligent plasma processing for advanced semiconductor manufacturing, and organic semiconductors and sensors. MRC is a center of the Institute for Physical Research and Technology, a network of research and technology-transfer centers and industrial-outreach programs at Iowa State University.
Website URL: http://www.merc.iastate.edu
The Iowa Energy Center is a research, demonstration, and education organization dedicated to improving Iowa’s energy efficiency and use of renewable energy. The Energy Center meets its goals by developing in-house energy-related research and education programs and by sponsoring projects developed by other groups. The Energy Center awards competitive grants for energy-related projects, which vary in size and complexity and are conducted throughout the state in Iowa’s universities, colleges, community colleges, and private nonprofit organizations.
Website URL: http://www.energy.iastate.edu
The Center for Catalysis, or CCAT, is a research and education organization focusing on “green chemistry,” which refers to environmentally benign chemical processes. These often occur at room temperatures and ordinary pressures, and use water, preferably, as a solvent. They require less expenditure of energy, occur more rapidly, and produce significantly fewer unwanted byproducts than competing industrial processes.
CCAT is working to create catalysts that will enable firms to replace chemical processes that generate large volumes of hazardous pollutants. It is developing new catalysts and biocatalysts that mimic nature and is transforming laboratory-scale catalysts into industrial-scale catlysts. With this technology, the CCAT is creating new markets for agricultural commodoties as raw materials for industry, thus benefitting the farm economy.
CCAT is a member of the Institute for Physical Research and Technology, and works closely with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory.
Website URL: https://ccat.las.iastate.edu
The Center for Building Energy Research (CBER) focuses on efficient and renewable energy technology issues related to buildings. Center research activities include developing new technologies and improving existing technologies to reduce energy consumption while maintaining performance and productivity. Endeavors to reduce energy consumption include improving the efficiency of HVAC systems and industrial processes, improving indoor air quality, enhancing productivity while reducing waste, implementing alternative energy sources, and promoting green building technology in building designs. The center also provides opportunities for technical and continuing education.
CBER serves as a resource for undergraduate and graduate students, building operators and others involved in building energy technology and issues. The center emphasizes interdisciplinary research, involving the efforts of not only engineers but also researchers in fields such as architecture, agriculture, geological and atmospheric sciences, and business. The center also works with industry and government agencies to develop energy efficient and environmentally friendly buildings, processes and equipment. Many of the CBER’s research efforts focus on solving problems affecting people living in Iowa and the Midwest, helping to reduce energy usage and improve air quality.
Website URL: http://www.cber.iastate.edu
The Bioeconomy Institute (BEI) is an outgrowth of the Bioeconomy Initiative — a campuswide effort, launched in 2002, to investigate the use of biorenewable resources as sustainable feedstocks for producing chemicals, fuels, materials, and energy. Today, the BEI has over 160 faculty affiliated members who contribute to the Bioeconomy Initiative with over $60 million in cumulative sponsored research funding from industry and federal agencies ranging from the Department of Agriculture to the National Science Foundation.
Website URL: http://www.biorenew.iastate.edu
The BioCentury Research Farm is the first-in-the-nation integrated research and demonstration facility dedicated to biomass production and processing. Biomass includes both lignocellulosic crops and grain. This facility presents a unique opportunity for industry collaboration. It will accelerate innovation and production capacity associated with biobased fuels, chemicals, and products. Collaborations for developing sustainable technologies will provide solutions that pave the way to meet national energy, economic, and environmental directives.
Website URL: http://www.biocenturyresearchfarm.iastate.edu
The Ames Laboratory is a U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science national laboratory devoted to “creating materials and energy solutions”. Established in the 1940s with the successful development of the most efficient process to produce high-purity uranium metal for atomic energy, the Ames Lab now pursues a much broader portfolio that has given it international creditability and stature, notably in the area of rare earth science and technology. Responding to issues of national concern, the Lab’s scientists bring together expertise in chemistry, engineering, materials, mathematics, and physics to solve large, challenging and complex problems. They are actively involved in innovative research, science education programs, the development of applied technologies, and the quick transfer of those technologies to industry. Uniquely integrated within a university environment, this national lab stimulates creative thought and encourages scientific discovery, providing solutions to critical problems and helping to inspire tomorrow’s scientific talent.
Website URL: http://www.ameslab.gov