LightWorks Blog

ASU solar to fuel research aims for higher efficiency

published September 10, 2013, 8:31 am

ASU’s Biodesign Institute kicked off the Fall 2013 semester by hosting an interesting lecture featuring the research findings of Assistant Professor Candace K. Chan of ASU’s School for Engineering of Matter, Transport, and Energy (SEMTE).

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A photo of the mineral Libethenite. Photo retrieved from Chan Lab @ ASU website.

Chan’s research team has been interested in designing and studying the properties of nanostructured materials for applications including electrochemical energy storage, photoelectrochemical solar energy conversion, and renewable hydrogen generation. This lecture hit on the team’s recent findings that Libethenite, a rare copper mineral naturally found in Arizona, has been found to absorb light and distribute the energy. Chan explained that her team did a photocurrent test in which they applied a voltage to see what kind of photo-activity existed within the mineral. They worked with a variety of different elements and saw an increase of activity levels when reacting with Libethenite. This is important to the field of solar energy because Libethenite could potentially serve as an n-type semiconductor that can be used inside a photovoltaic (PV) solar cell. With more research and development, Lebethenite, serving as an n-type semiconductor, could create a greater efficiency of converting light energy into electric energy in solar cells. Through the higher level of efficiency in artificial photosynthesis, solar fuel can then be produced and stored for later usage which is a more sustainable and environmentally friendly option from traditional fossil fuels. For more information on Candace K. Chan’s research click here.

Solar to fuel research and development is an important initiative at ASU LightWorks. The initiative aims to engage physical, social, and engineering sciences to further develop solar to fuels technology in order to fulfill its role as an alternative to fueling transportation systems. Solar to fuels technology is a newer area of research and needs to be further developed in order to compete economically with fossil fuels. In time, solar to fuels technology could fill an important role in the area of renewable fuel sources. Continuing to develop renewable fuel sources that not only reduce carbon dioxide, but also meet the nation’s energy demand is an integral way to creating a more sustainable future.

Written by Gabrielle Olson, ASU LightWorks

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Act on climate Phoenix: game-changing steps to combat climate change

published August 8, 2013, 12:06 pm

On July 31, 2013, over 150 Phoenicians and 20 participating community organizations took part in the “I Will Act” on climate change challenge. The Act On Climate Change Phoenix event kicked off with an outdoor press conference in the Civic Space Park featuring elected officials, climate experts, and community members. Organizers of the event passed out red umbrellas, sporting the Twitter handle #ActOnClimate, as a visual demonstration against climate change. The red umbrellas were then donated to the homeless and public transit riders to be used for shading against the hot Phoenix sun.

Act On Climate PHX press conference. Photo by Gabrielle Olson, ASU LightWorks.

Following the press conference, the public gathered inside the A.E. England Building lobby to interact with community organizers at their informational tables. The Act on Climate PHX event hosted many recognizable organizations such as Local First Arizona, Keep Phoenix Beautiful, the Sierra Club and more. ASU LightWorks communications team was also there and talked to the public about what ASU is doing to combat climate change by developing research in clean energy and clean energy technology. Check out event photos from ASU LightWorks here.

LightWorks Communications Specialist Sarah Mason explaining energy solutions. Photo by Gabrielle Olson, ASU LightWorks.

After engaging with community partners, event attendees gathered inside the A.E. England Building Auditorium for an informative speaker series. Highlights from the series included a lecture from Arizona energy policy advisor and consultant Nancy LaPlaca. LaPlaca opened her lecture with a powerful fact—Arizona is the sunniest state in the nation yet we get most of our energy from coal. Fossil fuels, like coal, have been contributed with speeding up the rate of climate change. “There is no reason for Arizona to continue getting the majority of our energy from coal” LaPlaca said.  She believes that there is a great potential for solar but it takes effort from state residents. LaPlaca encouraged the audience to support solar energy development in Arizona by writing to their politicians. LaPlaca also noted the benefits of rooftop solar for homeowners. “The more time that goes on, the more you save money” LaPlaca said. She believes that installing solar on homes is an energy efficient way to individually combat climate change.

Nancy LaPlaca speaking at the Act On Climate PHX event. Photo by Gabrielle Olson, ASU LightWorks.

The keynote speaker Eric Corey Freed, Founding Principal, organicARCHITECT, also gave a powerful lecture about energy efficient building designs and architecture. Freed noted the need to eliminate urban sprawl and instead create spaces that allow people to walk to destinations instead of drive. Most of Freed’s urban designs are modeled after spaces that resemble medieval cities, where housing surrounds a bustling city center. He unveiled designs for a local community in Mesa modeled after concepts he discovered in Barcelona, where each housing unit meets at a public square. Although currently a victim of urban sprawl, all is not lost for Phoenix. Fellow speaker at the event Nancy SeLover, Arizona State Climatologist, stated “the urban heat island can be used as a test bed to develop mitigation and adaptation strategies that can be used now and into the future”. Below is a video of Freed discussing his work as an organic architect.

Eric Corey Freed talks about his inspiration for green buildings. Video retrieved from Green Living TV.

President Barack Obama issued the need to combat climate change in his speech at George Town University this past June. President Obama stated that “the question is not whether we need to act…the question is whether we will have the courage to act before it's too late”. The time to be aware of climate change has already passed; now is the time to act with solutions. Being energy efficient and supporting clean energy development is a great step toward implementing solutions to combat climate change. Community outreach events like Act On Climate Phoenix allow members of the public to come together and discuss game-changing ideas to better impact our environment.

Written by Gabrielle Olson, ASU LightWorks

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Not just biofuel: spotlighting the variety of non-fuel options for algae

published August 6, 2013, 10:03 am

Although algae has been highlighted for its potential as an alternative fuel source, this special microorganism has also established itself in an array of other marketable fields. Feeds, cosmetics, and plastics are only a few areas in which algae can be utilized to create a product. This blog post will dive deeper into areas of algae research that strengthen and secure the future of important markets other than energy.

Illustration of the various uses for algae by Nils-Petter Ekwall. Retrieved from Sweden.Se’s article “10 ingenious uses for algae”.


We use a lot of plastic. The Clean Air Council reports that Americans throw away enough paper and plastic cups, forks, and spoons to circle the equator 300 times. Items that are used often such as disposable packaging containers at restaurants, agricultural and horticultural plastic films, and plastic encasings for makeup, technology, and the like are in need of a sustainable alternative to decrease our carbon footprint. Biodegradable  plastics fulfill a need for our plastic consumption because they decompose into natural elements in a reasonable amount of time. The company Algix has been developing a new breed of organic algae plastics to be used in industrial, commercial and retail applications. Algae plastics are still in the early beginnings and have been questioned because of its lack of durability, butsome researchers believe that genetic engineering of certain algae strains will provide the same quality of traditional plastics in time.


Algae is made up of nutrient rich compounds that have been proven to prevent disease and sustain health and vitality. In April, Algae Industry Magazine published a six-part article series titled “Algae Medical Solutions” in which they highlighted algae as a great resource for health improvement. People who struggle with digestive problems, obesity, or nutrient deficiency can turn to algae to help boost and restore healthy functioning of important organs and body systems by taking algae health supplements. In May, Health Enhancement Products Inc. (HEPI) announced their partnership with ASU’s Algae Technology and Innovation (AzCATI) and the Algae Testbed Public-Private Partnership (ATP3). Their partnership plans to provide HEPI with a broader range of scientific expertise by opening access to algae experts and facilities. The company plans to develop natural products derived from algae cultures for use as dietary supplements and food ingredients. Researchers at the University of Arizona also announced plans of contributing toward algae therapeutics by repurposing a Tucson wastewater treatment plant into a fish hatchery and algae omega-3 research facility. Omega-3 is considered to be an essential fatty acid that is rich with health benefits. Omega-3 can be found in both fish and algae. The omega-3 found in fish is actually produced due to the tendency of fish to feed on algae. Algal omega-3 is mercury-free and can be sustainably produced from waste nutrients using energy from sunlight to lower cost. This research could be beneficial to pursuing new research in algae-based therapeutics and foods.   


Slimy green algae might not be the first thing you think of when it comes to beauty products, but believe it or not, algae have true potential in this market. Algae can act as a thickening or water-binding agent that is important to the manufacturing of oil-based cosmetics. Algae also contain many important vitamins and proteins that can be beneficial to the skin. The company Oilgae has presented some interesting facts on the potential for algae for cosmetics. Algae cosmetics that have been researched and developed include algal soaps, algal clay mask, algae beauty serum, algal beauty oil, algal oil/salt scrub, and algal whole cell shampoo and conditioner. ASU spinout company Heliae has also introduced algae into their health and beauty research. Heliae collaborates with leaders in the natural cosmetic fields to produce sustainable ingredients made from algae for their health and beauty product lines. One company that Heliae collaborates with is Spa Technologies which utilizes a variety of different algae strains to create skin care and health care products. Dan Fryda, the founder and president of Spa Technologies, has also written a book on the therapeutic uses of marine algae and seawater and it is due to be released online this Fall.

Air and Water Purification:

Acting as a renewable fuel is not the only way algae benefits our environment. It has also been proven to reduce levels of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere as well as cleaning up wastewater. The Department of Energy reported that microalgal cultures are able to capture up to 45% of available CO2 from a wide variety of simulated flue gases and from actual coal and propane combustion gases. In 2011, ASU partnered with Intel Corporation to research a carbon capture project using algae grown from their factory boiler stack CO2 emissions. Below is a video that provides an informal summary of the project.

Informal, rough cut of summary video for Zero Emission Fabs (ZEF) project from Intel on Youtube.

ASU has also researched and developed the ability for algae to treat wastewater. It started in 2010 when ASU graduate students Josh Wray, Martha Kent, and Emil Puruhito earned an Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative grant. Their innovative plan aimed on providing a business strategy to produce a sustainable organic fertilizer from algae. This initial project then transformed into a proposal for the National Water Research Institute toward developing a new bioreactor design for use in wastewater treatment. The team was awarded $5,000 for two years of research and development of their project. In 2011, the team was additionally awarded the P3 Award from the EPA for their project "Developing Commercially Viable Culture Media from Wastewaters Optimized for the Emerging Microalgae-based Biofuel Industry". The project period took place between August 15, 2011 and August 14, 2012 with a funding amount of $15,000. For more information on these ASU graduate students, check out ASU LightWorks’ blog: LARB Student Worker Reflects Upon EPA Granted Algae Wastewater Project.

From wastewater to renewable energy from ASU Research on Vimeo.


Algae have been a part of a healthy diet for humans and animals for centuries. Researchers at Cornell University are considering algae-based animal feed as a replacement for traditional corn and soybean feed. Algae are rich in protein and have 50 times more oil an acre. Thismeans that manufacturers can use less land and water to produce algae-based animal feed which reduces their carbon footprint and benefits the environment. Algae can also be a sustainable food choice for humans. ASU Professor Mark Edwards has claimed that algae could make a large impact in combating world hunger. As stated earlier, algae have many nutrient and protein-rich properties that can be used as supplements in food. Therefore, Dr. Edwards does not believe that people will just eat algae, but most likely use it as a replacement for fish, fodder, and food ingredients. Developing algae supplements also uses significantly less water and little-to-no fuels or chemical fertilizers in production, which makes it an environmentally responsible choice for our future. Algae can be served for dessert as well! Check out these algae cookies showcased at the AzCATI grand opening.

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Algae cookies presented at AzCATI’s grand opening. Photo by Sydney Lines, ASU LightWorks.

Who would have known that pond scum would have the potential to fulfill so many needed markets and solutions? If it were not for research and development of algae technology then all of these innovative ideas would not be known. AzCATI and ATP3 continue to take the forefront of expanding our knowledge of what algae can do. We commend Arizona State University for supporting these brilliant researchers and providing state-of-the-art facilities to explore the multiple facets of utilizing algae for the future.

Written by Gabrielle Olson, ASU LightWorks

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The DOD’s clean energy revolution: Highlights from ASU’s Energy and National Security Event

published July 22, 2013, 9:19 am

On June 7, 2013, The Global Institute of Sustainability at Arizona State University hosted the Energy and National Security Event featuring notable leaders and decision-makers of the energy and national security sector. Iraq War veteran and Operation Free supporter Capt. Brett Hunt moderated a panel discussion highlighting the correlation between energy and national security as well as noting important advances in research, technologies, and education opportunities.

The panelists included: Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema, who represents Arizona’s 9th Congressional District; Brig. Gen. John Adams (USA, ret.), who has a storied 30-year military career that concluded at NATO; and Lt. Col. Joe Knott (USA, ret.), who served as the National Guard’s Sustainability and Energy program manager before he became a doctoral candidate at ASU's School of Sustainability.

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From left: Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema, Brig. Gen. John Adams, Lt. Col. Joe Knott, and moderator Capt. Brett Hunt. Photo retrieved from ASU GIOS online video “Sustainability Series—Energy and National Security

Energy and national security are both key issues being discussed in Washington D.C. but not often do we hear how they correlate with one another. Capt. Brett Hunt began the discussion by asking the panelists how each believes the issue of energy and national security connect. Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema stated the reality of America relying heavily on oil from volatile countries addresses both our energy and national security concerns. In other words, as we continue to rely more on foreign oil, the implications of increased national and international security will also be depended upon.  Congresswoman Sinema believes that developing clean energy domestically not only saves us money, “it reduces our dependence on volatile nations and allows us to engage in foreign affairs from a pure perspective of national security and global security instead of one about resource needs”. Brig. Gen. John Adams further explained that the United States needs to make sure our energy sources are under our control because “we do not want our energy sources to be held hostage by our strategic competitors”. He explained that this directly impacts our armed forces because in order for them to provide security for our country, they need to be able to depend on energy sources that are found domestically here in the United States.

The U.S. Department of Defense not only recognizes the need to reduce dependence on foreign oil for national security, but also the affect that it has had in changing the earth’s atmosphere. The DOD is the world's largest institutional consumer of fossil fuels and that poses a national security, economic, and environmental threat if we continue to depend on the global oil market in the years to come. Capt. Hunt asked Lt. Col. Joe Knott about what the military is doing today to work toward resolving this issue. Lt. Col. Knott responded by stating that it starts with education. The military are not experts on greenhouse gasses and different fuels but research institutions, like Arizona State University, are. He highlighted an online ASU GIOS certificate program designed for soldiers and civilians in the U.S. Army, Army National Guard, and Army Reserve to become educated in the major principles of sustainability science ]. Lt. Col. Knott stated that “academia and industry provides the product to research and development”. Sustainability programs like these are important in order to move in a new direction in which national security and environmental considerations go hand-in-hand.

Furthering investment in game-changing research and technologies was also highlighted in this event. Capt. Hunt asked the panelists about the importance of Congress investing in clean energy development for the DOD. Congresswoman Sinema said that there is a growing recognition that in order for our military to continue being the strongest in the world, “we are going to have to find opportunities to continue efficiency”. She noted the need for Congress to provide assistance in research to develop new technologies in order to increase efficiency. Congresswoman Sinema believes that there is a lot of promise in algae and hydrogen but there needs to be more flexibility in order to fund the research with the most priority. Brig. Gen. Adams agreed with Congresswoman Sinema and stated that the more flexibility there is, the less likely we are to see across the board cutting of renewable energy programs. He gave the example of the US Navy’s goal of converting to biofuels by the year 2020 and explained that the funding for research and development of these technologies will ultimately make or break that goal. Brig. Gen. Adams further noted that although these programs are expensive, the DOD will continue to invest in renewable energy because they know that “advanced technologies give them the edge on the battlefield”.

Watch the entire event below

Sustainability Series - Energy and National Security
from Sustainability @ ASU on Vimeo.

In related news, Kyrsten Sinema recently visited The Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation (AzCATI), located at ASU's Polytechnic Campus in Mesa, where she toured the facility.

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Photo of Dr. Miltion Sommerfeld and Kyrsten Sinema at AzCATI. Photo taken by Sarah Mason, ASU LightWorks.

Below is a tweet sent by Kyrsten Sinema's personal Twitter account following her visit. For more photos visit ASU LightWorks' Flickr photo stream.

The research and development being done at AzCATI is precisely the type of renewable energy investment that would be beneficial to the US Department of Defense. Continuing funding for algae biofuel resource hubs such as AzCATI will help provide a clean fuel for our future fleets. Find out more about what AzCATI is doing by visiting their website.

Written by Gabrielle Olson, ASU LightWorks

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ASU-led algae cooperation to host algae workshop

published July 15, 2013, 12:20 pm

The Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation (AzCATI), housed at the Arizona State Unviersity Polytechnic campus, will help to host the second of ongoing, cutting-edge algae training workshops in August on the University of Texas at Austin’s campus.

Photo by: Arizona State University Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development.

Following a successful inaugural training workshop on the ASU Polytechnic campus in Mesa, the Algae Testbed Public-Private Partnership (ATP3) will once again open its doors to the algae community for a hands-on, interactive algae workshop. From Aug. 19-23, participants will have a chance to get their hands green as they study Algal Culture Management and Strain Selection.

ATP3 is a network of open testbeds and evaluation facilities which aim to facilitate innovation, empower knowledge creation and accelerate growth of the emergent algal energy industry. In May, ATP3 specialists hosted a full class of algae researchers and scientists from around the globe for the first of many workshops. See what the participants are saying about the workshops in a video here.

“We are excited to spread the wealth of knowledge that ATP3 has as a collaboration,” said Gary Dirks, director of ATP3, ASU LightWorks and the ASU Global Institute of Sustainability.

Workshop modules will include:

• the collection of field samples (bioprospecting)
• measuring culture density and growth rates
• monitoring cultures for contaminants
• analyzing chemical composition of algal biomass

This workshop is designed for participants interested in the practical applications of algae, as well as advanced students and trainees who would like to obtain a comprehensive overview on the laboratory cultivation and analysis of microalgae. 

The training workshops are informal and participants will be encouraged to ask questions, share information with the group and network. Participants will be provided printed and electronic materials, and a certificate of completion at the conclusion of the workshop.

To sign up, visit The program fee is $1,600 and includes training, materials and three lunches.

ATP3 serves as a learning environment for the next generation of scientists, engineers and business leaders to help accelerate the research and development of algae-based technologies. Its open test bed and evaluation facilities are a hub for research and commercialization of algae-based biofuels and other biomass co-products.

ATP3 is funded through a $15 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. The partnership is led by the Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation, which is embedded within the Arizona State University College of Technology and Innovation at the ASU Polytechnic campus with support from industry, academic and national laboratory partners.

To learn more, visit

Sarah Mason,
ASU LightWorks
*Originally posted on ASU News.

Liquid fuel from sunlight: A spotlight on cyanobacteria

published June 28, 2013, 10:57 am

Research and development of cleaner sources of energy is becoming increasingly more important in our society. Last week, President Barack Obama announced new measures to tackle climate change which included the need for new energy sources to reduce the nation’s increasing carbon footprint. The potential of cyanobacteria as a producer of biofuel is currently being supported as a cleaner fuel source with promising benefits. Researchers at Arizona State University are looking at how this very versatile and ancient organism can help build a sustainable energy future.

Beakers of cyanobacteria grow in ASU Bioenergy Professor Wim Vermaas’s lab. Photo retrieved by ASU News.

On May 24, 2013, Dr. Dan Robertson, Senior Vice President and Lead Scientist at Joule Fuels, visited Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute to speak about Joule’s cyanobacteria research and development. Joule Fuels was established in 2007 with the goal of creating renewable transportation fuel with only the use of sunlight, waste carbon dioxide, and non-potable water. The goal was to be able to convert solar energy and waste CO2 directly to fuels without depleting agriculture land or fresh water. Joule Fuels chose cyanobacteria as their production system because this ancient organism can efficiently accomplish all of their previously stated goals. Harnessing the power of the sun and concentrating CO2 comes easily for photosynthetic organisms like cyanobacteria. Cyanobacteria act as a biocatalyst, i.e., mini factory, which can use solar energy and carbon dioxide to produce and secrete fatty acids for the direct production of biofuel without major production of biomass. “Cyanobacteria as a photosynthetic biocatalyst is more efficient than algae in regards to photon capture and conversion efficiency” Dr. Robertson said. This could mean that the development of biofuels in the future could  greatly rely on these mini-biofactories.

Joule Plant Overview. Video by Joule Fuels.

ASU Bioenergy Professor Wim Vermaas and his team have also made great strides in researching and developing cyanobacteria for biofuel production. In 2009, The Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) awarded a grant to Vermaas’s team to continue their research with cyanobacteria by funding their project until 2013. The main objective for Vermaas’s team is to help reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil and limit harmful emissions to our environment with cyanobacteria as a method for transportation fuel. Vermaas’s team has also noted the sustainable benefits that cyanobacteria have over other photosynthetic biofuel platforms. In an interview with the team in the Summer 2011 edition of School of Life Sciences Magazine (SOLS) they stated that “Most photosynthetic biofuel platforms, such as algal systems or terrestrial plants for ethanol, require processing of the whole organism to extract the fuel, an expensive and time-consuming process”. Vermaas’s research combines both efficient solar-powered, CO2 consuming productions with little or no biomass, alongside technologies that efficiently transform fatty acids into economical and environmentally responsible transportation biofuels. This important research paves the path for the future of energy, which must be conscious of effects on our global environment.

ARPA-E Grant Recipient - Cyanobacteria for Solar-Powered Biofuels from ASU Research on Vimeo.

Arizona State University’s LightWorks initiative aims to highlight renewable energy research that harnesses power from the sun. ASU research in cyanobacteria is a great example of an energy source that could benefit the goal of reducing our carbon footprint while providing a viable alternative transportation fuel for our future. To find out more about this exciting ASU research click here.

Written by Gabrielle Olson, ASU LightWorks

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EEB Hub: Hank Foley explains the benefits of energy efficient buildings

published June 19, 2013, 9:18 am

On May 1, 2013, Hank Foley, Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate school at Pennsylvania State University, visited the ASU Global Institute of Sustainability to discuss the successes of the Department of Energy's Efficient Energy Building (EEB) Hub and the potential of a mini-EEB Hub at Arizona State University.

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Photo of Hank Foley. Photo retrieved from the Penn State News website.

The EEB Hub was established on February 1, 2011 by the Department of Energy (DOE) as an Energy-Regional Innovation Cluster (E-RIC) and is located at the Navy Yard in Philadelphia. With its collaboration of major research universities, industrial firms, and national labs, the EEB Hub aims to develop the means to reduce energy use in commercial buildings by 20 percent by the year 2020. “The goal is hard to achieve,” Foley said. “This forces us to think of things in new ways”. The EEB Hub team has made significant strides by reaching architects, engineers, real estate developers, and building contractors to contribute to redesign and demonstrate scalable market proven solutions to reduce energy use in commercial buildings. To name only a few accomplishments, in the first year alone the EEB Hub has developed cloud infrastructure and a web-based information portal for high resolution building energy data, launched the School District of Philadelphia Sustainability Workshop providing project-based learning for 30 high school seniors, and established partnerships with regional and national allies, including the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce. Check out the EEB Hub’s quarterly highlight reports here.

Diagram showing EEB Hub in action | Image courtesy of KieranTimberlake. Photo retrieved from the Hidden City Philadelphia Blog.

According to the blog Hidden City Philadelphia, “Philadelphians spend 29 percent more on energy costs in commercial buildings than Americans do on average and energy spending is only higher in New York City, Washington, DC, and Boston.” The EEB Hub wants to change that statistic by spurring the development of more energy efficient buildings in the city. Foley said that the only way to accomplish this goal is to “inform people, validate information, and present proven technologies”. With population increasing and businesses growing in Phoenix, energy efficiency is also a very important issue for Phoenicians when planning the development of new buildings and homes. Arizona State University has worked diligently toward developing energy efficient technologies and buildings around all campuses to conserve energy and to strengthen public awareness to the benefits of EEBs. Implementing guidelines on room temperature (cooled no lower than 80° F), constructing LEED buildings, implementing the ASU Sustainable Design Policy, and the Campus Solarization program have all contributed to the future of buildings at ASU. One technology in particular that strengthens public awareness is ASU’s Campus Metabolism located online and on Tempe campus at Wrigley Hall. The Campus Metabolism is “an interactive web tool that enables the user to view the current resource use on campus”. The web tool is easy to use and allows the user to view the energy use of an individual building, building type, or the entire Tempe campus at different time scales. The Campus Metabolism displays the amount of campus energy consumption year-round and the user can also see the improvements energy efficient buildings have contributed to ASU’s overall energy use.

With these impressive steps toward increasing energy efficient buildings, Hank Foley believes that ASU has the potential to initiate a mini-EEB Hub. If this were to indeed take off, ASU would already be at a head start by having the information, validation, and presentation needed to set an example of how cities should plan and develop future buildings.

Written by Gabrielle Olson, ASU LightWorks

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Solar-powered plane, Solar Impulse visits Phoenix and ASU

published June 5, 2013, 12:16 pm

Solar Impulse, the innovative Swiss solar-powered airplane, arrived in Phoenix on May 4, 2013 marking a succesful first leg of their 2013 Across America mission. The Solar Impulse team participated in a variety of events including the Phoenix Event Week, Arizona State University's Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering Spring 2013 graduation ceremony, and a meeting with Gary Dirks, director of ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability and ASU LightWorks, to learn about ASU’s impressive research and development of solar energy. The Solar Impulse airplane took flight from Phoenix on May 22, 2013.

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Photo of the Solar Impulse flying over Phoenix, Arizona. Photo retrieved from Solar Impulse’s online video “Across America 2013: Landing in Phoenix

Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg, the pilots and founders of the Solar Impulse, plan to fly across the USA from coast-to-coast solely through the use of solar power in their “Across America” challenge. Piccard and Borschberg marked the first leg of their trip as they landed in Phoenix on May 4, 2013. During their time in Phoenix, the Solar Impulse team hosted a Phoenix Event Week that highlighted both the innovative solar airplane and Arizona’s significant strides in solar energy and clean tech development. During the event, Bertrand named Arizona Governor Jan Brewer “Solar Queen” because of the significant investments in solar power that have been made in Arizona. The Solar Impulse Phoenix Event Week proved successful with the support of 2,200 people that came to the Phoenix Sky Harbor International airport to see the solar airplane.

Piccard and Borschberg also addressed the 2013 spring graduates of the ASU Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. The pilots spoke about their project and the Solar Impulse team, which is made up of 90 engineers, technicians, technical advisers, organizers, and communications and media managers. Piccard noted the significance of speaking to ASU engineering graduates as a meaningful part of their trip to Phoenix. Both pilots pointed out the importance of engineers having a diverse set of skills and collaborative techniques, skills that ASU engineering students  have learned from the university’s interdisciplinary approach to education and research.

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Pilots Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg meeting with Jan Brewer, Governor of the State of Arizona. Photo retrieved from Solar Impulse’s online album “Across America 2013: Phoenix Event Week

The Solar Impulse has broken barriers from being the first airplane that can fly day and night without the use of fuel. The Solar Impulse left Phoenix heading to Dallas Fort Worth International Airport and their landing took place on Thursday, May 23rd. In their trip out of Phoenix, Solar Impulse was followed by a helicopter crew that captured the event on film. Watch the video of the Solar Impulse takeoff from the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport here.

Solar Impulse states that “the development of efficient and renewable energies is as important for the security and prosperity of our society as for the protection of the environment and our natural resources”. The steps that Piccard and Borschberg have taken speak highly to the advancements in solar technology and have helped changed the way we see the future of energy. Arizona State University is also an excellent example of taking the lead to incorporate solar as a present and future energy source, and we commend the Solar Impulse team for their vision and initiative.

Written by Gabrielle Olson, ASU LightWorks

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ASU student creates algae-inspired art

published June 5, 2013, 10:55 am

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ASU student Phillip Carrier takes inspiration from algae during his summer as the artist in residence at the Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation. Photo by: Jessica Cheng

Making what’s commonly referred to as “green slime” artistic may seem like a herculean feat, but Arizona State University student Phillip Carrier is using tiny algae plants as inspiration for an art installation project as a Master of Fine Arts student from the Herberger Institute School of Art.

Carrier will blend art and science together throughout two summer semesters on the ASU Polytechnic campus as the inaugural artist in residence at the Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation (AzCATI).

“I am thrilled to have this opportunity to work on a project that fuses the fields of art and technology, especially with the research community at AzCATI,” Carrier said. “Their in-depth research in algae will be an essential catalyst for my artwork and I'm excited to dive in to this project.”

AzCATI, which is embedded within the College of Technology and Innovation at ASU and part of the ASU LightWorks initiative, will provide tools, some financial support and space for Carrier to work throughout the summer. Once complete, Carrier’s instillation will remain at the Interdisciplinary Science and Technology Building 3 (ISTB3) on the ASU Polytechnic campus for visitors, as well as resident students, staff and faculty, to enjoy.

Installing art in the building not only serves to add interest to the building’s modern architecture, but also serves a higher purpose, said Gary Dirks, director of LightWorks and director of the Global Institute of Sustainability.

“Great minds, from scientists and researchers to philosophers and poets, must work together to create a cultural shift toward a sustainable existence,” Dirks said. “Artists like Philip tell stories that instruct us or stimulate us into thinking about what that future is going to look like.”

Adriene Jenik, ASU School of Art director, said the relationship between LightWorks, AzCATI and the School of Art can foster and enable new insights or perspectives on the research done at the algae center.

“Our goal with this pilot artist residency (what we hope will be the first of many) is to conduct our own creative research and outcomes alongside the algae researchers,” Jenik said. “The complex processes and systems being designed and pursued in the building can be distilled into an affective experience that goes beyond illustrative diagrams and bullet points, further enabling the realization of a sustainable future.”

Written by Sarah Mason, ASU LightWorks

Originally published here in Arizona State University's "ASU News" on June 04, 2013.

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ASU LightWorks’ Dr. Ellen Stechel to Showcase Solar-to-fuel Solutions at 50th International Paris Air Show

published June 3, 2013, 10:40 am

The International Paris Air Show, inaugurated in 1909, is the world’s oldest (and largest) aviation show, drawing participants from all over the world. Open to both professionals and the general public, it is the leading global networking event in the aerospace industry and a prime location for the development and display of leading edge aviation and space innovations. The show is organized by Salon International de l'Aeronautique et de l'Espace (SIAE), a subsidiary of Groupement des Industries Françaises Aéronautiques et Spatiales (GIFAS). This year’s event will take place June 17-23, 2013 at Le Bourget Exhibition Center.

(Promotional poster for the 50th International Paris Air Show.)

ASU LightWorks Deputy Director, Dr. Ellen Stechel, will have a booth at the Paris Air Show to discuss LightSpeed Solutions, a collaborative initiative that advocates the awareness and advancement of solar-to-fuel technologies and recycled CO2 waste. The LightSpeed mission statement is as follows:

“LightSpeed Solutions communicates exciting innovations for technologies on the roadmap to marketable and sustainable solar fuels. We are passionate about recycling waste CO2 as a feedstock to create liquid hydrocarbons using sunlight and brackish water. We aim to produce low carbon, scalable and infrastructure compatible transportation fuels initially hybridizing with natural gas and biomass. We can capitalize on cheap and abundant natural gas in the near term and avoid locking in a high-carbon future in the long term. Together we can overcome our urgent energy and climate challenges with sunlight to fuel solutions.”

At the Paris Air Show, Dr. Stechel will place particular emphasis on using solar-to-fuel options to create jet fuel that is both commercially scalable and sustainable. The following infographic demonstrates the solar fuels “roadmap” concept.

View high-res version

Dr. Stechel recently published a “Thought Leader Series” piece with the Global Institute of Sustainability (GIOS) titled, “Low Carbon Fuels From Sunlight: Is it possible? Is it practical?” Click here for more information on this piece, which discusses the technical aspects of solar-to-fuel technologies and LightSpeed’s position in communicating them.

The world sits at the crossroad of a great energy shift. Transportation fuels are just one small piece of the carbon emissions problem. Atmospheric CO2 levels just reached 400 ppm for the first time in the history of humankind. The Scripps Research CO2 Group offers this perspective:

“An immediate cut in fossil-fuel emissions by 55 percent is clearly not even remotely possible, so CO2 will continue its relentless rise. Keeping CO2 below 450 ppm will also be very difficult, as this will require immediately leveling off of fossil fuel emissions and then cutting emissions to below 30 percent of present levels over the next 50 years or so. If nothing is done to reduce the dependence on fossil fuels, CO2 could keep rising for centuries, depending on the amount of coal, natural gas, oil, and any new forms of fossil fuels that are extractable. By some estimates, the ultimate resource of fossil fuels may be large enough that CO2 will rise as high as 1,600 ppm before fossil fuels are fully depleted. This would be sufficient to cause the world to warm between 4 to 10° C (7 to 18° F) with unimaginable consequences.”

LightSpeed seeks to advance technologies that tackle the carbon problem by storing sunlight and sequestering carbon above ground in the form of solar fuels, offering a transition vehicle to a cleaner, more sustainable energy future.

Primary funding for LightSpeed’s presence at the Paris Air Show comes from ASU LightWorks with additional support from CSIRO and Sandia Labs.

You will find LightSpeed Solutions in the Alternative Aviation Fuels Pavilion in Hall 1 at kiosk 1-H276-1. View brochure here for more details.

You may follow the Paris Air Show on Twitter using hashtag #PAS13.

Written by Sydney Lines, ASU LightWorks


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