ICTAS: AEP Gift

American Electric Power Foundation

In 2009, the American Electric Power Foundation (AEP) gave a generous gift of $1 million to ICTAS honoring the former president of Appalachian Power, Joseph H. Vipperman (VT Class of '62). With the support of AEP, researchers at ICTAS have been able to bring three research scientists on board, purchase state of the art lab equipment, and make significant advances in the field of sustainable energy. Contributing to over 40 research publications thus far, AEP's gift continues to produce great results.

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Biologically Derived Fuels

Title: Genetic Improvement of Switchgrass Feedstock for Biofuel Production

PI: Bingyu Zhao

AtLov1 Transgenic Plants Have Smaller Stomata Aperture with higher water use efficiency.

Summary: To meet the feedstock requirement for sustainable biofuel production, we need to breed new switchgrass cultivars with high biomass yields, improved tolerance to disease, drought and salt stresses, and which can grow in marginal lands.

We employed both biotechnological and traditional plant breeding tools to develop new switchgrass germplasm with improved biofuel traits.

Select Publications

  1. Yang, Z., Z. Shen, H. Tetreault, L. Johnson, B. Friebe, T. Frazier, L.-k. Huang, C. Burklew, X.-Q. Zhang and B. Zhao (2013). "Production of Autopolyploid Lowland Switchgrass Lines Through In Vitro Chromosome Doubling." BioEnergy Research: 1-11.
  2. Sathitsuksanoh, N., B. Xu, B. Zhao and Y. H. Zhang (2013). "Overcoming biomass recalcitrance by combining genetically modified switchgrass and cellulose solvent-based lignocellulose pretreatment." PLoS One 8(9): e73523.
  3. Xu, B., N. Sathitsuksanoh, Y. Tang, M. K. Udvardi, J. Y. Zhang, Z. Shen, M. Balota, K. Harich, P. Y. Zhang and B. Zhao (2012). "Overexpression of AtLOV1 in Switchgrass alters plant architecture, lignin content, and flowering time." PLoS ONE 7(12): e47399.
  4. Madhavi Dere, Ambika Mosale Venkatesh Murthy, Taylor Frazier, Zhiyong Yang, Catlin Burklew, Changhe Zhou, Zhengxing Shen, Foster Agblevor, Mike Zhang, Bingyu Zhao, Expression of Trichoderma ressi endoglucanase in transgenic switchgrass plants (In preparation).

Carbon Mitigation

Title: Methods to improve advanced gasification and fuels for power generation

PIs: Srinath Ekkad and Brian Lattimer

Summary: Alternative power generation techniques and fuels are sought to increase the use of nation’s natural resources and improve efficiency. The research objectives for this project were to:

Select Publications and Presentations

  1. Agarwal, G., Liu, G., and Lattimer, B., “Temperature Dependent Solid Fuel Combustion Characterization and Fuel Ranking,” ASME IMECE2013-65615, San Diego, CA, Nov. 17-21, 2013.
  2. Agarwal, G., Liu, G., and Lattimer, B., “Pyrolysis and Combustion Energetic Characterization of Coal-Biomass Fuel Blends,” ASME POWER2013-98313, Boston, MA, July 29-Aug.1, 2013.
  3. Agarwal, G. and Lattimer, B., “Method for Measuring the Standard Heat of Decomposition of Materials,” Thermochimica Acta, Vol. 545, pp. 34-47, 2012.
  4. Brown, S.L. and Lattimer, B. Y., “Transient Gas-to-Particle Heat Transfer Measurements in a Spouted Bed,” Experimental Thermal and Fluid Science, Vol. 44, pp. 883-892, 2013.
  5. Agarwal, G., Lattimer, B.Y., Ekkad, S., and Vandsburger, U., “Experimental study on solid circulation in a multiple jet fluidized bed”, AICHE Journal, Vol. 58, Issue 10, pp. 3003-3015, 2012.

Electrochemical Energy Conversion and Storage

Title: Electrochemical Energy Conversion and Storage: Materials and Systems

PIs: Michael Ellis and Robert Moore

Summary: Electricity can be generated from a variety of resources including renewables. To expand the use of electricity, new technologies are needed to convert fuels to electricity and to store electricity in lightweight, compact, durable devices. With this in mind, the objectives for this research were to:

Select Publications and Presentations:

  1. Li, J.; Park, J.K.; Moore, R.B.; Madsen, L.A. “Linear Coupling of Alignment with Transport in a Polymer Electrolyte Membrane,” Nature Materials 2011, 10, 507-511.
    Increasing hydrophobicity in the non-ionic blocks of segmented multiblock ionomer membranes enhances phase separation and reduces water swelling, leading to improved performance in direct methanol PEM fuel cell performance.
  2. Rowlett, J.R.; Chen, Y.; Shaver, A.T.; Fahs, G.B.; Sundell, B.J.; Li, Q.; Kim, Y.S.; Zelenay, P.; Moore, R.B.; Mecham, S.; McGrath, J.E. “Multiblock Copolymers Based Upon Increased Hydrophobicity Bisphenol A Moieties for Proton Exchange Membranes,” J. Electrochem. Soc. 2014, 161, F535-F543.
    Proton and water transport in Nafion membranes used in fuel cells is found to occur through elongated (rod-like) ionic domains. This transport can be enhanced in preferred directions by orienting the rod-like structures without detrimental changes to the overall morphology.
  3. Hou, J., Shao, Y., Ellis, M.W., Moore, R.B., Yi, B. Graphene-based electrochemical energy conversion and storage: Fuel cells, supercapacitors and lithium ion batteries. Physical Chemistry Chemical.
  4. J. Hou, J. Graetz, R. B. Moore and M. W. Ellis, "Fundamental Electrochemical Analysis of Reactions in Lithium Air Batteries," Chapter in Rechargeable Lithium Batteries: From Fundamentals to Applications, Woodhead Publishing, 2014.

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ICTAS (MC 0193)
Kelly Hall, Suite 410, Virginia Tech
325 Stanger Street
Blacksburg, VA 24061


(540) 231-2597