University of Louisville Magazine

WINTER-SPRING 2018

The University of Louisville Alumni Magazine: for alumni, faculty, staff, students and anyone that is a UofL Cardinal fan.

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17 WINTER/SPRING 2018 T he Conn Center for Renewable Energy will award its biannual Leigh Ann Conn Prize in Renewable Energy to Jay Whitacre of Carnegie Mellon University. Whitacre has changed the renew- able energy conversation by creating a low-cost sodium-ion battery that helps incorporate renewable energy Whitacre H ere's something you don't hear at Uof L every day: "The hemp crop is ready to bring in." But not only did Uof L renewable energy researchers harvest an industrial hemp crop in 2017 for the second consecutive year, they are planting their third—and big- gest—crop this year near the Conn Center for Renewable Energy Research, which is housed at the J.B. Speed School of Engineering. The crop, which also includes strains of an African fiber plant called kenaf, is part of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture's industrial hemp research pilot program. Both plants are highly suitable to Kentucky's growing conditions and are being used as part of the Conn Center's research into biofuels and biomass conversions. The 2017 Uof L crop was one of eight at Kentucky colleges and universities but the only one that will be used for energy research. After Conn Center Assistant Director Andrew Marsh cut down the plants, he hung them up to dry in a nearby warehouse. "Once dried, the Conn Center's Biofuels & Biomass Con- version group, led by Jagannadh Satyavolu, and faculty from chemical engineering, such as Noppadon Sathitsuksanoh, will work with the biomass," Marsh said. Marsh said the center plans to expand the crop in 2018 and hopes to improve soil quality to ensure the plants do well in their urban environment. "In 2016 and 2017, the tendencies of different seed types to prosper in our climate and soil conditions over those that do not have become apparent," Marsh said. "So far, we have been growing in unconditioned urban clay, not farm soils. This year gave a better look at the nutrient deficiencies, so 2018 will include soil-conditioning strategies." Conn Center Assistant Director Andrew Marsh cuts down hemp plants. Hemp harvest elicits energy exploration into the power grid. The batteries are water-based and environmentally safe to manufacture and to use. "The University of Louisville cel- ebrates his research and its positive influence," said Interim President Greg Postel. Whitacre became the third renewable energy pioneer to receive the award established by center sup- porters Hank and Rebecca Conn in memory of their daughter. The award includes a medal and a cash prize of $50,000, and Whitacre will give a public talk at Uof L when he receives the award in March. The Conn Center is housed at the J.B. Speed School of Engineering. Whitacre wins Conn Prize In 2016 and 2017, the tendencies of different seed types to prosper in our climate and soil conditions over those that do not have become apparent.

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