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WSU Research Energy

Multimillion dollar grant to support nuclear waste cleanup

waste barrels

Research probes how radiation changes nuclear waste over time

Safe management of nuclear waste is vital to national security and a primary mission of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Approximately 300 million liters of highly radioactive wastes are stored in underground tanks at the Hanford Site in Washington and the Savannah River Site in South Carolina.

Wastes stored in tanks at Hanford have been there for decades. Radiation present in the wastes drives chemical changes that are neither well understood nor predictable. DOE estimates it will take at least 50 years and $300 billion to process the wastes into forms fit for disposal using … » More …

Wood-based biofuel powers cross-country flight

A closeup of a man fueling an airplane

WSU-led coalition partners with Alaska Airlines for the world’s first commercial flight using fuel made from forest residuals.

In November 2016 a commercial airplane powered by jet fuel made from woody biomass took off from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. The historic Alaska Airlines flight to Washington, D.C. marked the culmination of five years of collaborative research exploring renewable, alternative jet fuel. Led by Washington State University, the research initiative laid the groundwork for development of an aviation biofuels industry in the Pacific Northwest.

As the world’s finite supply of fossil fuels dwindles, availability of renewable sources of jet fuel will become increasingly important. Woody biomass is … » More …

Ensuring a reliable power supply

A closeup of Anjan Bose

WSU teams with the U.S. Department of Energy in “smart grid” research and education

On a hot August day in 2003, a falling tree branch in Ohio triggered a power outage that rippled across 8 U.S. states and into Canada, cutting power to 50 million people. As transportation ground to a halt, food spoiled, and indoor heat soared to intolerable highs, the critical need for a reliable energy supply became irrefutably clear. Today, the electrical grid has the smarts to avert such a disaster, in part because of research conducted at Washington State University.

WSU leads the nation’s efforts to increase the reliability and efficiency … » More …

Developing new sources of transportation fuel

A photo of a man talking to another man and woman with a cow in the background

Scientists seek chemical-free ways to convert waste into biofuel

Tomorrow’s airplanes and automobiles may be fueled by today’s waste. An abundance of waste material known as cellulosic biomass could supply 27 percent of the world’s transportation fuels in the years ahead, according to the International Energy Agency.

Cellulosic biomass, which is organic material not suitable for use as food, includes forest underbrush, perennial grasses, sawdust, paper pulp, and industrial and municipal waste. Washington State University scientists are working to overcome the barriers to transforming this renewable biomass into biofuel for transportation.

Conversion processes must be efficient, ecofriendly, and affordable. That’s why

Shulin Chen, director of … » More …

Making clean energy viable

A photo of a various fallen trees in a forest

To make biofuel production cost-effective, scientists seek profit-generating byproducts

Can the ubiquitous evergreen trees and abundant crops of the Pacific Northwest cut the United States’ reliance on petroleum? Maybe—if questions of economic viability can be answered. Xiao Zhang, a chemical engineer at WSU Tri-Cities, aims to answer those questions with a “yes.”

While converting lignocellulosic biomass (that is, woody plant matter) to biofuel is a promising concept, commercial implementation on a large scale isn’t yet economically viable. To drive down costs, lignocellulosic biomass must be used in multiple products. Biofuel alone isn’t enough.

Dr. Zhang seeks chemical pathways to generate value-added byproducts in the … » More …