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Washington State University
WSU Research Energy


Meeting needs while protecting the environment

Energy production is the linchpin of America’s security. To reduce dependence on foreign sources of energy, our nation must shed its reliance on fossil fuels. Energy systems that replace them must safeguard the environment by minimizing impacts on water quality, biodiversity, and greenhouse gas production.

WSU researchers explore ways to advance a range of alternative clean technologies, including wind, solar, and bioenergy. At the same time, they rethink traditional energy resources to make them more dependable and ecofriendly. They seek reliable, efficient methods of energy storage and transmission.

Materials and devices developed at WSU have spawned pioneering ventures in alternative fuels, energy storage strategies, and advanced battery materials. WSU research attracts science, technology, and business investment to Washington from around the world.

Key alliances

WSU scientists join forces with top minds nationwide to advance America’s migration toward sustainable energy sources.

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Center of Excellence for Alternative Jet Fuels & Environment (ASCENT)

WSU and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) co-lead this research center, which aims to foster a new industry to develop environmentally friendly, alternative jet fuels. The center’s efforts promise to create jobs and advance Washington’s aviation and advanced manufacturing sectors.

Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance (NARA)

Led by WSU, NARA is an alliance of public universities, government laboratories, and private industry. It aims to create a sustainable industry for producing carbon-neutral aviation biofuels, using forest residues from logging operations (biomass material remaining in forests that have been harvested) as feedstock.

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL)

WSU researchers collaborate with scientists at PNNL, creating a global hub for research on thermal processing, chemical transformation control, power grid modernization, and various biotechnologies.

Research areas

  • Efficient and sustainable energy production
  • Available and affordable energy
  • Development of renewable sources of energy
  • Healthy environments and energy production
  • waste barrels Multimillion dollar grant to support nuclear waste cleanup

    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 …

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  • A closeup of a man fueling an airplane Wood-based biofuel powers cross-country flight

    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 …

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  • A closeup of Anjan Bose Ensuring a reliable power supply

    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 …

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  • A photo of a man talking to another man and woman with a cow in the background Developing new sources of transportation fuel

    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 …

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  • A photo of a various fallen trees in a forest Making clean energy viable

    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 …

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