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Sustainable Technology Center

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  • Direct air capture system

    PRI selected to lead feasibility studies for three Regional Direct Air Capture (DAC) Hubs

    PRI was selected to lead an effort to promote promising technologies that can capture carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere and store it underground at three different sites in Illinois, Colorado, and Florida. Read the full announcement from the Department of Energy (DOE) here.

  • Direct air capture system

    PRI tapped to lead feasibility studies for three regional Direct Air Capture (DAC) hubs

    This once-in-a-generation investment in infrastructure will support efforts to build a clean and equitable energy economy that achieves a zero-carbon energy system by 2035 and to put the United States on a path to strengthen energy prosperity and achieve net-zero emissions economy-wide by no later than 2050. 

    PRI is specifically tasked with executing feasibility and pre-feasibility studies of potential DAC Hub locations, ownership structures, business models, CO2 storage/utilization option(s), and technology partner(s) outlined in the following stage 1 of potential multi-stage projects in Illlinois, Colorado, and Florida.

  • direct air capture technology from Carbon Capture

    PRI to lead direct air capture FEED study at U. S. Steel’s Gary Works

    The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory has selected the Prairie Research Institute to lead a front-end engineering design study of a carbon dioxide direct air capture and utilization system. By using waste heat and energy from U. S. Steel’s Gary Works in Gary, Indiana, the project's energy and transportation costs can be minimized. 

  • glass of water against a teal background

    Protecting the environment and public health through hazardous waste research and education

    PRI applies the state's Hazardous Waste Research Fund (HWRF) to studies that benefit public health and support pollution prevention and the preservation of natural resource preservation. One current project is assessing the health risk of Legionella in private wells, while another is evaluating the amount of microplastics in landfill leachate.

  • Safer sanitation in food and beverage manufacturing and processing

  • Scientists study how a diabetes drug affects soils

    In a recent study, ISTC environmental chemist Wei Zheng and colleagues investigated the adsorption of sitagliptin in soils treated with sewage wastewater.

  • Scientists study ways to reduce PPCPs transferred from soils to food plants

    The debate continues: how much risk to human health is the transfer of pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) through soils to food plants when biosolids, sewage effluents, and animal wastes are applied to fields? As scientists speculate and study the factors that affect risk, researchers at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) are finding innovative solutions to remove PPCPs before they contaminate the vegetables and fruits we consume.

  • Sewage lagoons remove most - but not all - pharmaceuticals

  • Wasted food

    Small food businesses in Chicago tackle food waste

    In an Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) pilot project, a few small food businesses in Chicago learned that there are other, feasible options for handling wasted food than throwing it away. Composting, for one, works well for businesses that have access to compost hauling services.

  • wastewater treatment plant

    Study tracks emerging contaminants from landfill to treatment plant to application

    In a recent study published in an Illinois Sustainable Technology Center report, John Scott, analytical chemist at ISTC in the University of Illinois, studied the fate of microplastics and PFAS as they moved from landfill leachate, or water that filters though the mound of trash, to wastewater treatment plants and beyond. 

  • carrots, corn, and other produce in plastic bins

    Sustainable Technology Center collaborates to connect surplus food with hunger relief agencies

    The University of Illinois, Feeding Illinois, the Illinois Specialty Growers Association, and the Illinois Farm Bureau are collaborating to collect and collate information on the locations, types, and quantities of “surplus” specialty crops in Illinois, including potential acquisition costs. Through a producer survey, a series of focus groups, and implementation of pilots across the state the team looks to uncover the optimal mix of incentives and program interventions to overcome the current barriers to efficient flows of fresh food produced in Illinois, to Illinois residents, with as little waste as possible.

  • Rendleman Orchards worker loads boxes onto a truck for delivery to a food bank (photo credit: Zach Samaras)

    TAP project helps Rendleman Orchard get surplus fruit to food banks

    Through a grant from USDA, ISTC and Feeding Illinois partnered with Rendleman Orchards during the 2021 growing season to ensure no fruit went to waste. 

  • Team determines how estrogens persist in dairy farm wastewater

  • green corn plants in field

    Team is scaling up biochar system for Fulton County field test

    Illinois Sustainable Technology Center scientist Wei Zheng and colleagues are creating a designer carbon-based biochar that captures phosphorus from tile drain runoff water and recycles it in soils to improve crop growth.

  • Team uses forest waste to develop cheaper, greener supercapacitors

  • teamwork

    Teamwork and expertise drive success with major decarbonization projects

    From 2018 to 2020, ISTC submitted over 200 proposals for technology R&D projects, winning more than 60 percent of those projects and bringing in more than $84 million in external funding. Major partners include the U.S.  Department of Energy (DOE), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the state of Illinois.

  • part of the biphasic solvent system

    Technology to absorb CO₂ at power plants is promising

    Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) researchers have given the thumbs up to an innovative biphasic solvent system for its efficiency and effectiveness in absorbing CO₂ from flue gas in a coal-fired power plant at the University of Illinois (U of I).

  • power lines

    Three new DOE-funded PRI projects set to design energy storage systems for power plants

    It is challenging to integrate renewable resources into the distribution grid of fossil-fueled power plants when energy is most needed. The results are often intermittent and unpredictable, which makes it difficult to match energy demand with supply.

    In three new U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)-funded projects, scientists in the Prairie Research Institute will design systems and explore the feasibility of combining the use of renewable and fossil energy sources to ensure both short and long-term reliability in electric power delivery.

  • Aerial view of the Kaskaskia River

    Understanding water’s role in decarbonization

    ISTC researchers needed to find adequate and reliable water sources to keep a carbon capture system running without compromising fragile aquatic ecosystems, local economies, and nearby communities’ water supply. Fortunately, ISTC knew the right expertise was close at hand in another unit within its parent Prairie Research Institute – The Water Survey’s Watershed Science team.

  • Aerial view of fully installed submerged rubble ridges

    Underwater innovation at Illinois Beach State Park to help mitigate coastal erosion

    This past summer, with funding from the EPA Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a US Army Corps of Engineers crane carefully placed over 10,000 tons of stone five hundred feet offshore of Illinois Beach State Park (ISBP) and Hosah Park, a Zion Park District property wedged between the north and south units of IBSP. These stones form three “rubble ridges” that are intended to work in concert to lessen storm waves and protect the eroding beach and unique terrestrial ecosystem in the dunes while preserving views and enhancing fish habitat.

  • stream flanked by tree with orange and brown leaves

    U.S. Department of Energy announces investment to further develop carbon capture technology via FEED study

    The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (DOE-NETL) selected the University of Illinois for $4 million in funding, in addition to cost share contributions by LafargeHolcim and Air Liquide, for research and development to support a front-end engineering design (FEED) study of a carbon capture retrofit at an industrial facility in Missouri. 

  • Kevin OBrien, Stephanie Brownstein, U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm, Susan Martinis, and Jeff Stein stand outside Abbott Power Plant

    U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm tours PRI carbon management projects

    On Dec. 9, U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm toured several U of I sustainable energy projects, including PRI’s carbon capture efforts at Abbott Power Plant. During the visit she also heard about PRI's extensive work in carbon sequestration.