blog navigation

Sustainable Technology Center

blog posts

  • 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. 

  • Cultivating Innovation: The Intersection of Geography, Climate, and Agricultural Research in Illinois

    Since its inception in 2008, the Prairie Research Institute has conducted long-term monitoring of Illinois’ water, soil, and climate. These data, including growing and pest degree days, soil temperature and moisture, water table levels, and in-stream sediment, are used every day by thousands of Illinoisans and by the state’s agriculture, renewable energy, and construction industries.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Clouds

    PRI joins prestigious Direct Air Capture Coalition

    Following an unprecedented win of Direct Air Capture (DAC) Hubs earlier this month, the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC), part of the Prairie Research Institute (PRI) at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign was invited to join the Direct Air Capture Coalition (DAC Coalition), in part, due to the commercial success of its point-source carbon capture and its decades of experience in permanently storing CO2 underground at a commercial scale.

  • Vegetables

    New law fosters farmers’ fresh produce donations to Illinois food banks

    With Governor JB Pritzker’s signature on House Bill 2879, the Farm to Food Bank Program has been established in Illinois. The program helps farmers donate their surplus produce to local food banks and assists more than 1 million Illinoisans facing food insecurity. An ongoing three-year Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) effort, which includes a feasibility study and pilot projects, has proven that the program can be successful in Illinois.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Two hands joining puzzle pieces

    ISTC TAP offers free sustainability training for Illinois manufacturers

    ISTC TAP recently launched an innovative training program focused on increasing the competitiveness of Illinois manufacturers by reducing environmental impacts and costs. The project is funded by a grant from U.S. EPA. 

  • Peaches in a large wooden crate

    ISTC Farm to Food Bank project publishes case studies highlighting recent collaborations

    The Illinois Sustainable Technology Center's Farm to Food Bank project recently published six case studies of their work with farmers during the 2022 growing season. Each case study includes a summary of the project, as well as lessons learned.

  • Legionella pneumophila bacteria

    Institutional Water Treatment program service helps combat the spread of Legionnaires’ disease

    The Institutional Water Treatment program (IWT), part of the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center's Technical Assistance Program, provides unbiased, professional water treatment advice to facilities equipped with institutional water systems such as cooling towers, chillers, and boilers. Their services range from presenting on-site training and seminars to providing chemical specifications and making recommendations for a comprehensive water treatment program to control corrosion, mineral scale formation, and biological growth.  IWT now offers on-site water sample collection and two laboratory test methods for L. pneumophila detection.

  • ISTC scientist is set to develop technology addressing water contaminated with PFAS

    Man-made per- and polyfluorinated substances (PFAS), known as “forever chemicals,” withstand many treatment options and bioaccumulate in the environment, posing serious environmental and health concerns. With a three-year, nearly $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP), Illinois Sustainable Technology Center  (SERDP), Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) scientists are developing a new technology to remove and destroy PFAS from contaminated water using a designer biochar produced from woody biomass or agricultural residues such as corn stalks and cobs.

  • Two workers pack fruit into a crate at Rendleman Orchard. Photo courtesy of Rendleman Orchard.

    Farm to Food Bank project featured at From Food to Flowers: Everything Local conference

    ISTC's Farm to Food Bank project was featured at the recent From Food to Flowers: Everything Local conference in Springfield. The program included a panel presentation with Farm to Food Bank project partners and the presentation of a Friend of the Food Bank award to Rendleman Orchards for their work with the initiative.

  • Doug Brown, CWLP, Chief Engineer 2. State Senator Sally Turner 3. State Senator Doris Turner 4. Alderman Ralph Hanauer 5. President Timothy Killeen, U of I 6. Mayor Jim Langfelder of Springfield 7. Lynn Brickett, DOE HQ, Point Source Carbon Capture Director 8. Dr. Praveen Kumar, U of I, Prairie Research Institute, Executive Director 9. Todd Spengeman, BASF, Director of Standard Amines & Gas Treatment 10. Susan Martinis 11. Domonic Cianchetti, Linde (engineering for capture system), Senior Vice President 12. Dr. Kevin OBrien, Director Illinois Sustainable Technology Center & Illinois State Water Survey (Principal Investigator), U of I

    Prairie Research Institute breaks ground for carbon capture pilot at CWLP

    Officials from the University of Illinois, the City of Springfield, the State of Illinois, and the U.S. Department of Energy for a groundbreaking ceremony for a 10-megawatt carbon capture project at City, Water, Light, and Power’s (CWLP) in Springfield, Ill. The post-combustion carbon capture system is recognized as one of the world’s largest carbon capture pilots.

  • ISTC scientist John Scott featured in new video, "The Plastic Problem"

    Illinois Sustainable Technology Center's John Scott is featured in a new video, "The Plastic Problem," developed by the Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment. The video is an excellent introduction to the plastic issue and is just a three-minute watch.

  • Joy Scrogum

    Joy Scrogum recognized as P2 Ambassador by National Pollution Prevention Roundtable

    The National Pollution Prevention Roundtable (NPPR) has recognized ISTC assistant sustainability scientist Joy Scrogum as the recipient of the 2022 Fred Granek Memorial P2 Ambassador Award.

  • ISTC engineer Stephanie Brownstein gestures toward carbon capture equipment at Abbott Power Plant while speaking to visitors from the Department of Energy and Doosan Corporation

    ISTC leads extensive portfolio of carbon capture projects

    Visitors from the U.S. Department of EnergyNational Energy Technology Laboratory (DOE-NETL) recently toured multiple carbon capture projects led by the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC).

    Because the unique geology of Illinois provides extensive potential to store carbon dioxide deep underground, the state is also an ideal location to develop, demonstrate, and deploy technologies to capture CO2 from point sources, remove CO2 from the ambient air, and beneficially use CO2. ISTC scientists and engineers are leaders in this research, conducting a number of carbon capture, removal, and use projects backed by funding from the Department of Energy.

  • ISTC seeks partner for USDA composting and food waste reduction project

    ISTC seeks an eligible organization to be the lead applicant on a collaborative proposal through the USDA Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production's Composting and Food Waste Reduction (CFWR) pilot program. ISTC's TAP staff will provide support on the cooperative agreement through zero waste technical assistance, education, and outreach. Contact TAP to learn more about this partnership opportunity.

  • 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. 

  • 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).

  • Microplastics on the move: research projects detect microplastics in water and on land

    At the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC), researcher John Scott is studying microplastics in landfills, rural streams, and city drinking water to further understand where they are coming from and how they move in the environment.

  • 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.

  • Divert and convert: Campus project takes plastic from waste stream for fuel production

    A new Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) pilot project is gearing up to remove 200 pounds of non-recyclable plastics from campus trash daily and convert it to 140 pounds of crude oil to power university vehicles. The project will demonstrate its benefits to the environment and campus and present unique learning opportunities for students.


  • John Scott wears a white lab coat and stands in front of chemical analysis equipment

    PRI chemist John Scott answers PFAS questions

    Following action by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, Illinois is investigating the occurrence of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances in community water supplies across the state, with an eye toward developing policies to reduce their use. Exposure to PFAS has been linked to increased risk of certain cancers and potential developmental problems in children. John Scott, a senior chemist with the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, offers perspective on this issue. 

  • 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.

  • a hand clad in a purple latex glove holds a small snake against a grassy backdrop

    PRI offers applied science internships for summer 2022

    PRI is offering hands-on summer internships that will enable undergraduate students from populations underrepresented in graduate study at Illinois to explore careers in applied science. There are opportunities in atmospheric science and climate; biology, ecology, and environmental science; geology; sustainable energy; and water supply and safety. To see all of the internship options and to apply, visit

  • 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. 

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Algae cultivation plant

    New project uses flue gas and wastewater to make algae

    A three-year, $2.5 million Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) engineering-scale project will be one of the first and largest to combine carbon dioxide (CO2) from a coal-fired power plant with nutrients from wastewater treatment plants to cultivate algae for animal feeds. 

  • crate of nectarines being washed

    Illinois Farm to Food Bank Project connects specialty growers with food banks

    This fall, the Illinois Farm to Food Bank program wrapped up its pilot project with Rendleman and Flamm Orchards in Union County. Nearly 375,000 pounds of peaches and nectarines were distributed to food banks throughout Illinois.

  • 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. 

  • two men stand beneath a direct air capture installation in Iceland

    ISTC-led team to design large-scale system for direct air capture and storage of carbon dioxide in the U.S.

    The U.S. Department of Energy has partnered with the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center in a nearly $2.5 million project to develop preliminary designs and determine feasibility for the first commercial-scale direct air capture and storage system for carbon dioxide removal in the United States.

  • ISTC program looks ahead to renewable energy waste issues

    As renewable energy is poised to replace fossil fuels long term in Illinois, the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center is delving into a looming issue: what to do with solar modules, wind turbines, and electric vehicle batteries that are no longer used. Keeping these products out of landfills is the primary goal.

  • Farmers show interest in Farm to Food Bank Program

    The Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC), Feeding Illinois, and other organizations are partnering to explore new, viable ways to connect farmers directly with food banks to increase the state’s food supply for the food insecure and reduce waste.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • ISTC program marks big savings for Illinois wastewater treatment plants

    Illinois municipalities hoping to save money on energy costs for wastewater treatment turn to the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) Technical Assistance Program (TAP) for advice. The Wastewater Treatment Plant Energy Assistance Program started in 2018 with funding from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. Partnering with the University of Illinois’ Smart Energy Design Assistance Center (SEDAC), the TAP team visits publicly owned wastewater treatment plants across the state and drafts no-cost assessments with specific recommendations on how to lower energy costs.

  • smokestack

    DOE awards $47 million to PRI and collaborators for carbon capture project

    The team will build and operate a 10 MWe slipstream of the Linde/BASF post-combustion carbon capture technology at City Water, Light and Power (CWLP) in Springfield, Illinois. The successful construction and operation of this plant will provide a means to demonstrate an economically attractive and transformational capture technology. 

  • 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.

  • concrete

    DOE-funded project to find beneficial uses for coal combustion wastes

    Scientists at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) are beginning a $1 million, two-year project to find new and value-added uses for fly ash, a powdery remnant of burning coal. Confining the ash in vegetable oil will potentially reduce the amount of fly ash waste and lessen the risk of heavy metals from waste piles leaching into surface and groundwater. 

  • carrots, corn, and other produce in plastic bins

    Farm to food bank survey extended to end of March

    Farmers throughout Illinois are encouraged to complete a short online survey that will help identify the 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. The survey closes March 30.

  • PPE mask

    ‘Plastics don’t ever go away’—ISTC scientist John Scott studies impact of microplastics

    Plastic products permeate our environment and over time they break down. The microscopic size of particles, how long they last, and what is associated with them raise health concerns. Although the health effects are still largely uncertain, recent research at the Illinois Sustainability Technology Center (ISTC) has provided some insight into what happens to plastics once they’re used and thrown away.

  • 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.

  • DOE funds new technologies in plastic recycling

    The Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) is part of a national team to develop artificial intelligence technologies to sort non-recyclable plastics so they can be reused for fuels. The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded the team $2.5 million to complete the three-year project.

  • bicyclists in wooded area

    New plan links north Chicago communities with walking and biking trail

    A multi-institution team has released a plan to build a 109-mile walking and biking trail connecting five communities along the lakeshore in northern Illinois to promote safer, healthier, and friendlier neighborhoods and allow better access to Lake Michigan beaches and parks.

  • rendering of the proposed innovative power plant

    DOE awards $25 million to PRI for design of innovative power plant

    The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded $25 million to a three-year project led by the Prairie Research Institute that will design a next-generation power plant in Springfield, Illinois. The innovative plant design combines multiple techniques to both reduce emissions and capture and re-use carbon dioxide.

  • man at injection well site

    ISGS combines innovation and expertise in carbon storage

    For almost 20 years, PRI’s geologists and engineers have been developing methods for the safe capture, storage, and utilization of CO2 from power plants and industrial operations. This has been in response to federal and state laws requiring reductions in CO2 emissions, as this byproduct of power generation has a direct link to atmospheric greenhouse gasses and climate change. 

  • EPA awards $400,000 to ISTC for assistance to Illinois manufacturers

    The Illinois Sustainable Technology Center as been awarded over $400,000 in EPA grants to assist manufacturers with greening their operations. 

  • Water tank at Caseyville Wastewater Treatment Plant

    Free assessment helps Caseyville Wastewater Treatment Plant save energy, money

    The Caseyville Township Water Reclamation Facility recently received a free facility assessment through Illinois EPA’s Wastewater Treatment Plant Energy Assessment Program. The program is a partnership between Illinois EPA, ISTC, and the University of Illinois’ Smart Energy Design Assistance Center (SEDAC).