blog navigation

Sustainable Technology Center

blog posts

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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. 

  • ISTC and ISWS Director Kevin OBrien with University of Illinois System President Timothy Killeen at City, Water, Light, and Power in Springfield, Illinois.

    Carbon capture collaborations lead clean energy drive

    The Prairie Research Institute — is leading a drive to implement CO2 removal strategies, an essential step to a clean-energy future. 

  • 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. 

  • 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. 

  • 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.

  • 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 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. 

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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).

  • 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.

  • 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. 

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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. 

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.


  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Corn field bisected by water filled drainage ditch

    New project: biochar used to absorb excess nutrients from tile drainage

    In a new $1 million three-year project, Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) researchers will develop a bioreactor and biochar-sorption-channel treatment system to remove excess nitrogen and phosphorus from title drainage water, thereby reducing nutrient loss from crop fields to local waterways.

  • ISTC delivers Contaminants of Emerging Concern Report to Illinois General Assembly

  • 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.

  • 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. 

  • Steam, condsensate, and chilled water pipes running vertically up a wall.

    How to safely flush plumbing systems and re-open facilities after shut-down

    The domestic plumbing systems in any building or part of a building that has been shut down or has experienced reduced use due to COVID-19 policies are at risk for causing disease and death due to the effects of increased water age, including corrosion and growth of bacteria. Before re-opening any such building, take steps to minimize these risks.

  • Safer sanitation in food and beverage manufacturing and processing

  • Brajendra Kumar Sharma, Dheeptha Murali, and Jennifer Deluher

    Plastic shopping bags make a fine diesel fuel, researchers report

  • water sample in vial

    Institutional Water Treatment program now tests for bacterium causing Legionnaires’ disease

    ISTC's Institutional Water Treatment (IWT) program now offers testing of water sources for Legionella, the bacterium that causes Legionnaires’ disease. 

  • 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. 

  • ISTC research included in new report on developing circular supply chains for plastics

    report recently released by the Center for the Circular Economy, a project of Closed Loop Partners, surveys current landscape of research focused on converting waste plastics into safe and high-quality materials, as well as the scale of opportunity for these technologies to meet demand.

  • ISTC scientists visit the UK to collaborate on emerging contaminant research

  • ISTC project informs California school’s food waste diversion pilot program

  • ISTC Technical Assistance Program helps Spraying Systems Co. communicate sustainability goals

    ISTC’s Technical Assistance Program led a project at Spraying Systems Co. to help them define and communicate their sustainability goals using Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Standards.

  • Maggie Oudsema and John Scott lower microplastic samples into Muskegon Lake

    Microplastics may increase the risk of PFAS entering the Lake Michigan food web

    ISTC researcher John Scott led a team of researchers to understand the extent to which PFAS and other contaminants attach to microplastics in waterways.

  • 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).

  • 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.

  • 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.