Fuel for thought March 25, 2008
New biofuels-emissions lab to be the only university-based of its kind in nation with EPA certification
By: Nicholas Larson
Minnesota State will soon house a new biofuels-emissions laboratory, funded in part by a $250,000 grant from the Minnesota Corn Growers Association and the Minnesota Corn Research and Promotion Council.
The grant, presented March 20 to the Automotive and Manufacturing Engineering Technology Department, will go toward equipment purchases and infrastructure development of the new 5,000 square-foot facility, to be built on the west side of Wiecking Center.
The $2.8 million building will have unique status in U.S.-based alternative fuel research, as it will be the only university-based laboratory that has certification from the Environmental Protective Agency and can measure evaporative emissions, which are emitted while a vehicle is idle. Minnesota Corn Growers President Roger Moore said the university setting "brings into the picture objectivity that doesn't usually exist [in the private sector]."
His point was echoed by Bruce Jones, auto and manufacturing engineering technology professor who said, "It's never been a situation…where we've felt like we have to distort our research."
Jones emphasized that independent of the national debate concerning ethanol, researches will continue to focus on how to maximize fuel economy and minimize emissions of existing technologies, including hybrid and biodiesel power sources. New equipment will also enable the study of varying levels of ethanol blends, as well as emissions from lawnmowers, ATV's, and other non-road engines.
The grant is the latest chapter in a long collaboration between the department and Minnesota corn growers, who have provided grants for the current lab and student design competition sponsorship since the mid-1990s.
"The timing of this is absolutely right," said Jerry Larson, chairman of the Minnesota Corn Research & Promotion Council. "And it's going to enhance the image of this facility and we're going to get recognition nation-wide."
Larson and Moore both stressed the significance of keeping research and development dollars in state, as previous developments required vehicles to be moved to and tested at EPA-certified facilities.
"The sciences are a collaborative field, and when we have this type of instrumentation, there's going to be people from other states that are going to need to partner with us to get their projects done, and get the instrumentation that they require," Moore said.
The laboratory expansion will also provide opportunities and accessibility to students from a variety of departments, such as electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and physics.
"We have a good level of students coming because of what we're doing in the ethanol and hybrid research aspects that help them see how they can impact the future," said Ann Goebel, chair of auto and manufacturing engineering technology,
With the immediate future involving record-high oil and gas prices, legislation for higher blends of ethanol is in the works to increase the amount of ethanol blended into gasoline from 10 to 20 percent of the total fuel. Research conducted at MSU will play a crucial role in establishing the case for the efficiency of E20.
"We never said that we're going to replace all of the gasoline, but we are a key component of [moving] towards these higher blends," Larson said.
News & Information Home