Energy is at the crux of big global problems like climate change, global health, food security, bio-diversity, water security, and even national security. The people of the world need increasing amounts energy, the planet’s resource base needs to be carefully managed, and the environment needs to be maintained to support future generations. Further, sources of funding for crucial basic research that traditionally occurs primarily at universities is under pressure from all sides. Finally, there is a shortage of energy professionals to fill high-paying energy jobs.
SIU scientists work with global teams of experts to do the crucial science to identify pathways, measure and predict impacts, and find solutions for the future of energy. Established in 1974 as the Coal Research Center and expanding its focus in 2014 to include the broad array of energy innovation occurring across campus, ACERC is the hub for SIU Energy research, collaboration, education and facilities.
What We Do
At ACERC, we're helping to solve the big problems. An SIU faculty member recently was awarded a patent for dust control in coal mines and has a training center to assist coal mines in making the work environment better for the workers. An SIU startup company is working toward a completely green way of utilizing coal to make chemicals and fuels, and it can help provide the 'things' people need in a cleaner way. For a long time ACERC has for years supported NASLR, the National Association of State Land Reclamationists. We work with regional and international partners to make new connections and broaden the horizens of our research. We hosted the Energy Debate in 2012 along with a community member to raise awareness of all sides of the clean energy issue, have supported the Technology and Innovation Expo at SIU for multiple years, and launched a series of community events starting in fall of 2015. In summary:
- ACERC assists faculty, students and others in the campus research community in engaging in advanced coal and energy-related research and service opportunities.
- Research has been conducted ranging from mine reclamation, coal processing, and gasification to energy policy, biofuels and renewables. Ever at the forefront of efforts for safer, cleaner and more efficient energy, SIU researchers are making discoveries in areas such as carbon dioxide utilization, chemical looping combustion, microalgal fermentation and advanced materials for fuel cells.
- Faculty and students from such diverse fields as engineering and technology, science, business, education, law and agriculture have contributed to the University’s international reputation in advanced coal and energy research. In addition to various graduate degree and research opportunities in colleges across campus related to energy topics, ACERC supports SIU’s Professional Science Masters in Advanced Energy and Fuels Management program, which affirms an impressive post-graduation employment percentage.
- SIU’s Technology Transfer Office has been licensing patents based on SIU research since the late 1990s, and coal and energy companies have been among the pool of licensees. More recently, in 2013, at least two new energy-related inventions were disclosed, one patent was filed and one issued, and one license was executed with a university startup company. In 2014, there were six new energy-related inventions disclosed to the TTO, four patents filed, two patents issued and one new license to a university startup.
- Since 1990, ACERC has managed the Illinois Energy Development Park at SIU’s Carterville Campus. Efforts at the IEDP have targeted technologies that promise near-term commercial application. The IEDP has housed numerous technology projects including federal, state, and privately funded projects exploring advanced mining and coal utilization technologies. It houses one of only two Longwall Dust Control Facilities in the nation, laboratories and equipment, administrative space as well as a high bay building for large demonstration pilot projects.
These are just some of the things we do, and we're always looking for new ways to address the issues that are important to the people of Illinois. ACERC is funded through state funds; SIU coal, energy and environmental-related research is funded through the Illinois Clean Coal Institute, federal agencies including the EPA, NIOSH, and NSF, and by public and private companies. Energy-related research grants are listed on the SIU Energy Tech Blog back to 2009.
History and Background
In the fall of 1974, SIU Carbondale received approval from its Board of Trustees and the Illinois Board of Higher Education to develop a Coal Extraction and Utilization Research Center. As envisioned by one of its chief supporters, Illinois Governor Dan Walker, the center would be "the focal point for coal mining research in Illinois" and "help ease the energy problem." Walker had chosen SIU as the site for this state's coal research headquarters for two reasons: the University's close proximity to major fields of high-energy coal, and the faculty's long-time interest in coal-related phenomena. In fact, as early as the 1950's, SIU personnel had been engaged in coal research, or seeking solutions to problems frequently associated with coal. SIU's Coal Research Center (CRC) has been committed to the health and safety of coal miners and the human population, while dedicated to cleaner and more efficient production of coal for more than three decades. Focus areas included coal utilization, coal preparation, and coal conversion.
In 2014, the scope of the center was expanded to include all energy education and research efforts across campus, and the center's name was changed to the Advanced Coal and Energy Research Center (ACERC). Research has been conducted ranging from mine reclamation, coal processing, and gasification to energy policy, biofuels and renewables. Ever at the forefront of efforts for safer, cleaner and more efficient energy, SIU researchers are making discoveries in areas such as carbon dioxide utilization, chemical looping combustion, microalgal fermentation and advanced materials for fuel cells. Faculty and students from such diverse fields as engineering and technology, science, business, education, law and agriculture have contributed to the University’s international reputation in advanced coal and energy research. In addition to various graduate degree and research opportunities in colleges across campus related to energy topics, ACERC supports SIU’s Professional Science Masters in Advanced Energy and Fuels Management program, which affirms an impressive post-graduation employment percentage.
In 2015, ACERC received $4.6 million in private funding from the Clean Coal Review Board (CCRB). This was a strategic initiative and the result of about a year and a half's work, in response primarily to tightening state and federal research budgets. CCRB supported Energy Boost because it aims to establish an energy education unit, and programs that will help sustain ACERC financially. Energy Boost spans four years and has already established new scholarships, grants, and community events.