West Lafayette, Indiana - On April 22, Earth Day celebrates its 45th anniversary of raising public awareness of environmental issues including harnessing solar energy, cleaning water and reducing pollution.
Researchers at Purdue University have discovered several technologies that support environmental protection, and some have been commercialized by startup companies. These technologies and companies include:
- Biowall. Tightly sealed buildings tend to have poor air quality as a result of carbon dioxide buildup and volatile organic compounds. A Purdue technology draws air from the building through plants placed in a wall. The plants remove hazardous chemicals and the filtered air is recirculated through the building.
- A microgrid system to improve energy utilization at manufacturing facilities. One of the largest expenses in manufacturing is electricity use. Manufacturers could save energy by scheduling process loads intelligently and reduce the overall cost. A Purdue technology uses a smart microgrid system as part of a load management option to improve energy utilization. The control algorithm has three operational modes: normal, curtailment and energy storage.
- A process to use packing peanuts for energy storage applications. Packing peanuts are difficult to recycle and can cause water and soil pollution. A Purdue technology heats packing peanuts, mixes them with a variety of elements to create a hybrid material whose high-surface area, texture and architecture could be used as energy storage for supercapacitors, lithium-ion batteries or sodium-ion batteries.
- A system that generates electricity from solar energy and heat. A Purdue technology generates electricity from solar energy and heat at a high efficiency up to 51 percent. It splits the solar spectrum into high- and low-energy photons. It converts high-energy photons directly into electricity using photovoltaic cells, captures low-energy photons as heat using a reflecting selective solar absorber. Heat is then converted to electricity through a thermoelectric generator, high-temperature heat exchanger and mechanical engine.
- Spero Energy Inc., which licenses a Purdue technology that could make biofuel production more efficient and creates high-value, renewable chemicals used in the flavor and fragrance industry. A video about the company is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=90u01yi7pMk