Learn to Operate the Biodiesel Cart

Have you ever wanted to know more about the OSU Biodiesel Cart? What about creating your own batch of biodiesel? Our week 2 meeting will be teaching you about how biodiesel works, then taking you into the lab to get hands-on and see the steps taken to make your own batch of biodiesel. Attending this event will both educate you about this renewable fuel source, and prepare you to help demonstrate the biodiesel cart at outreach events like Da Vinci Days and Earth Day.

On Tuesday night, meet in Gleeson 200 at 6pm. We’ll have food for you to eat while we deliver a quick presentation about how the biodiesel cart works, then we’ll don our safety glasses and head downstairs to the lab. If you own safety goggles (like the ones you use for chemistry labs), please bring them! We’re required to wear eye protection in the lab, and will have a limited supply of safety glasses.

If you have any questions or time conflicts, please let us know. We look forward to seeing you there on Tuesday!

biodiesel cart

The OSU Biodiesel Demonstration Cart at the summer Da Vinci Days festival

Pacific Biodiesel tour on Saturday April 27th

We will be touring Pacific Biodiesel‘s production facility in Salem, OR on Saturday April 27th. This is an opportunity to see how biodiesel is produced on a commercial scale, right here in Oregon.

We are departing from the parking lot between Gilbert and Winegar hall at 10:00am sharp on Saturday morning. Please arrive by 9:50 at the latest.

To reserve a spot, bring $10 to the main office in Gleeson Hall. We are limited to 20 spots, so get in there before we run out of spaces! Reservations are first-come, first-serve.


SWITCH Event Recap


The Sustainable Energy Initiative presented a screening of “Switch” in the LaSells Stewart Center on January 29, 2013. Switch is a documentary presented by Dr. Scott Tinker that explores the realities and prospects of renewable energy all around the planet. SEI also presented a sustainability expo and a Q&A discussion panel with energy experts. Keep reading for a summary of the event, pictures, and (soon) a video of the discussion panel.

Prior to the film screening, SEI hosted the OSU Sustainability Expo. University sustainability organizations informed and engaged students and community members about what OSU is doing to promote sustainability and ways to get involved.

Afterward, attendees sat down to watch the “Switch” film. Documentary stereotypes are thrown aside by pleasing camerawork and narration as Tinker guides viewers through a journey in search of the answer to a very important modern question – What will it take to transform our energy infrastructure into something we can sustain responsibly?  He visits locales ranging from Iceland to the plains of Texas to urban India, exploring both renewable and nonrenewable energy sources. While he examines many promising possibilities, Tinker also concludes with a hard truth – No single panacea exists for Earth’s energy problem. The physical, economical, and political hurdles Tinker uncovers lead him to predict it will  take small steps and many different energy sources to power the future.

SEI concluded the event with a panel of six sustainable energy experts from a variety of fields. Audience members had the opportunity to ask the panel questions about the film and sustainable energy. A video recording of the panel discussion will be uploaded in the next few days. The experts panel included:

Thanks to everyone who attended and the panelists for helping make this event a success! Check our website regularly for news about future events, such as the upcoming Vestas tour. Also, sign up for our mailing list to receive regular news and updates! See you at the next event.

Pictures: (More here)










































Winter term events


Upcoming events:

Vestas field trip

Vestas is the largest wind turbine manufacturer in the world, and their US headquarters is right nearby in Portland, OR! We will be touring their regional training facility, which includes a presentation about wind technology and the wind industry, and going inside the nacelle of a real turbine. Spots are limited, so sign up today!

NNMREC presentation and  tour

Engineers from the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center will give us an overview of the current state of ocean energy technology, and give us a look at the exciting developments in ocean energy on the Oregon coast. We will then head over to the electrical engineering wave energy simulation lab in Dearborn Hall. This event will be on Thursday, Feb 28th, starting at 6pm. Location TBA.

Engineering EXPO Recap

On Friday, May 18th SEI exhibited at the OSU Engineering Expo. We had the biodiesel demonstration cart, energy quiz, and biodiesel take-home demonstration kits out all day, and were visited by everyone from the Crescent Valley robotics team to Benny Beaver himself. SEI’s next outreach event will be at Da Vinci Days this summer. More details will be published online before the event.

Benny Beaver

Benny Beaver learns about biofuels from SEI Vice President Larkin Loewenherz

Check out pictures from the expo!

Meeting Minutes 4/18/12: Hydrogen as Fuel

  • The big picture:
    • Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe.
    • It is the 8th most abundant element on Earth.
      • Earth has insufficient gravity to maintain free hydrogen.
  • Chemical Reactions:
    • Combustion
    • Electrolysis
    • Steam Methane Reforming
    • Hydrocracking (uses H2 to break carbon chains)
    • Haber process (uses H2 to produce ammonia)
  • Hydrogen as fuel:
    • Hydrogen can be burned just like natural gas
    • Fuel cells
      • Produce electricity at a 40-50% efficiency.
      • Have a combined heat & power 70-95% efficiency.
      • Protons are separated from electrons by a membrane which creates a potential.
      • Use a 0.7 V/cell.
      • Made of stacks of cells
      • Catalysts
        • Platinum-based is the traditional
        • carbon- or nickel-based
  • Hydrogen Stroage
    • The good news: Hydorgen has more energy per gram capacity than traditional fuels
    • The bad news: Its density is much less than traditional fuels, so it is less useful in that respect
    • Current Technologies
      • liquid hydrogen
        • energy cost 30%
        • expensive
        • boil-off losses ~ 50% in 10 days
      • compressed hydrogen
        • energy cost 15-20%
        • low energy density
        • heavy
        • potentially dangerous due to high pressures (~700bar)
      • metal hydrides
        • minimal energy cost, dense hydrogen packing
        • very heavy
        • expensive (because of the use of rare metals)
        • useful for small scale, not large scale
      • chemical conversion
        • using water or ammonia
    • When volume is not an issue, hydrogen storage is very useful
      • however, we still need a breakthrough
  • Prodction
    • Steam methane reforming
      • 95% of H2 supply
      • efficiency ~70%
      • releases CO2
    • Electrolysis
      • fuel cell rxn in reverse
      • efficiency 60-8-%
      • can pressurize within electrolyzer
    • Anaerobic digestion (@ OSU)
      • consumes organic waste
    • Biomass gasification
      • produces H2 and CO2
    • Photobiological hydrogen (@ OSU)
      • algae and cyanobacteria
      • photosynthesis splits water
      • light provides energy input
      • hydrogenase catalyst
    • Artificial Photolysis
      • using light energy to split water
      • Micro scale PV electrolysis
    • Thermochemical Cycles (@ OSU with Dr. Yokochi)
      • coupled rxn loop
      • heat input from concentrated solar
  • Safety with hydrogen
    • Nearly invisible flame in daylight
    • Hydrogen embrittlement of metals
    • 5-75% flammable mixture in air
    • Low activation energy
    • Lighter than air, so dissipates rapidly in the atmosphere
    • Overall, no more dangerous than gasoline or natural gas if handled properly.
  • Hydrogen’s role in the Future
    • Abundant Carbon-free Energy?
      • Universal energy currency
      • Fuel cell cars
      • Hydrogen homes
      • Drinkable exhaust
    • Or Oil-company Conspiracy?
      • Technology will never be ready
      • Inferior to EV’s from green perspective
      • Favored by policy
      • Produced from fossil fuel
  • Greatest demand right now is energy storage.
    • Hydrogen, pumped hydroelectric, compressed air energy storage (CAES)
    • Pumped hydro: best option but site-limited
    • CAES has slightly higher round-trip efficiency
  • Vestenskov, Denmark is the world’s first hydrogen-powered community
    • surplus wind electricity is stored as hydrogen and distributed
  • Energy density is currently the #1 challenge
    • But the future is wide open
    • It will be a race between electric and hydrogen vehicles
  • The OSU Hydrogen Trailer
    • This spring, they will acquire an electrolyzer
    • Hydrogen Club meetings are Mondays 4-6, people are welcome!
  • DOE project @ OSU
    • Brian Paul MechE
    • Goran Jovanic ChemE