Category Archives: Research

R&D Magazine’s 52nd Annual R&D Awards Call for Nominations

How does your innovative new product measure up against other technologies introduced in 2013? Is it worthy of the title “R&D 100 Winner”?

Receive the recognition that your technology and team deserve for developing one of the top 100 innovative technologies of 2013. Nominate your technology for a 2014 R&D 100 Award today.

Benefits of an R&D 100 Award:
The R&D 100 Awards-dubbed the “Oscars of Invention”-can provide your new product with a vital marketing boost:

  • Receives recognition at the 52nd Annual R&D 100 Awards Banquet
  • Provides a mark of excellence known to industry, government, consumers, and academia
  • Brands your product as one of the most innovative ideas of the year
  • Tells potential customers that your product has successfully competed against other new technologies in open competition
  • Validates the innovation of your technology to potential investors

Products or processes first available for sale or licensing in 2013 are eligible for the 2014 awards. Entries are welcome from industry, academia, and government laboratories, from anywhere in the world.

To Apply:
Click here for complete entry requirements, an application with detailed instructions, and guidelines for submitting the application. Complete and submit the application and supporting information by April 18, 2014.

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Posted by on January 16, 2014 in Awards & contests, Research


Environmentally friendly energy discovered in wood biochar

Read the full story in the Daily Illini.

A wood biochar supercapacitor may seem like a burnt piece of wood in a small plastic container at first glance; however, these little devices could be the future of environmentally friendly energy.

For the past two years, Junhua Jiang, senior research engineer, and a team of researchers at the University’s Illinois Sustainable Technology Center have been studying wood biochar supercapacitors as an electrochemical source of power.

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Posted by on November 8, 2013 in Biochar, Research


Recent biochar research papers

Ke Sun , Mingjie Kang , Zheyun Zhang , Jie Jin , Ziying Wang , Zezhen Pan , Dongyu Xu , Fengchang Wu , and Baoshan Xing (2013). “Impact of De-Ashing Treatment on Biochar Structural Properties and Potential Sorption Mechanisms of Phenanthrene.” Environmental Science and Technology (ES&T), September 11, 2013. DOI: 10.1021/es4026744.

Abstract: Knowledge of the mineral effects of biochars on their sorption of hydrophobic organic contaminants (HOCs) is limited. Sorption of phenanthrene (PHE) by plant-residue derived biochars (PLABs) and animal waste-derived biochars (ANIBs) obtained at two heating treatment temperatures (HTTs) (450 and 600 oC) and their corresponding de-ashed biochars was investigated. The decreased surface polarity and increased bulk polarity of biochars after de-ashing treatment indicated that abundant minerals of biochars benefit external exposure of polar groups associated organic matter (OM). Organic carbon (OC)-normalized distribution coefficients (Koc) of PHE by biochars generally increased after de-ashing, likely due to enhancement of favorable and hydrophobic sorption sites caused by mineral removal. Positive correlation between PHE logKoc by PLABs and bulk polarity combined with negative correlation between PHE logKoc values by ANIBs and surface polarity suggested PLABs and ANIBs have different sorption mechanisms, probably attributed to their large variation of ash content because minerals influenced OM spatial arrangement within biochars. Results of this work could help us better understand the impact of minerals, bulk/surface polarity, and sorption domain arrangement of biochars on their HOCs sorption and predict the fate of HOCs in soils after biochar application.

Liqiang Cui, Jinlong Yan, Yage Yang, Lianqing Li, Guixiang Quan, Cheng Ding, Tianming Chen, Qiang Fu, Andrew Chang (2013). “Influence of Biochar on Microbial Activities of Heavy Metals Contaminated Paddy Fields.” BioResources 8(4). Open source. Available online.


Biochar (BC) amendments might decrease the bioavailability of metals in soils that are contaminated with heavy metals. In general, soil microbial communities are sensitive to changes in soil property changes. Microbial communities were tested in a Cd- and Pb-polluted paddy field in southern China. BC was applied as a basal soil amendment before rice transplantation in 2009. The BC was applied at rates of 0, 10, 20, and 40 tons per hectare. Soil heavy metal fractions with sequential extraction procedure, soil microorganisms, and enzymes were monitored in 2011. The soil pH and soil organic carbon (SOC) were significantly increased by 2% to 5% and 16% to 51% under BC amendment, respectively. Compared to the non-BC treatment, the cadmium (Cd) and lead (Pb) acid-soluble fraction concentrations were significantly decreased by 15.3% to 26.7% and 18.2% to 30.9%. The Cd and Pb reducible fraction were decreased by 13.5% to 25.6% and 21.9% to 23.53%.The Cd and Pb oxidizable fraction by 15.4% to 69.2% and 22.7% to 29.3% with BC application, respectively. The populations of actinomycetes and fungi were increased by 19.0% to 38.5% and 3.7 to 9.3 times, respectively. Meanwhile, BC significantly increased the cellulose, urine enzyme, neutral phosphatase, and sucrase activities by 117.4% to 178.3%, 31.1% to 37.6%, 29.7% to 193.8%, and 36.5% to 328.6%, respectively. BC amendment offers a basic option to reduce Cd and Pb bioavailability and change the fractions. The BC also increases microorganism quantity and soil enzyme activity.
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Posted by on September 19, 2013 in Biochar, Publications, Research


Innovation Isn’t an Idea Problem

Read the full post from the HBR Blog Network.

When most organizations try to increase their innovation efforts, they always seem to start from the same assumption: “we need more ideas.” They’ll start talking about the need to “think outside the box” or “blue sky” thinking in order to find a few ideas that can turn into viable new products or systems. However, in most organizations, innovation isn’t hampered by a lack of ideas, but rather a lack of noticing the good ideas already there.

It’s not an idea problem; it’s a recognition problem.

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Posted by on August 20, 2013 in Innovation


Thomson Reuters Explores the Impact of U.S. Federal Government Research and Development at Industry Conference

The IP & Science business of Thomson Reuters has posted the sessions from its recent industry conference: “Understanding Federal R&D Impact through Research Assessment and Program Evaluation,” which took place at The National Press Club in Washington, DC.

The conference explored the impact of government research programs and current challenges faced by researchers, information professionals, and administrators. Thomson Reuters hosted panel discussions featuring individuals affiliated with government agencies presenting their best practices for overcoming obstacles related to acquiring and allocating funding, retaining resources, and ensuring the continued success of research programs through evaluation and impact analysis.


JoVE now accepting submissions for new environmental sciences section

JoVE (Journal of Visualized Experiments) is now accepting articles for its new section JoVE Environment. JoVE Environment will launch in September and will be a multidisciplinary section encompassing all aspects of green methodology and environmental sciences. Currently, JoVE is accepting submissions to this section for articles on renewable energy, sustainable materials, environmental engineering, ecological health, marine biology, ecology, agricultural sciences, and geosciences among others.

JoVE is a peer reviewed scientific journal that pairs scholarly text with professional videos. This revolutionary journal allows scientists to publish cutting edge methodologies and innovations in a video-based format that is conducive to new levels of reproducibility and transparency.

“We are especially looking forward to launching JoVE Environment because it is a section that will impact all areas of science,” says Deputy Editorial Director of Physical Sciences Alexa Meehan. “JoVE Environment is long overdue as both academic and industry research have moved towards more environmentally conscientious practices for some time now. This section will give the environmental sciences a platform to effectively present research approaches and will offer an unparalleled forum to disseminate “greener” technology.”

Founded in 2006, JoVE has published over 2200 video articles in seven scientific disciplines. The journal publishes peer-reviewed manuscripts accompanied by professionally made videos. The journal is currently accepting submissions to JoVE Environment; for more information please e-mail

About JoVE, the Journal of Visualized Experiments:

JoVE, the Journal of Visualized Experiments, is the first and only PubMed/MEDLINE-indexed, peer-reviewed journal devoted to publishing scientific research in a video format. Using an international network of videographers, JoVE films and edits videos of researchers performing new experimental techniques at top universities, allowing students and scientists to learn them much more quickly. As of April 2013, JoVE has published video-protocols from an international community of nearly 6,000 authors in the fields of biology, medicine, chemistry, and physics.

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Posted by on April 8, 2013 in Research, Scientific publishing


Impacts of biochar on bioavailability of the fungicide azoxystrobin: A comparison of the effect on biodegradation rate and toxicity to the fungal community

Fatima Sopeña, Gary D. Bending (2013). “Impacts of biochar on bioavailability of the fungicide azoxystrobin: A comparison of the effect on biodegradation rate and toxicity to the fungal community.”  Chemosphere, online ahead of print. Online at

Abstract: There is great interest in using biochar (BC) as a soil amendment to provide a long-term repository of carbon to mitigate climate change. BC can have major impacts on soil biogeochemical cycling processes, largely by the sorption and protection of organic matter from microbial turnover. Application of BC to agricultural soil could also affect the efficacy, fate and environmental impact of pesticides. In the current study we investigated the effect of BC on bioavailability of the fungicide azoxystrobin in soil. We found that application of BC had no effect on sorption or degradation of azoxystrobin, even at a rate of 2% w/w. While azoxystrobin reduced dehydrogenase activity, BC addition greatly increased dehydrogenase, although the inhibitory effect of azoxystrobin was still evident in BC amended soil. Using Terminal Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism of fungal SSU rRNA gene ITS regions it was found that azoxystrobin altered the structure of the soil fungal community, although this effect was dampened by BC addition. BC application had minor effects on fungal community structure. We conclude that measurement of the effect of BC on pesticide bioavailability by analysis of biodegradation rate and non-target effects on fungal community structure gave contrasting conclusions.

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Posted by on March 21, 2013 in Agriculture, Biochar, Research


Climate-Smart Agriculture Conference to be Held March 20-22, 2013 in Davis, California

The University of California Davis has been asked by The World Bank to host a global conference focused on the topic “climate smart agriculture.”  The conference will take place March 20-22, 2013 on the University of California Davis campus.  This will be the second science-based conference on the topic; the first was held in October 2011.  Participants will have the opportunity to contribute science-based knowledge to help shape the global policy discussions about how agriculture can play a positive role in the environmental challenges the world is facing.

For more information, visit:


U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) Announces Suite of Climate Scenarios

The USGCRP recently announced the online availability of a suite of scenarios on climate, sea level rise, land use and land cover, and other conditions.  These scenarios were developed as input to the U.S. National Climate Assessment.  The scenarios were developed by multiple agencies in consultation with a National Climate Assessment working group whose members include both university-based and federal research scientists.

For more information, including an overview of and links to reports, data sets, graphics, and other information, please visit:


EPA Announces Research Forum on Extreme Event Impacts on Air Quality and Water Quality with a Changing Global Climate on February 26-27, 2013 in Arlington, VA

EPA’s Office of Research and Development recently awarded 14 grantee projects on climate-induced changes in extreme events in the context of air and water quality management.  A goal of this research funding is to seek a better understanding of the hazards (the extreme events) and to establish ways for climate scientists, impact assessment modelers, air and water quality managers, and other stakeholders to produce information necessary to form sound policy in relation to extreme events and their impact on air and water quality under a changing climate.  At this upcoming forum, researchers from across the country will present their research plans and early results.

To attend this event in-person, please email Whitney Beck ( no later than Friday, February 15, 2013 and provide name, email address, and affiliation of each person planning to attend.  For those unable to attend in person, the presentations will be broadcast via webinar. Register for the webinar by visiting:


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