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Information about energy research areas was requested from a number of researchers at SIU recently to provide a snapshot of the variety of energy reserach activities on campus. It was summarized as part of the ACERC white paper entitled "Southern Illinois' Energy Future and the Role of SIU" and is provided below.  Read more about SIU faculty, research publications, and grants.


Dr. Tomasz Wiltowski: The potential liabilities of geologic sequestration have caused a shift in the focus of research from Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) to Carbon Capture and Utilization (CCU) technologies. ACERC proposes to build on concepts related to the chemical sequestration, or rather, utilization, of carbon dioxide as an alternative to geologic sequestration. The aim is to generate seed data from these concepts in order to provide merit for the future funding of larger awards. Specific topics to be investigated range from theoretical modeling to lab scale studies of biological, chemical, and electrochemical conversion of carbon dioxide to products such as hydrocarbons, alcohols, etc.

Feature: Chemical Utilization of Coal

Dr. Ken B Anderson, SIU professor of Geology, has invented a technology that can solubilize coal and biomass using only water and air, while producing only miniscule amounts of carbon dioxide or other pollutants.  The technology, called Oxidative Hydrothermal Dissolution, is patented by SIU and licensed to startup company Thermaquatica. They are working with partners to develop the technology that will enable fuels and valuable chemicals from coal and biomass.

Dr. Yanna Liang: Biological coal conversion (BCC) has attracted extensive attention during recent years. Production of methane through BCC has been a commercial reality in several parts of the world. In the United States, the two most prolific coal-bed methane (CBM) producing basins are the Powder River and San Juan, contributing 80% of the total CBM production in the US. In states east of the Mississippi river, where > 95% of coal is bituminous, CBM has not been as successful. As of now, little work has been done on methane production from bituminous coal. We have proven that it is feasible to convert bituminous coal to methane through BCC. The highest methane yield is 120 ft3/ton or 5.6 ft3/ton/day under batch conditions. Currently, equipped with the knowledge of the microbial community, the proteins and pathways involved in BCC to methane, we are optimizing methane production rate and preparing this technique to be used both in situ and ex situ for obtaining methane from coal.

Feature: Miner Health and Safety

Dr. Y P Chugh, SIU professor of Engineering, is a long-time fixture of the southern Illinois coal industry, and an expert on miner health and safety.  He and his group operate one of two longwall dust control testing facilities in the nation at the Coal Development Park in Carterville.  Dr. Chugh is also the inventor of system for dust control in mines that was patented by SIU, has been licensed to a startup company and is in use by industry.  

Dr. Sam Spearing: For the last 7 years, we have had $1.4 million of federally, state and industry funded research mainly associated with mine design and safety. Currently we are working on three funded projects: one on the behavior of coal pillars under weak foundations (ie Illinois Basin conditions) with and without backfill; another on stress corrosion cracking associated with mine rockbolts and a final on a new method to accurately determine the load in installed rockbolts (ie axial, shear and bending components).


Dr. Ira Altman: Dr. Altman is specialized in the organization and development of emerging rural industries such as renewable energy from agriculture and alternative energy generally. Dr. Altman’s coal related research investigates various economic perspectives of coal to power gasification and sequestration was well as coal-biomass co-firing. In the past he has contributed to projects that analyzed the regional economic impacts, financial feasibility and organizational development of cellulosic ethanol, corn ethanol, biopower facilities such as anaerobic digesters, landfill methane and direct combustion and co-combustion as well as cleaner coal facilities such as gasification and CO2 sequestration systems. Dr. Altman has published 24 peer review articles, received funding for 10 grants and published one book on various aspects of the organizational economics, financial feasibility, regional economic impacts, and rural development of emerging rural industries such as cleaner coal in Illinois and Missouri.

Dr. David Lightfoot: The aim of this line of study is to identify the regulatory networks that increase grain yield and cellulose d lignin depositions in response to nitrogen supply in a biofuel crop plants and to develop new uses for the cellulose and lignin by products. The unique tools to be used are plants where normal metabolism has been perturbed by expression of the bacterial glutamate dehydrogenase (EC encoding gene, gdhA. The aim is to determine which of the metabolic modifications are responsible for increased yield, increased cellulose fiber deposition and increased value as a feedstock. Plant metabolism will be altered in ways that improve both biofuel characteristics and alternate uses of plants by products.


Dr. James Mathias: Recent work involves projects at two local industries and has focused on decreasing energy use through improved insulation, Variable Frequency Drives (VFDs) to operate motors at lower speeds, improved lighting, and utilization of waste heat to be used to dry organic materials. The recommendations of some of these projects have been implemented at these industries and additional work is currently ongoing to make further improvements. Dr. Mathias is interested in working with members in the region in projects involving coal and energy conservation.   

Feature: Enki Technology, a company based on technology developed by SIU faculty, was chosen for the Cleantech Group’s “Global Cleantech 100” in 2014.  Enki offers “tunable, multi-functional coatings for solar and electronics applications.”

Dr. Kyle Plunkett: Although cyclopenta-fused polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (CP-PAHs) have been synthesized for many decades to provide compounds useful to elucidate PAH aromaticity or to create geodesic structures, very few CP-PAHs have been utilized as active components in electronic devices. Our group is interested in developing new synthetic methods to access the scalable synthesis of novel CP-PAHs that possess unique photochemical and electrochemical properties. The defining feature of these materials is their ability to accept electrons owing to the formation of cyclopentadienyl anion-like substructures upon reduction. We continue to explore these materials, as well as other CP-PAH systems, as active components in organic electronic devices including organic photovoltaics and organic field effect transistors.  This work is currently being supported by the National Science Foundation.

Grid/Storage/Distributed Energy

Dr. Ian Suni: My research group has published extensively on electrochemical thin film coating methods, including electrodeposition, electroless deposition, and galvanic deposition.  Our coating research targets a wide variety of applications, including both traditional and alternative energy.  An example is our recent report of stoichiometric electrodeposition of CuGaSe2, one component of the alloy CuxIn1-xSe2 (CIGS), an important photovoltaic material. Another current project involves electrodeposition of metals and metal oxides for use as supercapacitor materials for energy storage on the electric power grid, for example.  We are also studying another coating system, Ti and Zr diffusion coatings, for potential application to enhanced corrosion resistance of the furnace and boiler tubes during oxyfuel coal combustion.  To date we have demonstrated Ti and Zr diffusion coatings 10-30 µm thick by using pack cementation at temperatures of 1000-1200°C.

Feature: Article in the Saluki Times, 10/24/13: Kemal Akkaya, associate professor of computer science at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, received a $298,112 National Science Foundation grant to explore ways to protect consumer privacy as the more resilient, but inherently nosy, Smart Grid gradually replaces our outmoded national power grid. Akkaya said an economical and efficient solution to protecting consumer privacy is to use existing communications infrastructure rather than relying on the Smart Grid for both data collection and communication. Akkaya will test his theory by building a model wireless mesh network at SIU.  He will use the model to investigate various privacy protection techniques that limit accessible data. He plans to keep his research open to the public as he is conducting it to maximize the immediate benefit to utility companies, researchers and educators involved in Smart Grid research.

Dr. Mohammed Sayeh: Smart grid for power distributions is a very powerful technique that can lower the energy consumptions by many orders of magnitude.  The core idea is to distribute the power where is needed the most.  So in doing that we need intelligent sensors and dispatchers.  The artificial neural network technology (ANNT) has been proven to be very effective in pattern classification and recognition where is the main engine of the intelligent systems.  We are very much interested in any research that utilizes ANNT for any decision making processes.


Periodic unofficial updates of 'energy and environmental' research grants awarded to SIU faculty are conducted.  

For more in-depth information about SIU research and projects, please visit:

Office of the Vice Chancellor of Research

Office of Sponsored Projects Administration