New Facility Dedicated to Researching Alternative Fuel Technologies

Photo from CRAFT dedication

A new research facility at Eastern Kentucky University “will help Kentucky lead the way in the development of new, alternative forms of energy,” Sixth District Congressman Ben Chandler said at dedication ceremonies for the Center for Renewable and Alternative Fuel Technologies (CRAFT).

The event, on Oct. 28, celebrated a “state-of-the-art” research facility that boasts two large laboratories for biomass analysis and algae research, as well as a smaller lab for algae incubation and microbiology research. Located adjacent to the Carter Building, home of EKU’s Department of Agriculture, the building also houses administrative officers and office space for researchers.

Established in December 2008, CRAFT has grown from a concept into a viable research center dedicated to fostering interdisciplinary research to develop a regional biofuels industry. Two federal grants totaling $6 million from the Defense Logistics Agency are helping the Center research, developing and demonstrate technologies to break down biomass materials such as switchgrass into sugars useable by microorganisms that produce oil for biodiesel and JP8 jet fuel.

“Developing renewable energy resources is critical to our nation’s future, not only from an environmental standpoint, but also from an economic one,” Chandler said. “I am thrilled to have been able to assist in getting this state-of-the-art research facility off the ground. It will truly represent a new way forward in renewable and sustainable energy, and it holds so much promise for EKU and the people of Kentucky.”

CRAFT incorporates the research of 10 research faculty, three full-time research assistants, four graduate assistants and as many as 12 undergraduate students from fields such as agriculture, biology, chemistry and economics. Additional students have been engaged through the incorporation of bio-energy concepts in course content.

“The building and the lab equipment are only as good as the faculty and researchers,” Center Director Dr. Bruce Pratt said. “Let me reassure you we have created a research team with the capabilities, creativity and vision to move the program forward.”

Calling the dedication “a signature event in the history of Eastern Kentucky University,” State Rep. Harry Moberly, executive vice president for administration at EKU, said the building is “a tangible symbol of our devotion to the development of energy alternatives. We’re on the frontier of an effort to make ourselves energy independent.”

The EKU initiative includes numerous partnerships with private industries, government agencies, local governments and other universities. Those partners include General Atomics, City of Winchester, Clark County, Madison County, Governor’s Office of Ag Policy, Kentucky Cabinet for Energy and Environment, Appalachian Regional Commission, University of Kentucky, Kentucky State University and Green Earth Biofuels of Irvine. Additional discussions have been held with LexTran (as an end user of the biodiesel), East Kentucky Power and Purdue University.

“This public-private partnership is an excellent thing for Kentucky,” said 99th District State Rep. Rocky Adkins, House majority floor leader. “This is a special day, not only for EKU but also the Commonwealth.”

 For more information about CRAFT, visit www.craft.eku.edu or call 859-622-7316.

Published on October 29, 2010