University of Iowa engineers receive $1 million to turn wastepaper into plastic

Folded paper
Via Flickr

Elizabeth Miglin | March 25, 2021

Earlier this month, University of Iowa engineers Xuan Song, Chao Wang, and H.S. Udaykumar, in partnership with Impossible Objects, Inc., received nearly $1 million from the REMADE Institute for their project to improve the speed and reduce the labor costs of remanufacturing recycled wastepaper. 

The project aims to use artificial intelligence (AI) and smart additive manufacturing (AM) technology to turn recycled paper and cardboard into high-value fiber reinforced plastic (FRP) composites. Aerospace, automotive, marine and construction industries use FRPs in most advanced engineering structures. Increasingly, FRPs have replaced heavier and more expensive infrastructure materials and systems, such as steel and concrete. 

The project is one of only 24 chosen in the latest round of funding by the REMADE Institute, a public-private partnership created by the United States Department of Energy. The institute provided a total of $43 million in research funding to support the development of new waste technologies in order to encourage a transition towards a circular economy.

Manufacturing currently makes up 22% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, according to the EPA. Song, Wang and Udaykumar hope to address this and that their research will encourage widespread adoption of recycling wastepaper into FRP plastic. 

Report: Iowa could get 40 percent of power from wind by 2020

Data from the American Wind Energy Association's recent report: "A Wind Vision for New Growth in Iowa." (American Wind Energy Association)
Data from the American Wind Energy Association’s recent report: “A Wind Vision for New Growth in Iowa.” (American Wind Energy Association)

Nick Fetty | July 17, 2015

Iowa leads the nation generating 28 percent of its electricity from wind energy and a new study shows that number could increase to 40 percent by 2020.

During a presentation at Des Moines Area Community College on Thursday, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) released a report entitled “A Wind Vision for New Growth in Iowa.” The report used data from the U.S. Department of Energy to analyze the economic and environmental impacts of wind energy in Iowa.

Over the next five years the report predicts that wind energy in Iowa will generate over $49 million in annual property tax revenue, more than $19 million dollars each year in payments to farmers and other rural Iowa landowners, an annual savings of 3.7 billion gallons of fresh water, and more than 6 million metric tons of annual carbon emissions. The report also predicts that by 2050 wind energy could save Iowans more than $3.5 billion on utility bills.

The report outlined several successful case studies of wind energy in Iowa including MidAmerican Energy’s $6.7 billion investment in wind energy over the past decade, the Rippey wind farm and the farmer-owned Junction Hilltop wind farm in Greene County, and the Siemens’ wind turbine blade manufacturing plant which with more than 600 workers is the biggest employer in Lee County.

“Iowa is already a leader in wind energy, but this report shows the Hawkeye state has just scratched the surface of wind power’s benefits to the state,” AWEA CEO Tom Kiernan said in a press release.

A report released by the AWEA in April found that Iowa added more than 2,000 jobs to the wind energy sector between 2013 and 2014. Iowa’s wind energy sector currently employs more than 7,000 and wind turbine manufacturing makes up the majority of Iowa’s manufacturing industry with 13 factories and assembly plants around the state.

On the Radio: New energy efficiency standards for refrigerators

A woman grabs groceries from her refrigerator. (Illustration: Michelle Tribe / Creative Commons)
A woman grabs groceries from her refrigerator. (Illustration: Michelle Tribe / Creative Commons)

November 17, 2014

This week’s On the Radio segment looks at new standards for refrigerators which could reduce energy consumption by up to 25 percent. Listen to the audio below, or continue reading for the transcript.

Transcript: Refrigerator standards

New energy efficiency standards that went into place for refrigerators in September are expected to save customers on utility bills while also reducing their carbon footprint.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

The Department of Energy estimates that the standards will reduce refrigerator energy consumption by 20 to 25 percent. This is expected to save households up to 200 dollars on electricity bills annually. This is the first update to energy standards for refrigerators since 2001.

Long-term estimates from the Department of Energy show that over the next 30 years the new standards will reduce national energy consumption the equivalent of five percent of total energy used in the U.S. in a single year. It is also estimated to reduce carbon emissions by 344 million tons during the same period.

For more information about the new refrigerator standards and appliance rebates from Iowa utility companies, visit

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Jerry Schnoor.

Iowa State University researchers recieve grant to study taller wind turbines

Nick Fetty | September 19, 2014

Iowa leads the country in in percentage of electricity generated by wind energy (Samir Luther/Flickr)
Iowa leads the country in in percentage of electricity generated by wind energy (Samir Luther/Flickr)

The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded researchers at Iowa State University $1 million to study how high-strength concrete can be used to build taller wind turbines.

Sri Sritharan, the Wilson Engineering Professor in Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering at Iowa State University, is the leader of the College of Engineering’s Wind Energy Initiative and expects this research to “revolutionize wind energy.” These taller towers will allow the turbines blades to reach heights of over 100 meters, where winds are faster and more consistent. This will be particularly beneficial in areas where higher winds are necessary to effectively harvest the energy.

This project will build upon earlier work by Sritharan and fellow researches. The team developed a strongly-reinforced base they called Hexcrete and found that it was able to handle the heavy loads and extreme conditions. The project is also supported by a $83,500 grant from the Iowa Energy Center and $22,500 from Lafarge North America Inc. of Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

The Wind Energy Initiative at Iowa State has eight projects that are being researched or have recently been completed including a project with the University of Colorado examining turbine-crop and turbine-turbine interactions.

The Department of Energy has also awarded another $1 million grant to Boston-based Keystone Towers which which hopes to develop an on-site “spiral welding system” to develop wind turbine towers that are expected to be 40% lighter.

Construction begins on Iowa’s second-largest hydroelectric plant

Nick Fetty | August 15, 2014

An artist rendering of the $380 million  Red Rock Hydroelectric Project (Missouri River Energy Services)
Artist rendering of the $380 million Red Rock Hydroelectric Project (via Missouri River Energy Services)

Construction is underway on a $280 million hydroelectric project near Pella that will be the second-largest hydroelectric plant in the state once completed.

The $380 million Red Rock Hydroelectric Project will retrofit the current Red Rock Dam and is expected to produce enough energy to power up to 18,000 homes across four states. The project is a collaboration between Missouri River Energy Services and the city of Pella.

Iowa’s largest hydroelectric facility is the Keokuk Power Plant on the Mississippi River. At the time of its construction in 1913, it was largest hydropower project in the world.

A 2012 study by the Department of Energy found that Iowa ranked 10th in the nation for hydropower potential. Data from the Energy Information Administration shows that in Iowa hydroelectric power generated a mere 67 GWh during April 2014. This compared to 1,854 GWh from coal and 1,768 GWh from other renewables such as wind and solar.

Officials expect construction on the Red Rock project to be completed by 2018.