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Green energy gets a boost at GSU
College gets $250,000 for bio-fuels research
Chicken fat is one of the many bio fuels being researched in Georgia Southern University's renewable energy lab at the Allen E. Paulson College of Science and Technology. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

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      Georgia Southern researchers striving to better understand and promote the use of alternative fuels recently were awarded a $250,000 grant to advance their "green" revolution.
      The university announced this week that it was awarded the United States Department of Energy Grant, allowing researchers to study the emissions of bio-fuels intended to replace fossil fuels.
      "This grant is going to allow us to explore the different type of bio-fuels we have available to us, and what the emissions look like coming out of the vehicle," said Bret Danilowicz, dean of the Allen E. Paulson College of Science and Technology. "What we don't want to do, is start using ‘green-fuels' that we know we can grow in Georgia, only to have them creating emission problems that are worse than those associated with oil."
      The $250,000 endowment will be used to purchase state-of-the-art equipment for the university's Renewable Energy Lab inside the College of Science and Technology building.
      When the new machinery arrives, the research lab - already filled with computers and specially modified combustion engines designed to run on alternative fuels - will join an exclusive list of testing facilities in the United States.
      "With this grant, we will be able to buy the most advanced gas analyzer in the world," said Professor Valentin Soloiu, Ph.D., the Allen E. Paulson Endowed Chair of Renewable Energy. "We will be one of only five universities in the United States to have one. Georgia will become a forerunner for this kind of research, and we are very proud we can offer this opportunity to our students."
      According to Danilowicz, just 20 research facilities in the country have access to such equipment.
      "This will take our research and results to a higher level of accuracy, providing valuable insight about the use of bio-fuels in both large and small engines," said Soloiu.
      The high-tech research being conducted within the walls of GSU's Renewable Energy Lab include emission testing of engines that run on poultry fat, alcohol, aerospace fuel and peanuts, according to Soloiu.
      The work, he hopes, can one day be used to power fleets of vehicles - busses, trucks, etc. - with bio-diesel instead of traditional gasoline.
      "What I hope, for our region, is that this ultimately creates jobs for people to work in the bio-fuels industry," said Danilowicz. "It is going to be important for us, as a nation, to realize what fuels we can use effectively - which are still good for the environment - and start weaning us off of a dependence on oil."
      The rare opportunity to work in a still fledgling field can serve as a launching point for current and future Georgia Southern students, said Soloiu.
      "Everything we do here gives our students a great chance to work in the industry, and to bring value to the economy of Georgia," he said. "Our students will have a great chance at landing a dream job. For them, this is an investment in the future."
      In addition to the gas analyzer, Soloiu has mapped out two future projects to further the lab's research.
      The professor plans to introduce a gas turbine into the lab, where students will modify it to be "green" and measure the environmental impact of emissions for the aerospace industry, as well as a car-chassis dynamometer to measure emissions with a complete, rolling automobile.
      It is work in which he, and his students, are eager to partake.
      "We do hands-on research here," said Soloiu. "I tell my students: we do not push buttons here, we build the buttons; then investigate the buttons; and then we put it to work."

Jeff Harrison can be reached at (912) 489-9454

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