NSF Center for Innovative and Strategic Transformation of Alkane Resources
Facilitating the revitalization of the U.S. petrochemical and fuels industries:
Basic research aimed at sustainable development of America’s light hydrocarbon resources
To create a transformative engineered system to convert light hydrocarbons from shale resources to chemicals and transportation fuels in smaller, modular, local, and highly networked processing plants.
The last 10 years have witnessed an unprecedented revolution in the domestic supply of shale hydrocarbon reserves with the potential to lower the cost of our nation’s electricity, power, chemicals, and fuels for the next 100 years. If new technologies can be developed, energy experts project the U.S. will transition from a net importer to net exporter of energy resources by 2030. In addition, substitution of natural gas for coal for electrical power generation has, and will continue, to be a major contributor to the reduction in U.S. greenhouse gas until economic, renewable energy future can be developed. CISTAR researchers and educators will help accelerate the transition by:
- producing new, broadly disseminated and impactful science for energy and fuels technology from shale gas hydrocarbons;
- generating intellectual property to support commercialization of new technologies;
- demonstrating a combined experimental-computational approach to materials discovery that can be applied beyond hydrocarbon research;
- providing leading-edge analysis of important environmental issues associated with shale gas upgrading;
- developing a diversified, well-trained workforce of innovative students with technical and professional skills; and
- informing the public about safe and environmentally responsible ways to use U.S. hydrocarbon resources.
New scientific and engineering discoveries will produce novel catalysts and separation systems with transformative new performance properties.
The CISTAR team will develop innovative process designs for economic production of liquid chemicals and transportation fuels from shale gas hydrocarbons. Researchers also will explore novel approaches for converting methane to chemical intermediates, which can then be used as a feedstock for conversion to liquid fuels.
New materials and fundamental understanding will be transferred from initial, proof of concept lab-scale experiments to full-size pilot scale operations with economic evaluations using systems-level lifecycle and environmental impact analysis to guide research and scale these innovative processes to field demonstrations with industrial partners.
CISTAR's Workforce Development goal is to create a technically excellent and inclusive community of hydrocarbon systems researchers, learners, and teachers through competency-based education, best-practice mentoring, and growth in key professional skills.
CISTAR aims to create a research-based, scalable, and sustainable portfolio of best-practice initiatives to attract and develop high-potential, diverse students to CISTAR and prepare them to be innovative leaders in a global energy economy. Undergraduate and graduate students will be CISTAR Fellows mentored to develop an Individual Development Plan (IDP) to identify career interests, strengths, and areas of challenges. Through research, coursework, certificates, workshops, and participation in special activities across all partners, the CISTAR Fellows will make progress in becoming valuable contributors to the hydrocarbon economy.
CISTAR is committed to broadening participation in engineering and will actively promote the participation of women and underrepresented minorities in STEM through high-quality pre-college engineering experiences for middle and high school students and teachers. CISTAR pre-college engineering experiences will be aligned with the NGSS engineering standards and informed by current research on pre-college engineering education. Activities will include Research Experiences for Teachers, a Young Scholar Summer Research program for students, and zipTrips virtual field trips.
The University Education and Pre-College Education activities will be continuously improved through evaluation by Western Michigan University's SAMPI evaluators.
To be successful, a global community of engineers needs to encourage diversity and value cultural differences.
The diversity challenges faced by CISTAR are not unique, but through a strong industry-academia partnership, our dedicated mentors and leaders will forge academic and interpersonal connections with diverse students and junior faculty that will lead to better professional outcomes for everyone involved in CISTAR.
Further, by building diverse mentoring CISTAR networks, we will counter the negative impact of implicit and explicit bias that can isolate and undermine diverse students and junior faculty. When coupled with recruiting efforts and campus resources (e.g., Purdue’s Pipeline Center; Notre Dame’s Institute for Latino Studies), we should readily reach our goal of creating a truly diverse and global community of CISTAR engineers.
CISTAR's innovation ecosystem consist of continuous interaction among faculty, student researchers, companies, and non-industrial stakeholders such as government agencies, regulators, NGOs, and consumers to accelerate the commercialization of new Engineering Research Center technologies and workforce development. The ecosystem will also interact with government regulators and NGOs in addressing non-trivial barriers to safety and environmental safeguards.