May 29, 2008

Joe Serwach, (734) 647-1844,
Russ White, (517) 432-0923,
Francine Wunder, (313) 577-5699,


MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. — The University Research Corridor, an alliance of Michigan’s three research universities, Thursday announced its first seed fund grants to provide startup support for two “revolutionary but feasible” energy projects.

University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman, Michigan State University President Lou Anna Simon and incoming Wayne State University President Jay Noren announced the awards at the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Mackinac Policy Conference.

The seed investments will help launch two collaborations for efficient development of cheaper forms of electricity and fuel, one involving all three universities and the other involving MSU and U-M. Out of 13 proposals, URC provosts selected:

Thermoelectric materials for power generation

Chemistry, chemical engineering and physics experts representing each of the universities are developing far more efficient low-cost thermoelectric materials. The technology could be used for power generation and environmentally friendly heating and cooling systems.

Proposal: “In this project, we seek to develop bulk thermoelectric materials containing nanostructure with enhanced thermoelectric properties, since such systems offer the promise of low cost, ease of manufacturability, and wide application... Our approach is revolutionary in concept but its successful implementation will provide a direct route to a feasible methodology for improving the energy efficiency of industrial processes.”

The team was awarded $523,282 covering a three-year period. Collaborators include:

Donald Morelli, MSU professor of chemical engineering and materials science:

Stephanie Brock, Wayne State associate professor of chemistry:

Jeffrey Sakamoto, MSU assistant professor of chemical engineering & materials:

Ctirad Uher, U-M physics professor:

Improved ethanol from switchgrass, corn stovers

An MSU/U-M project with Lansing-based Technova Corp. to develop nano-biocarriers to rapidly and efficiently produce low-cost ethanol from switchgrass or corn stover (the leaves and stalks that make up about half of a corn crop). Production facilities would require a much smaller footprint.

Proposal: “In this work, the novel nano-biocarriers will be designed and tested to enhance the overall efficiency of the bioethanol production process. This effort will feature low cost and small footprint potential...”

The team was awarded $283,231 over a two year period. Collaborators include:

Ilsoon Lee, MSU assistant professor of chemical engineering and materials science:

Jinsang Kim, U-M assistant professor of materials science and engineering and chemical engineering:

Wei Liao, MSU assistant professor of biosystems and agricultural engineering:

Lawrence Drzal, director of MSU's Composite Materials and Structures Center:

The team is working with Lansing-based Technova Corp.:

For more on the University Research Corridor, visit: