On June 23, four Future Energy Systems researchers appeared on screens across the world to discuss how their work might help save the planet. It was the first day of “Fuel Science: From Production to Propulsion,” the 8th International Conference of the Fuel Science Center (FSC) at RWTH Aachen University in Germany, and the University of Alberta’s Future Energy Systems program was presenting a special panel, including a keynote address from Deputy Director Amit Kumar.
While the FSC conference has traditionally taken place in Aachen, the COVID-19 pandemic created a need for new innovations this year. Speakers presented from countries far and wide, united not by location but by the FSC vision of addressing the challenges and opportunities of biofuels and synthetic fuels from renewable energy and alternative carbon sources. To preserve our planet and way of life, members of the public, government, and research communities alike are exploring the option of replacing traditional fossil fuels with greener alternatives. Conferences like this will be a key component of ensuring that the necessary technological advances are shared and take root.
Both Aachen University and the University of Alberta are leaders in the areas of technology and innovation in their respective countries, and have achieved world-wide recognition for the quality and relevance of their research, teaching and service. As such, it's fitting that cooperation between the two institutions has intensified in recent years, with such initiatives as joint research projects, student exchanges, staff and faculty mobility, collaboration for jointly planned grants and seed funding programs, and on-going discussions for a joint graduate degree. Collaboration will strengthen and extend the worldwide reach of both institutions in a number of topics, one of the most significant of which is the theme of energy research. Both universities are well-positioned to lead in the field.
RWTH Aachen holds the status of a University of Excellence in the “Excellence Initiative” of the German government, and the The Fuel Science Center is one of the clusters of excellence at RWTH. Likewise, the University of Alberta is a top-five university in Canada renowned for its science and engineering research, having more Industrial Research Chairs than any other university in Canada, and holding particular prominence in energy research, highlighted by the institution’s Energy Systems Signature Area.
During the special Future Energy Systems session, Principal Investigators Amit Kumar opened with an introduction about Future Energy Systems, outlining its vision, the program themes, and outlining the many diverse biomass projects within the program. His own research was also featured, including technoeconomic analysis of agricultural residue transport and exploring the potentials of hydrogen conversions from biomass.
Following this keynote, Bob Koch, David Bressler, and Dominic Sauvageau each outlined their specific research in the area of biofuels. From Koch, a description of the importance of integrated research to co-optimize alternative fuels and the engines that burn them, and the integrated control systems to operate them. Bressler discussed improved techniques to turn agricultural residues into renewable diesel and naphtha fuels, its application through Forge Hydrocarbons, and the move to include bio-jet fuels. Bioconversion of waste methane into useful biofuels and jet fuel through use of microbial assessment, adaptation, optimization, and genetic engineering strategies was introduced by Sauvageau, also highlighting the value of integrated research projects for the best outcomes.
Over the three days of the conference, many more researchers demonstrated their commitment to excellence and innovation. Such participation vividly demonstrates that when universities are driven by joint goals and complementary expertise, valuable research relationships can flourish.
Fueled by a shared vision of building a highly distinguished international research environment, the value of these relationships remains immutable, sustained, and growing, even during the time of the global COVID pandemic. We thank all who organized, presented, and participated, and look forward to next year’s conference.