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University of Central Missouri
Administration 302
Warrensburg, MO 64093
Phone: 660-543-4640
Fax: 660-543-4943


UCM Faculty, Students Expand Research on Alternative Fuels

Contact: Mike Greife
WARRENSBURG, MO (July 24, 2009) – Recognizing the need for the development of alternative energy from sustainable sources,UCM’s Center for Alternative Fuels and Environmental Systems (CAFES) brings consulting expertise, product development and opportunities for student research together in one location.

Bioreactor Prototype Developed

Located at a teaching and research site located just east of the Max B. Swisher Skyhaven Airport, the CAFES has emerged from the Department of Biochemistry, Chemistry and Physics to facilitate projects concerning alternative energy production, environmental issues and expert consultation. Recently, the center has developed a new prototype syn-gas bioreactor, which will convert gases derived from organic and synthetic sources into viable fuels through the application of heat, pressure and biologics. The bioreactor also will support CAFES switch grass and renewable electrification projects.

Outgrowth of Research Project

Scott McKay, UCM professor of chemistry, is director of the center. The CAFES is the outgrowth of grant-funded research McKay, UCM and H. Buhr Hitec, LLC for the Leonard Wood Institute contracted by the U.S. Army Research Laboratory. The project investigated renewable energy sources for the U.S. Army at forward operating bases. As a result of that work, McKay developed the CAFES at UCM, continuing a relationship with Hitec, LLC of Jefferson City and Bonnets Mill, where the prototype of the syn-gas bioreactor was fabricated and delivered to campus this summer.

Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies and Development a Partner

Also important to the future success of the CAFES is the relationship forged with UCM’s Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies and Development. The IESD will assist in the development of relationships with commercial clients for the CAFES and provide assistance with patent and grant applications.

“CAFES is building a consulting presence with several central Missouri businesses,” McKay said. “We want to support economic development opportunities with research whenever we can, and we’re available to work with academic, government, and industry partners.”

Students Develop Biomass Project

Important to the future goals of the CAFES is the Central Missouri Biomass Project, which will develop the processes for converting switch grass into a viable energy form. UCM undergraduate students currently are working on the project.

“Switch grass is a readily available form of biomass that can be produced in the area,” McKay, noting that UCM owns several hundred acres of viable land. “A long-term goal of this work is to develop processes and systems for the production of energy that could be used by the campus, making it self-sustaining.”

Sustaining a Commitment

“The potential of the Center for Alternative Fuels and Energy Systems at UCM is unlimited,” said UCM President Aaron Podolefsky, who reinforced UCM’s commitment to the sustainability of natural resources as a charter signatory of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment in 2007. “Our best and brightest scholars now have a strong focus for their efforts aimed at creating renewable sources of energy, and the center provides opportunities for creativity to grow, benefitting our campus, our community and society.”

The CAFES is the latest example of UCM’s commitment to sustainability. This spring UCM embarked upon a $36 million energy savings initiative that will provide upgrades to heating and cooling, lighting, and windows, resulting in a significant energy savings and reduction in the university’s carbon footprint.