Popular Science Ranks Colorado State University Engines and Energy Conversion Laboratory Sixth Among National University Labs

Popular Science magazine has listed the Engines and Energy Conversion Laboratory sixth among all university laboratories in the nation in the September college issue.

The EECL, under the direction of Professor Bryan Willson, made the list of top 15 “amazing, hands-on programs that are almost too much fun for credit.” The lab was listed as a place to learn to be a mechanical or chemical engineer and learn to “make a 2,300 hp engine stronger and cleaner.”

“Under Dr. Willson and other faculty members, students at the lab are learning to innovate and apply classroom instruction in a hands-on way that prepares them for the emerging ‘green’ workforce in Colorado and around the globe,” said Colorado State Provost Rick Miranda. “This is a well-deserved honor.”

This latest recognition is part of a long and growing list for one of the nation’s premier energy laboratories. The lab is acknowledged as a world leader in developing large-scale solutions to global energy problems, with particular emphasis on engine technology, smart electric grids, advanced biofuels and energy technology for the developing world.

“The Engines and Energy Conversion Laboratory is a shining example of how our faculty are incorporating cutting-edge research into academic excellence at Colorado State,” said Bill Farland, vice president for Research. “The lab is also a place where interdisciplinary research – from chemistry to liberal arts – is not only encouraged but embraced.”

The laboratory, part of the College of Engineering’s mechanical engineering department, is world renowned for developing sustainable solutions to some of the world’s largest environmental problems. As many as 60 students – half of them undergraduates – work directly on projects that improve the efficiency of large engines, create and test renewable energy applications on the electric grid and bring cleaner burning products – such as efficient, cleaner two-stroke engines and cookstoves – to the developing world.

Much of the laboratory’s funding comes from industry partners such as Woodward Governor Co., Caterpillar Inc. and John Deere, but the EECL has developed a history of helping to launch new companies such as Envirofit International and Solix Biofuels.

Envirofit International, founded by two mechanical engineering students and two professors, is a non-profit technology leader that uses sustainable, scalable business models to solve global health and environmental problems. Envirofit developed and commercialized a retrofit kit that reduces emissions from two-stroke engines by as much as 80 percent. Envirofit and the EECL are currently focused on designing and disseminating clean cookstoves in the developing world.

Solix Biofuels is developing a technology production platform for the large-scale commercialization of microalgae-based fuels and co-products. The company has expanded into a multi-acre test facility on the Southern Ute Indian Reservation in Durango.

Willson’s reputation for taking clean and renewable energy solutions into commercialization contributed to bringing the International Development and Design Summit to campus in July. About 50 hand-picked innovators from 20 countries converged to turn their prototypes into products and ventures for improving health, safety and well-being.

Other key faculty members in the EECL are Anthony Marchese and Dan Olsen.

Other recent accolades for the laboratory:

• Willson was honored in 2009 on the inaugural Scientific American 10 honor roll for innovations that benefit humanity along with President Barack Obama, Microsoft mogul Bill Gates and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Village Earth also honored him with the Maurice L. Albertson Medal in Sustainable Development, named after the former CSU civil engineering professor whose research helped create the Peace Corps.

• Cookstove design and development teams at Envirofit International and the Engines and Energy Conversion Lab at CSU have won a Bronze IDEA for Envirofit’s clean cookstove in the Ecodesign category in the 2009 International Design Excellence Awards.

• Time magazine in 2009 honored Envirofit International founders, Tim Bauer and Nathan Lorenz, CSU College of Engineering alumni, as "Heroes of the Environment" for their role in developing what Time calls "stoves that save lives."

• Willson and the EECL received the 2008 Royal Award for Sustainable Technology Transfer, protected by Crown Prince Felipe of Spain and Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark, for innovations in three different areas: their work in technology for development (clean cookstoves and the two-stroke engine conversion kit), production of next generation biofuels from algae, and innovative models of technology transfer.

• Bauer, an Envirofit co-founder, was named one of 10 winners of the prestigious 2008 Rolex Awards for Enterprise for Envirofit’s breakthrough work on the two-stroke retrofit kit. Bauer was one of five Rolex Laureates who was presented $100,000 in project support. He was chosen from nearly 1,500 applicants from 127 countries.

For more information about the Engines and Energy Conversion Laboratory, go to http://www.eecl.colostate.edu/.