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Wisconsin Institute for Sustainable Technology

Annual Report

October 2012

Wisconsin Institute for Sustainable Technology

Annual Report: October 2012

Wisconsin Institute for Sustainable Technology

Annual Report

October 2012



Annual Report: October 2012

Contents A note from the director  6 Patent marks milestone  7 Focal Point 8 Sustainable Alternative Energy for the Department of Defense 


WIST Education 


WIST Research 


WIST Laboratory Services 


WIST Advisory Board brings outside perspective 




Conferences and other special events 


Earth Day


WIST Staff 



Wisconsin Institute for Sustainable Technology

A note from the director

Paul Fowler Executive Director


Welcome to WIST’s annual report. In this second full year of WIST’s operation we have focused on development of industrial feedstock and biobased chemical technology protected in a granted US patent application and under examination in another. This work has led in the past few months to discussions with several possible industry collaborators both in the US and overseas. In the laboratory, our efforts have been strengthened by the recruitment of a fermentation specialist, Dr. Shona Duncan, and by close working with bio-process engineering expert, Prof Amit Arora, in the Department of Paper Science and Engineering. Industrial sugar and biobased isoprene production have reached an exciting point in WIST’s development despite the challenging funding outlook for some biobased technologies. WIST has continued to build a profile with the research and business communities as demonstrated by presentations in the past year at the Governor’s Northern Wisconsin Economic Development Summit in Minocqua, the Tire Technology Conference in Cologne, Germany, and on the web at the Sustainable Biomaterials Collaborative's March meeting and the Sustainable Packaging Coalition’s June Forum. On campus, WIST hosted Rethinking Recycling to mark Earth Day in collaboration with UWSP’s Sustainability Coordinator and the local section of the American Chemical Society. The event focused on the fate of the recyclable materials collected on campus.   In research, laboratory services and education, WIST’s portfolio of activities has grown in the past twelve months. Notably, in collaboration with UWSP’s soil and waste resources group, we are set to launch a new compostability testing capability to provide additional services to the paper, biobased plastics and packaging sectors. And our prospectus of education courses has been expanded to include training in pulping and bleaching and leadership skills for advisory board members. This past year also saw our most successful year in delivering industry contracts through our lab services division.   At the end of WIST’s second year, we look forward to a successful third year building on the strong relationships we have fostered to date. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you would like any further information, or visit us on the web at www.uwsp. edu/wist. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy reading the report and we appreciate your feedback: please let me know if you have ideas you would like to see incorporated into WIST’s program.

Annual Report: October 2012

Patent marks milestone For researchers, probably few moments rival the pleasure of proving a concept in the lab, of seeing an idea successfully turned into a working process. But one of those moments is when word comes that the laboratory triumph has been recognized with patent protection. WIST researchers Don Guay and Eric Singsaas learned in July that they’d been issued a patent for a process to make biofuels and other products from abundantly available plant material. It is the first patent issued for WIST research and marks an important milestone for the institute and UWSP. It also could mean economic growth and more jobs for Wisconsin. The invention opens the door for creation of biofuels from cellulosic plant materials, including agricultural residues, such as corn stover, or plants grown specifically for fuel production, such as hardwood and softwood trees. Just as importantly, the process is a key step in making other, high-value bioproducts.

The WIST process separates biomass into constituent components, shown from left: lignin, hemicellulose and cellulose.

Don Guay

“This gives us an economically viable way to use grass, trees, or wood waste to make renewable fuels and chemicals,” said Singsaas, WIST director of research and an associate professor of biology at UWSP. Co-inventor Don Guay was serving as WIST’s director of lab services and UWSP professor of paper science and engineering when the pair conducted the research leading Eric Singsaas to the patent. Guay recently took a new position in R&D with NewPage.

The patent protects a method using a solvent to separate biomass into lignin, which is the substance that gives woody biomass its rigidity, and pure cellulose. The lignin-solvent mixture can then be separated from the water to form a high-energy-density fuel that can be used independently or combined with biodiesel. The pure cellulose can be used conventionally, such as in paper making, or it can be converted to fermentable sugars. The sugars can be used to make biofuels but can also be used to make other renewable chemicals for industry, including isoprene, currently derived largely from petroleum and used in the making of rubber, plastics and pharmaceuticals.


Wisconsin Institute for Sustainable Technology

Annual Report: October 2012

Focal Point Annual conference promotes collaboration and networking Business leaders, economic development professionals and university faculty and administration gathered at UWSP on October 4, 2011, for a half-day research symposium and networking event hosted by WIST. The institute named the event “Focal Point,” and planned it with the intent of making it an annual conference. The inaugural Focal Point celebrated a year of successful collaborations on research and sustainability initiatives – projects that brought together experts from different disciplines within the university, and from private industry and non-government organizations. WIST has supported earlystage applied research with the potential to sustain and create new jobs in manufacturing, energy, water quality and sustainability. The conference highlighted market opportunities and challenges for the state of Wisconsin. The half-day event opened with a breakfast with keynote speaker Ben Brancel, secretary of Wisconsin’s Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. Brancel described efforts underway by his department to help connect the various players in Wisconsin’s bioenergy industry, saying cooperation and collaboration were keys to taking full

Les Werner, with microphone, addresses the 2011 Focal Point audience. Werner described how WIST funding helped establish the Environmental Microbial Analysis Research Laboratory, an example of collaborative efforts.


advantage of the state’s abundant natural resources. Throughout the morning, participants had the opportunity to take in presentations by UWSP faculty and staff on research projects underway in areas ranging from sustainable transportation to groundwater pollution monitoring. The event ended with a luncheon and a presentation by UWSP forestry professor Les Werner on a new laboratory facility on campus aimed at enhancing understanding of ecological processes and ecosystem functioning. The facility, called the Environmental Microbial Analysis and Research Laboratory, also offers fee-based services for molecular analysis, including microbial community profiles and microbial biomass estimates. The theme of the 2012 Focal Point conference, scheduled for October 10 just as this annual report goes to press, is “capitalizing on sustainable technology.” The conference will demonstrate how some of the region’s leading businesses are developing and adopting new technologies that are more sustainable and contribute to their bottom line and competitiveness. Sessions focus on renewable energy and biofuels, innovative use of renewable raw materials, resource efficiency, sustainable construction, and biocatalysis applications.

A conference participant asks a question of a presenter at Focal Point 2011.

UWSP Chancellor Bernie Patterson, left, and DATCP Secretary Ben Brancel take an opportunity for informal discussion at Focal Point 2011.


Wisconsin Institute for Sustainable Technology

Annual Report: October 2012

Sustainable Alternative Energy for the Department of Defense WIST wrapped up its work under a major DOD grant in May, but its biofuels research continues In July, WIST submitted its final technical report to the US Department of Defense on biofuels research funded by the DOD, bringing to a close a major grant initiative in biofuels research. This biofuels project actually predates the formal launch of WIST. The research program was designed as a five-stage, $20 million project that would begin with benchtop research in UWSP labs and culminate in commercial-scale production of biofuels. However, federal budget cuts ended DOD funding after the third stage and a total of $3.9 million granted. Despite the foreshortened funding, researchers achieved significant milestones and laid the foundation for continued work in biofuels development. WIST, in collaboration with American Science and Technology (AST), developed a biomass processing and conversion technology to enable cost-effective conversion of wood and biofuel crops into biofuels, chemicals and materials for the 21st century. The team designed new chemical and biological processes and built a processing plant that integrates them in a lignocellulosic biorefinery capable of converting cellulosic biomass into energy-dense (non-ethanol) fuel that is a dropin replacement for JP-8 jet fuel. During the three-year duration of this project we developed a novel bio-separation capability (see story on patent, p. 7) that separates wood chips and grasses into cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin fractions. We also developed new microbial strains that convert the cellulose and hemicellulose fractions into energy-dense hydrocarbon products. During year three these processes were integrated into a 50kg/day pilot processing facility at AST’s facility in Wausau, Wisc. Oil supply and cost present logistical and security challenges. The Energy Information Agency (EIA) forecasts that U.S. dependence on petroleum imports will increase to 68 percent by 2025. The Department of Defense, the largest U.S. consumer of energy, also relies on foreign supplies of crude oil and the finished transportation fuels (such as military jet fuel) that are derived from it. DOD’s heavy dependence on liquid fuel sources exposes the department to price volatility, draining resources that could be used to recapitalize aging force infrastructure. The National Defense Council Foundation estimated the cost of 10

Key accomplishments under this grant include: • Development of a process to separate biomass into components lignin, hemicellulose and cellulose. WIST researchers were awarded a patent for this invention (see p. 7). Economical biomass separation is a critical first step in production of biofuels. • Development of a process to produce isoprene using bio-fermentation. Isoprene is an energy-dense chemical that can be used to make a replacement for JP-8 jet fuel. Other biofuels, such as ethanol, don’t meet the requirements for jet fuel, either because of insufficient energy density or poor performance at the low temperatures in which jets operate.

securing Persian Gulf sources alone to be $44.4 billion annually. The United States bears many costs associated with the stability of the global oil market and infrastructure, and recent analyses suggest that oil price volatility will present major economic and stability challenges to the DOD starting this decade. At the same time that DOD faces increasing energy demand and support requirements to achieve its broader strategic goals such as establishment of a more mobile and agile force, technological advances in energy efficiency and alternative energy technologies offer DOD a unique opportunity to make progress toward reconciling its strategic goals with its energy requirements through reduced consumption of foreign fuel. However, first and second-generation biofuels, such as ethanol, butanol and biodiesel do not meet the high energy density and wide operating temperature range necessary for military aviation uses. Ethanol lacks the energy density necessary for high-performance engines. Current biodiesel fuels are 25 percent lower in energy density than JP-8 and exhibit unacceptable cold-flow features at the lower extreme of the required JP-8 operating temperature range (minus 50 degrees Fahrenheit). Several breakthroughs in biofuel technologies were required to convert biomass (grasses and trees) into suitable fuels for use with existing military hardware. The major developments were: 1) New biomass separation and processing technologies Glucose is the most important feedstock for ethanol production. Our design incorporates a solvent-based digestion that fractionates biomass into a cellulose pulp, an aqueous hemicellulose solution, and a lignin-containing solvent fraction. The solvent system is

A researcher works in the WIST lab at UWSP on the fermentation process developed as part of the DOD-funded biofuels research.

The pilot-scale digestor built by AST in Wausau is one component of a biorefinery constructed with DOD grant funding. The pilot biorefinery is producing sugars, lignin and isoprene.

• Construction of a pilot-scale biorefinery to test processes. Operating since early 2011, the pilot plant in Wausau is producing sugars, lignin, and isoprene for industry partners.


Wisconsin Institute for Sustainable Technology

Annual Report: October 2012

Sustainable energy for DOD, cont.

isoprene for industry partners. Operation of the pilot plant has allowed the UWSP-AST team to develop further process efficiencies and build an economic model of the process.

produced and re-generated by fermenting the sugars arising from the digestion following saccharification. Thus by using the biomass itself to produce the solvent, our process eliminates a major limitation of prior fractionation processes – the cost and efficient production of solvents. In addition, the isoprene-based solvents we are producing are suitable for liquid transportation fuels and superior to ethanol.

We have proven these concepts at the laboratory bench and pilot scale. Further funding is required to scale up to a demonstration plant. The technologies we developed can be deployed in the existing pulp and paper industry through “bolt-on” biorefineries that use pulp mill waste and unused pulping capacity. Further developments will focus on deploying these technologies in closed pulp mills across the US. This approach will lead to lower cost and rapid deployment of biorefining technologies by using existing infrastructure and supply chain relationships. Adding a biorefinery process onto the existing pulp mill infrastructure in the United States has the potential to produce 7 billion gallons of biofuel per year without impacting the pulp and paper output of this industry.

Results to date have shown that we can isolate hemicellulose, cellulose, and lignin in efficiencies greater than 80 percent for each fraction. By transferring the laboratory-developed technology to the local industry, we are working with new solvents and optimization techniques to raise this efficiency to over 90 percent. After separation from the solvent, the residual lignin is very pure, containing little or no sulfur. As a spillover benefit, this increases its value as a feedstock for production of additional refined chemicals and polymers. We are developing the methanolysis of lignin into coniferyl, guaiacyl, and sinapyl alcohols, their methyl esters, and other compounds used in industrial processes. 2) Biocatalysts and fermentation Because ethanol has lower energy density and specific energy than gasoline, our research focused on converting glucose into energy dense products such as methyl-butenol, ß-pinene and isoprene. Our initial objective aimed to generate the highest yield of glucose possible from cellulose to produce isoprene, to be used to produce JP-8. Our biocatalyst system uses engineered bacteria to produce isoprene from the hemicellulose and cellulose fractions of the biomass. In addition to being used to produce solvents for the fractionation step, isoprene is a valuable industrial precursor used in the production of rubber and elastomers. It can also be converted into high-performance jet fuel that is infrastructure-compatible with the current fuel supply and the primary focus of this project. Addition of two extra genes into these bacteria gives them the capability to produce ß-pinene. We have demonstrated isoprene production from alternative feedstocks, such as hemicellulose sugars and pulp mill sludge. We are working with private entities with a goal of reaching a profitable level of productivity by the end of 2013.

American Science and Technology built this pilotscale fermentor, a component of a pilot biorefinery.

Biofuels under development by WIST could serve as drop-in replacements for jet fuel and meet other military fuel needs.

Technologies developed under WIST’s biofuels research program can be deployed in the pulp and paper industry through “bolt-on” biorefineries that use pulp mill waste and unused pulping capacity.

3) Construction and operation of a pilot-scale biorefinery As part of this UWSP research program, American Science and Technology built a pilot plant for process scale-up. The pilot plant has been operating since the spring of 2011 producing sample quantities of sugars, organosolv lignin, and 12


Wisconsin Institute for Sustainable Technology

Annual Report: October 2012

•  Sustainable Energy: This course will focus on energy from a sustainability perspective using the Natural Step, the 3 Es and systems thinking to frame and discuss the issue.

WIST Education Short courses address a variety of needs WIST offers a host of education short courses, both in paper production and in areas of sustainability education. New course development has been the hallmark of the past year for WIST Education. One year ago, WIST had in place three short courses: Hands-on Papermaking; Introduction to Life Cycle Assessment; and Kraft Recovery. We’ve since added seven courses:

•  Green Chemistry: This course will introduce participants to green chemistry, the development of new materials or new material processes that are safer for humans and the environment. In addition, the course will provide participants with tools to analyze new and existing processes based on green chemistry principles.

•  Hands-on Pulping and Bleaching: This course focuses on typical paper industry pulping and bleaching with a hands-on lab component using UWSP’s laboratory equipment. This is the only handson pulping and bleaching course in the nation. The course focuses on the fundamentals of Kraft pulping and bleaching operations, including chemistry and equipment.

•  Business Modeling: This workshop introduces Business Modeling—an easy, yet powerful, method for identifying, prototyping and evaluating new business opportunities. Workshop participants will learn to apply the “Business Model Map” which captures the essential content of a business plan but requires only a fraction of the effort required to research and write a formal business plan.

•  White Paper Optimization: Understanding the factors that contribute to paper whiteness and brightness can lead to money-saving efficiencies in the paper mill, for example through reduction in the use of optical brighteners. This course offers a unique combination of classroom instruction and hands-on experience to cover the basics of white paper optimization for cost and quality on a paper machine.

Steam rises from the wet end of the pilot paper machine at UWSP as Karyn Biasca, left, instructs two students in WIST’s Hands-on Papermaking Course. Biasca, a professor in UWSP’s Paper Science and Engineering Program, also teaches WIST’s Introduction to Life Cycle Assessment.


•  Bioplastics: This short course will present the basics of bioplastics. This course is intended for a broad audience of people who have recently entered this industry. Such an audience may include scientists, chemists, new business development managers, marketing, sales, and research and development engineers.

•  Board Leadership: Improving Your Effectiveness: This course is designed to give participants the tools they need to either start a board or help their current board function more efficiently, and will cover principles of financial management, governance, and leadership processes. Additional courses are under development. In addition to the short courses, WIST Education is involved in development of WIST’s annual Focal Point conference, the presentation of guest lectures on campus, and creation of a biofuels minor at UWSP.

Course delivery Although WIST courses typically are held on the UWSP campus, the courses don’t earn college credit. Rather, the courses are designed for an audience of business and industry professionals who desire specific knowledge relevant to their careers. Course length ranges from a half-day to three days in order to make the courses as accessible as possible. Each course is developed and taught by an expert in the particular topic. Where applicable, hands-on training is paired with classroom lecture.


Wisconsin Institute for Sustainable Technology

Annual Report: October 2012

WIST Research Commercialization and technology transfer The ultimate goal of WIST research is to transfer to private industry new, sustainable technology. Commercializing the technology will help spur economic growth and add jobs. Revenue derived from commercialization through licensing of technology will fund further research and development at WIST. WIST research begins at the laboratory scale. Processes are then scaled up to pilot scale. Once proven at pilot scale, technology is more attractive to private invesWIST has tors, who at this point see greater likelihood signed nonof success in bringing it to commercial scale. disclosure In commercialization/technology transfer, agreements WIST and the companies it works with with nine sign non-disclosure agreements in order to companies as protect valuable intellectual property being the institute developed by WIST and to protect the explores comcompetitive positions of the commercial mercialization partners. To date, WIST has signed nondispossibilities closure agreements with nine companies. In July, a patent was granted to protect intellectual property developed by WIST researchers Eric Singsaas and Don Guay, and news of the patent has generated significant interest from companies in the US and abroad. This patent protects invention of a process to separate woody biomass into constituent lignin, cellulose and hemicellulose. The cellulose can be used traditionally to make paper, or it may be converted to sugars and ultimately used to make biofuels. Or the sugars may be converted to isoprene, a valuable industrial chemical, in a process currently under research by WIST and collaborators.

WIST cellulose to sugar technology has attracted attention of companies in Canada, the Midwest and on the West Coast which are evaluating partnership opportunities in commercializing cellulose to sugar production. Discussions are underway. Separately from our cellulose/sugar/isoprene work, we are currently working with a Wisconsin paper manufacturer on evaluating grease-resistant coatings for packaging, and with another Wisconsin paper manufacturer on development of bio-based alternatives to plastic packaging.

Other research initiatives An area of research interest for WIST is in new uses of agricultural and forest residue and waste products. Potato peels and cranberry processing by-products, for example, could provide the source material for extract of valuable chemicals. Derived from sustainable sources, such natural chemicals could meet a growing demand in industry. Early-stage discussions are underway with potential partners in research and development.

A WIST project is examining potential for recycling of PLA plastics. PLA stands for polylactic acid and it is the material used to make a type of bio-based plastic available on the market today. PLA is produced using sugars derived from plants such as corn, potatoes, tapioca, sugarcane, sugar beets or wheat. The WIST initiative is called the FRESH Project (Focused Research Effort for Sustainable Habits), and throughout the 2011-2012 academic year it collected information about recovery rates, contamination rates and costs related to recycling PLA used in UWSP Dining Services. This data was compiled and evaluated to determine the environmental sustainability and the economic feasibility of clear PLA product use at UWSP. Surveys were also used to understand how the student body responded to the FRESH educational/marketing campaign. In the 2012-2013 academic year, Project Fresh is collaborating with a private business interested in recycling PLA. WIST is collecting PLA on campus and providing it to the business. More information about FRESH is on the WIST website; click on Special Projects in the navigation bar.

UWSP students sort plastic collected from UWSP Dining services as part of Project FRESH. Over the course of an academic year, the pilot project gathered data to determine the economic feasibility of collection for recycling.

WIST cellulose to sugar to isoprene research has attracted attention of an Italian company and another in the Midwest, which are considering funding work to commercialize isoprene production. Discussions are underway.



Wisconsin Institute for Sustainable Technology

WIST Laboratory Services

Annual Report: October 2012

biomass in the sample and provide a profile of that biomass. The profile will indicate, for example, the amount of “nitrifier” and de-nitrifier” organisms in a sample. These EMARL services are being offered through WIST, which has the infrastructure to interface with business.

WIST will soon be rolling out a new laboratory service to meet a growing demand within the packaging industry: compostability testing – that is, determining whether certain materials will decompose under composting conditions.

WIST has executed and delivered more than 50 distinct commercial contracts this calendar year. This assistance is helping to improve products and processes of businesses, retaining and creating jobs and maintaining profitability in sectors including paper, packaging, food & beverage and environmental services. WIST offers core services in paper industry applications, including use of its pilot paper machine for test and development runs. We’ve added a starch cooker, and made improvements to the paper machine in the past year. A 1,150-square-foot paper testing laboratory provides more than 40 tests for paper analysis. The institute is also expanding into areas where unmet needs exist and where new, sustainable technology developed by WIST and its partners can make a positive difference. On the UWSP campus, faculty created the Environmental Microbial Analysis and Research Laboratory (EMARL), with development of the laboratory funded in part by WIST. EMARL now can provide certain soil analyses, such as determining microbial content in soil. Customers may provide soil samples, and EMARL can determine the amount of

WIST to offer compostability testing

WIST Executive Director Paul Fowler said the institute sees an unmet market demand for the service, and indeed has fielded inquiries from several materials companies about WIST capabilities in compostability testing.

Instrumentation specialist Justin Hall pours a pulp mixture into a machine to prepare it for fiber length analysis using the Canadian Standard Freeness test. WIST labs perform more than 40 different tests for the paper industry.

WIST collaborates with the Environmental Microbial Analysis Research Laboratory at UWSP to provide analytical services related to biomass contained in soils.

“It’s a new service targeted at the recycled materials-packaging industry, to help them understand what the biodegradability profile is of their packaging, so they may make certain claims regarding compostability in their marketing,” Fowler said. Only a handful of companies now offer compostability testing, but with increasing consumer interest in seeing biodegradable packaging for products purchased, packaging makers are scrambling to develop such materials. Each new material must be tested to determine whether it is actually compostable. WIST is developing tests for US and European standards. It will be able to test material and if it determines that the materials meet the applicable standard, the material will be certified as compostable. Kyle Herrman, assistant professor water resources at UWSP, is one of the researchers developing the compostability test, Continued next page

WIST lab capabilities include gas chromatography, shown here.



Wisconsin Institute for Sustainable Technology

Annual Report: October 2012

Lab services/compostability, cont.

along with Rob Michitsch, assistant professor of soil and waste resources. Herrman said the testing protocol includes three stages: a disintegration trial, plant seed germination trial, and biodegradability trial. The full protocol takes a minimum of 120 days to complete. The disintegration trial determines to what degree the material will physically break down in a stable environment. The plant germination trial tests the materials’ ability to successfully germinate seeds. In the biodegradability trial, material is placed in a sealed vessel and equipment records how much CO2 is generated, with the assumption that the CO2 is the product of decomposition. The CO2 release is then compared to that of cellulose decomposition.

“This is by far the most complex part of the standard,” Herrman said. It demands constant monitoring of flow rates and CO2 release. Tweaking the equipment to operate consistently and without any leakage has been a challenge. However, most of those challenges have been successfully met, and WIST intends to be able to offer the service later this fall. “If there’s only four or five companies (doing compostability testing), and you can see that they take some time, you can see that there will be a bit of a demand for this service,” Herrman said.

A lab technician monitors a biodegradability test at UWSP, one part of the compostability testing service soon to be available from WIST.

WIST Advisory Board brings outside perspective The WIST Advisory Board provides guidance and an important outside perspective to the institute. Because the institute’s goals for its research, lab services and education are to meet needs of private business and industry, the counsel of professionals who are immersed in related fields is invaluable. The advisory board comprises members from the paper, construction, forestry, agricultural and biotechnology sectors, as well as economic development professionals. The board meets twice yearly at the UWSP campus, with the most recent meetings taking place November 29, 2011 and May 17, 2012 Advisory board members are: • Ed Buehler, Vice President and Business Manager, NewPage Specialty Papers • Tad Campana, Vice President – Operations, Services Plus, Inc. • Lori Dehlinger, Executive Director, Portage County Business Council

• Barb Fleisner LaMue, Regional Account Manager, Wisconsin Economic Development Corportation • H. Tony Hartmann, Chief Executive Officer, Great Lakes Ag Energy, LLC • Dave Mead, Chief Executive Officer, C5•6 Technologies • Leon Ostrowski, President, Ostrowski Ventures • Francis J. Podvin Chairman of the Board, Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc.; General Partner, City Point Cranberries, LLP; Attorney, Podvin Law Firm • Kelly Rooney, Director, Recycling, Veolia ES Solid Waste, Inc. • Troy Runge, Assistant Professor, Biological Systems Engineering, UW-Madison • Tom Sweeney, Preconstruction, J.H. Findorff & Son, Inc • Theodore Wegner, Acting Director, US Forest Service Forest Products Laboratory

The WIST Advisory Board meets twice yearly at UWSP. Shown from left are WIST Executive Director Paul Fowler, WIST Director of Research Eric Singsaas, Advisory Board member Lori Dehlinger and Advisory Board member Barb Fleisner.



Wisconsin Institute for Sustainable Technology

Communications An old cliché has it that if you build a better mousetrap people will beat a path to your door. While there is some truth to that axiom, these days mousetrap builders are advised to get their information online and add plenty of images – it is a digital and visual world we inhabit. WIST’s website,, is often the first point of contact for potential customers and partners. We also distribute a digital newsletter, or “e-blast”, to subscribers – now numbering nearly 1,000 (a link to a convenient subscribe form is on our website home page). A digital news service,, provides cross-platform distribution to a network that includes journalists, social media channels and world-class news portals. For example, 3BL distributed a short feature on WIST’s biofuels patent, available at this link: theCSRfeed/Social-Innovation-New-Biofuels-Patented-Wisconsin.

Annual Report: October 2012

Fingertip access: It’s easy to keep up with the latest developments at WIST. Digital connections as close as your computer or smart phone include the WIST website and a host of social media sites. Website:

International exposure WIST was invited to present information about the institute’s isoprene research at the Tire Technology Research Symposium in Cologne, Germany in February. Isoprene is used in making isoprene rubber, and isoprene from renewable resources instead of from petroleum could find a major market in the tire industry. Industry representatives attending the conference have subsequently followed up with inquiries about commercialization possibilities for WIST isoprene technology. WIST’s presentation, by Research Associate Shona Duncan, also caught the attention of the editor of Tire Technology International, who invited the institute to prepare an article for the publication.

Excerpt from Tire Technology International: Isoprene for industry is already in short supply and long-term trends in petroleum supply, coupled with increasing awareness of the environmental impacts of natural rubber production, argue for an alternative source of isoprene. Industrial isoprene is produced as a by-product of polyethylene (a petrochemical) production, but this doesn’t generate enough to meet demands for synthetic rubber manufacture.

The article by WIST Director of Research Eric Singsaas appeared in the April 2012 edition of the magazine and has generated further interest from private industry. Tire Technology International, a magazine published in the United Kingdom, ran a feature about WIST’s isoprene research in its April 2012 issue.

Traditional media such as magazines and newspapers, also provide cross-platform access. For example, Tire Technology International (see opposite page) is printed and distributed in hardcopy magazine format, but is also online (paste this link in your browser to see a user-friendly online edition of the WIST feature: ed1392bd#/ed1392bd/52). In the past year, news stories about WIST have appeared in local publications such as the Stevens Point Journal and its sister Gannett papers, the Portage County Gazette, and in a range of industry publications including Biofuels Digest and Biofuels Journal. Other WIST communication activities over the past year included reports to granting agencies, preparation and distribution of brochures, briefing papers and other institute publications, and assistance in grant writing.


In addition to finding WIST on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, anyone can subscribe to the institute’s electronic newsletter, an “eblast” distributed monthly via email. An easy newsletter subscription sign-up form is on the WIST website home page.


Wisconsin Institute for Sustainable Technology

Annual Report: October 2012

Conferences and other special events WIST participated in or co-sponsored a wide variety of events in the past year, from technical conferences to marketing events to educational programs. This outreach helps connect our institute to other researchers, to potential customers and business or research collaborators, and to members of the public, who are the ultimate stakeholders in WIST research, education and laboratory services. A small sampling: • Executive Director Paul Fowler presented on WIST activities at the Rondelle Theater in Racine, Wisc., in an evening co-hosted by the Sierra Club and SC Johnson. • Shona Duncan, WIST research associate, presented on the institute’s isoprene research in Cologne, Germany. • Eric Singsaas, director of research, attended a conference on advanced research in alternative fuels in Washington, D.C., where he hosted a display about WIST biofuels research • Don Guay represented WIST Lab Services at PaperCon 2012, the largest pulp and paper technical program in the world • WIST co-hosted, with the local chapter of the American Chemical Society, a guest lecture on the UWSP campus by William Carroll, an organic chemist and past president of the American Chemical Society. Carroll’s presentation was titled “From Garbage to Stuff: How we Recycle Plastics.” • WIST co-sponsored a special Earth Day celebration at UWSP (see story next page)

Earth Day

Chris Brindley, UWSP Facility Services, shows off some of the worms that compost food waste on campus.

For anyone who ever wondered what happens to material after they throw it in a recycling bin, where it goes or how it is processed or reused, “Rethinking Recycling,” a special event, was designed to provide answers. The event was part of this year’s campus Earth Day celebration and held in conjunction with the annual Eco Fair at UWSP on April 18. Rough weather moved the celebration indoors to the Dreyfus University Center. WIST joined with the local chapter of the American Chemical Society, the UWSP Sustainability Office, and students to host “Rethinking Recycling.” The event was supported in part by Uniek.

A student spins the prize Representatives from companies and organizations that pick up cardwheel at board, e-waste, plastic containers, paper, and other recyclable material “Rethinking at UWSP described how the material is handled. The presenters took Recycling,” time for audience questions and in many cases had displays or sample a special items for attendees to get a closer look at after the formal presentations. Earth Day event at Veolia, UWSP Chemistry Department, Styrene Products, 5R ProcesUWSP. sors, Corenso North America, Rock Oil, UWSP Recycling, and the

Wisconsin Institute for Sustainable Technology all made presentations. Representatives from Veolia Environmental Systems address the crowd at “Rethinking Recycling.” They described the recycling initiatives Veolia has in place for various materials.

Karyn Biasca, UWSP Professor of Paper Science and Engineering, is a consultant in Life Cycle Assessment, a service offered through WIST. She also teaches an introductory course in LCA. Biasca is shown with WIST display materials at an LCA conference in Tacoma, Wash.



Wisconsin Institute for Sustainable Technology

Annual Report: October 2012

WIST Staff Paul Fowler, WIST executive director, came to WIST from Wales, UK, where he was director of the Welsh Institute for Natural Resources, a financially self-supporting unit at Bangor University. He has a dozen years’ experience in contract research and development of new products and opportunities from biobased materials. As executive director of WIST, Paul is networking with public- and private-sector organizations and companies to develop new sustainable technologies with commercial applications to benefit the economy and the environment. Paul has a Ph.D. in organic chemistry and extensive knowledge of biobased, renewable materials and applications. Gerry Ring

Paul Fowler

As WIST’s Director of Education, Gerry Ring has worked to develop a multidisciplinary biofuels minor at UWSP. The Education Division also offers outreach courses, such as hands-on papermaking. In addition to his WIST responsibilities, Gerry is Chair of the Department of Paper Science and Engineering. In 1980 Gerry began his paper industry career as a Research Scientist for Kimberly-Clark Corporation. In 1986, Gerry joined the faculty of UWSP. He has edited or contributed to 14 publications, including the Colloid Chemistry of Papermaking Materials textbook. He holds three patents and was recognized in the 1994, 2000 and 2004 editions of Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers. Gerry received an Award for Excellence from the University Continuing Education Association, Region IV in 1999. Gerry is a TAPPI Fellow, an honorary title bestowed upon less than one percent of TAPPI’s membership,and is given to individuals who have made extraordinary technical or service contributions to the industry and/ or the Association.

Angie Hauer, WIST development coordinator, coordinates daily office activities, supplies, and correspondence. She has a bachelor’s degree in resource management from UWSP and a master’s in outdoor recreation administration from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.

Angie Hauer

Rebecca Vagts, WIST business manager, is responsible for the fiscal management of the WIST grants and contracts including developing budgets in grant narratives, budget review, account reconciliation, and fiscal reporting. Rebecca has an MBA with a Global Emphasis and a BS in Business Management from Upper Iowa University.

Eric Singsaas

Shona Duncan is a research associate at the Wisconsin Institute for Sustainable Technology. After receiving her doctorate in biological sciences from the University of Waikato in 2007, studying fungal diversity and cellulose degradation in the Ross Island historic huts, Antarctic Shona has been involved in a project investigating fungal decay mechanisms and their potential use in the biofuels industry for feedstock pretreatment and hydrolysis of carbohydrates to glucose. While working at the University of Waikato, Shona gained experience in running bench top and 600L fermenters. She will be using that knowledge and experience while at WIST to scale up the bench top fermentation of sugars to isoprene to pilot scale (100L) capabilities.

Rebecca Vagts

Ron Tschida, WIST communications manager, handles public relations and outreach, institute publications and the WIST website. Before coming to UWSP in 2005, Ron was city editor of the Bozeman Daily Chronicle in Bozeman, MT. He has a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Montana in Missoula.

Eric Singsaas is the Director of Research at the Wisconsin Institute for Sustainable Technologiy. He applies his scientific training to research in biofuel and bioproduct production, focusing on developing microbial pathways to produce isoprene from biomass. Eric received his Ph.D. in botany from the University of Wisconsin – Madison in 1997 studying the production of isoprene from oak and kudzu leaves. He went on to investigate the impacts of increasing greenhouse gases on forest ecosystems in Free Air CO2 Enrichment experimental systems in North Carolina and Wisconsin. He has studied biological hydrocarbon production and plant-atmosphere gas exchange, working on scales ranging from genes to ecosystems. Eric is an associate professor of biology at UWSP and teaches introductory biology, tree and forest function, plant physiology, and seminars in climate change biology and plant-environment interactions.

Shona Duncan

Ron Tschida



Wisconsin Institute for Sustainable Technology

Annual Report: October 2012

Justin Hall is an instrumentation specialist at WIST. He provides analytical support for WIST research projects by maintaining and operating analytical instrumentation. Justin is experienced in ion chromatography, gas chromatography, liquid chromatography, and mass spectroscopy. In addition to research support Justin provides laboratory services for outside companies. He is a 2011 graduate of UWSP with a bachelor’s degree in water resources and a minor in chemistry.

Justin Hall

Casey Konopacky is interim laboratory services specialist for WIST. He graduated from Stout University with a bachelor of science degree in manufacturing engineering.

Casey Konopacky

EXPERT INSTRUCTION - HANDS-ON EXPERIENCE Th Wi The Wisconsin Institute for Sustainable Technology at the University of WisconsinStevens Point provides education, research and laboratory services. Moree than a claassroo oom m: Our hanndsds-on courses usse our pilot ot pa paper aper plant which hich feature features a fou f urdrinier rinier machine mac ne producin producing producing a 20 20-in -inch inch sheet sheet; a stockk preparat atio on area; rea; an and d starc st ch cooking equipm ment. The pilot pape paper machine hine is als a so ava avvailable lable for raw materials terials an and/or d/or chhemica emiical ca additi additivvvee st dies, stud s, equipment e uipment ntt evaluation, grade rade de developm developmen ment nt and and production roduction runs ru s.

FALL 2012-SPRING 2013 SHORT COURSES Register now for early-bird discounts • Hands-on Papermaking • Hands-on Pulping and Bleaching • Paper and d Board Coating Rheology R • Kraft K aft R Recovery overy • Col Color, Appearance and White Opti Optimization atio • Introduct Introduction on to Life ife Cycle Assessment and d En Environmental Pr Environment Prod duct ct Dec c Declarations larations Check our website, email or call for the latest information on dates, prices and other details.

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Ph: 715-346-2331


28/05/12 2:13 PM


Wisconsin Institute for Sustainable Technology


Annual Report: October 2012


The Wisconsin Institute for Sustainable Technology —

Creating sustainability solutions and economic opportunities

WIST offices are in the Science Building and the Dan Trainer Natural Resources Building on the UWSP campus. Direct mail to: Wisconsin Institute for Sustainable Technology 800 Reserve Street University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Stevens Point, WI 54481 For further information or to discuss this report, contact: Dr. Paul Fowler Phone: 715-346-3767 Email: WIST is online at

With support from the UWSP College of Natural Resources and the College of Letters and Science

Annual Report October 2012  

Wisconsin Institute for Sustainable Technology Annual Report

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