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Wisconsin Institute for Sustainable Technology

Focal Point tradition continues In October, WIST hosted Focal Point 2012: Capitalizing on Sustainable Technology. This was the second annual Focal Point conference and it drew about 65 delegates to the UW-Stevens Point campus. Presenters addressed the conference theme of “capitalizing on sustainable technology” by detailing examples of sustainability that is improving profitability. The 2012 program featured presenters from 10 companies, ranging from long-time household products maker SC Johnson to more recent tech startups Virent and Lucigen. What all the companies had in common was a commitment to embrace new, sustainable technologies to improve their bottom line while protecting the environment. Participants gave Focal Point 2012 overwhelmingly positive ratings in evaluations turned in post-conference. The conference participants represented a wide swath of businesses as well as economic development agencies. Participants said the expertise of speakers was top-notch and that they appreciated hearing from people directly involved in business, who provided real examples. The theme for the October 22, 2013 conference is “frontiers in packaging.” The conference targets opportunities and challenges for the packaging and converting industries in the Midwest. The event will address manufacturing, converting, end-use, and regulatory concerns in plastics, corrugated carton board and specialty paper.

Annual Report: October 2013

WIST Education Biofuels minor underway at UW-Stevens Point

One of the first initiatives for WIST education was to develop an interdisciplinary biofuels minor at UW-Stevens Point. The goal was to provide students with specific knowledge of the scientific, engineering and environmental aspects of producing liquid fuels from biomass. Development of the curriculum and gaining approval for the minor took nearly two years, but the minor is officially on the books. Eric Singsaas, WIST director of research and UW-Stevens Point associate professor of biology, is teaching two courses for the minor in fall semester 2013. One is a laboratory class on biological conversions. “We’re studying all the different means of converting biomass into biofuels using biological means,” Singsaas said. “It’s either going to use an enzyme, or fermentation, or a microbe in some way.” They’ve toured an ethanol plant and two methane digestors, and done an experiment on anaerobic digestion in the lab. Singsaas is also teaching a lecture course this semester for the biofuels minor, called Plant Natural Products. Students learn how plants synthesize different molecules that could be used for biofuels, including cellulose, starch, oil, terpenoids and others. In the spring, Malek Alkasrawi, assistant professor in paper science and engineering, will teach a course in chemical conversion of biomass to biofuels.

WIST short courses

WIST has offered a number of short courses ranging from a half-day to two days in length, primarily designed for business professionals. The courses in each case are developed and taught by one or more industry experts and up to now each has been provided on campus at UW-Stevens Point. Several are “hands-on” courses that take advantage of the unique pilot paper

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Eric Singsaas, WIST director of laboratory services and associate professor of biology at UW-Stevens Point, holds a jar of biodiesel produced in the university's biofuels laboratory. Students in the biofuels minor gain foundational knowledge in methods to produce liquid fuels from biomass.

plant and other laboratories here. But later this year we will stream our first webinar. “Safe Methods to Prevent Bacteria-Generated Gas Explosions in Pulp and Paper Mills” will be taught by Instructor Dave Vachavake, who worked in the pulp and paper industry for more than 20 years. He was a technical superintendent at the Tomahawk, WI, PCA mill when that mill experienced an explosion from bacteriagenerated gas. Vachavake has written about explosion-prevention methods for the paper industry publication Paper 360. WIST short courses offered range from hands-on courses on pulping and bleaching to sustainability-related courses on bioplastics and life cycle assessment to business seminars on board leadership.

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Profile for Wisconsin Institute for Sustainable Technology

Wistannualreportoct2013fec  

Sustainability in research, laboratory services and education; activities of the Wisconsin Institute for Sustainable Technology

Wistannualreportoct2013fec  

Sustainability in research, laboratory services and education; activities of the Wisconsin Institute for Sustainable Technology

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