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Valparaiso University Receives $2.3 Million from Department of Energy

Cooperative Agreement to Fund Solar Research at Valpo’s Solar Energy Research Facility

The United States Department of Energy announced today it has awarded Valparaiso University a $2.3 million cooperative agreement to fund solar research through a proposal from the College of Engineering. Part of the Modern Electro-Thermochemical Advancements for Light-metal Systems project, Valpo is the only organization in the state of Indiana to receive this funding.

The funding, which will be dispersed during the course of a three-year period, is a direct result of the James S. Markiewicz Solar Energy Research Facility housed in the College of Engineering. At the heart of the research facility is a solar furnace, the only one at an undergraduate institution in the United States and one of only four research facility solar furnaces in the nation.

“With this funding from the Department of Energy, Valpo faculty and students will push forward the energy science frontier by exploring new methods for using solar energy,” Valparaiso University President Mark A. Heckler, Ph.D., said. “The research conducted at the James S. Markiewicz Solar Energy Research Facility will provide new, more efficient energy sources for creating commodities, positively impacting both the local and the national economies.”

Both Valpo faculty and undergraduates conduct solar energy research at the Markiewicz Solar Energy Research Facility, providing a unique opportunity for students to work with faculty mentors on the cutting edge of this field. The College of Engineering is also home to the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Platinum-certified Donald V. Fites Engineering Innovation Center, which is made up primarily of laboratory and learning space for undergraduate engineering students.

Through the $2.3 million cooperative agreement, Valpo’s team of engineers and scientists will develop a novel electrochemical cell that produces magnesium using solar-thermal energy and electrochemical processes. The advanced hybrid cell uses concentrated solar power for heating, minimizing the electricity requirement for magnesium separation.

According to the Department of Energy’s website, solar energy is the most abundant energy resource on earth, with more than 10,000 times the world’s total energy use striking the Earth continuously. Through solar energy research, this energy can be harnessed to provide a renewable, economical energy choice.

Valpo’s system could reduce carbon emissions and electricity consumption compared to conventional production. During the three-year funding period, Valpo faculty and students will develop the technology needed to produce magnesium that will potentially reduce imports, emissions, and costs of production.

The funding comes from the Advanced Research Projects Agency — Energy, an organization within the Department of Energy that supports the creation of transformational energy technologies and systems through funding and managing Research and Development efforts. Since its founding in 2007, the Agency has funded nearly 300 projects totaling approximately $770 million across the entire technology landscape.

Valparaiso University will formally dedicate the James S. Markiewicz Solar Energy Research Facility on Sept. 27.

For more information about the Markiewicz Solar Energy Research Facility, or to request tours of the facility, contact Nicole Niemi, director of media relations, at nicole.niemi@valpo.edu or 219.464.6010.