Third Century Initiative

Five SNRE Faculty Receive Funding Through Third Century Initiative

Five researchers at the School of Natural Resources and Environment received funding under a new University of Michigan program to promote interdisciplinary work. The funded projects are examining the challenges facing resource-constrained environments and sustainable transportation.

The Global Challenges for a Third Century (TCI) program, as the initiative is called, funded fewer than 15 percent of submitted proposals.

The Global Challenges for a Third Century Initiative seeks to develop innovative, multi-disciplinary approaches to teaching and scholarship. Its goal is to stimulate creative thinking among students and faculty, and to develop programs that will intensify learning experiences in and beyond the classroom. TCI is a five-year program with $50 million of funding.

REFRESCH: Researching Fresh Solutions to the Energy/Water/Food Challenge in Resource-Constrained Environments represents an interdisciplinary project  led by Professor Johannes Schwank in the University of Michigan Energy Institute, and involves faculty from the College of Engineering, SNRE, the Graham Institute, the Erb Institute, Architecture and Urban Planning, and the Ross Business School. SNRE Professors Andy Hoffman and Don Scavia and Assistant Professor Shelie Miller are members of the team.

Assistant Research Scientist Jarod Kelly and Professor Greg Keoleian are part of the Sustainable Transportation for a 3rd Century: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Addressing the Last Mile Problem for Enhanced Accessibility project led by Jeffrey Stein in the University of Michigan's College of Engineering.

The REFRESCH proposal seeks to develop a model-based approach that can identify appropriate, low-cost and sustainable technology solutions for a number of regions in the world that suffer from different types of energy, water, and food resource constraints. The research team envisions opportunities, in collaboration with local property developers, to use repurposed and shuttered facilities, such as Willow Run, as self-contained test beds as part of their experiments.

"While the developed world relies on massive, interconnected energy systems and takes access to clean water and sufficient food for granted, this is not the case in many other parts of the world", the proposal states. "We propose to develop case studies of microenvironments representative of developing world settings where a better synergy between energy, water, and food supplies is needed."

Areas of interest include fish farms, hydroponic gardens, algae plantations, and solar greenhouses. Several energy inputs and feedstocks will be considered, including solar energy, wind energy, biomass conversion, natural gas, propane gas, waste to energy, and low-temperature waste heat recovery. Case studies also may consider the use of solar/wind energy for water pumping and disinfection utilizing UV-LED lights, various energy storage technologies, and the potential use of direct rather than alternating current.

Part of the project will be to first identify technology gaps that prevent poorer communities from properly functioning. Then appropriate low-cost, sustainable solutions will be explored to fill these gaps. They will assemble a multi-disciplinary team of faculty and students from engineering, natural resources and environment, architecture, and business.

The project is scheduled to run from June through May 31, 2014, with a budget of $299,989.

The Sustainable Transportation for a 3rd Century: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Addressing the Last Mile Problem for Enhanced Accessibility will be a project working toward addressing the global challenge of planning sustainable transportation infrastructures, in particular, the problem of solving the "last mile" problem. Public transit that offers good service along the main lines but leaves the travelers a mile from their destinations with poor connecting options is rarely the mode of choice. Researchers propose to solve the "last mile" problem by viewing transportation systems as a way to improve accessibility, not simply mobility. Accessibility promotion demands simultaneous consideration of the movement of people and the placement of resources they need access to. This project assembles an interdisciplinary team that can address these major aspects of accessibility. In particular, the project will explore the interplay between technology, deployment (politics, society, economics, and urban planning) and spatial context.

According to the project proposal, "The research will begin with an analysis of the existing transportation system in southeast Michigan as a case study for exploring electric Sustainable Transporters (eSTs) and other potential solutions to the last mile problem."

The project is scheduled to run from July through June 30, 2014, with a budget of $299,878.