MU Engineering’s Sustainability inFEWSed mission focuses primarily on how the College can become a global leader in the areas of Food, Energy, Water and Smart Cities innovation. Its inFEWSed approach includes research and development in those areas that aim to create a greener, smarter and more renewable world for future generations. Research supported in this area includes food waste and cost efficiency, energy harvesting, reusability and conservation, investment in renewable energy, water quality and wastewater treatment, and technological advances in city infrastructure.
Research into meatless proteins through soybeans and pea proteins led to the development of nationwide meat-alternative producer Beyond Meat and Beyond Meat’s first product, soy- and pea-based “Beyond Chicken® Strips.” The technology used in the creation of Beyond Meat’s products was licensed from faculty in the MU College of Engineering’s Bioengineering Department. With the aid of the city of Columbia’s vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem, further opportunities exist in this area to create the types of products that translate to the marketplace.
In addition to the creation of food from more sustainable sources, MU Engineering faculty researchers are on the cutting edge of food-waste research. Current research projects involve industrial engineers looking at the production costs of food waste — research that earned accolades from CBORD, a leading provider of food service management software. And collaborative projects between industrial engineers and bioengineers in conjunction with the MU Department of Athletics are measuring the amount of organic waste produced at MU football games.
Endless opportunities exist for energy researchers in multiple engineering fields. The EPA Energy Star Combined Heat and Power (CHP) partnership recognized MU in 2010 as one of the program’s top efficiency facilities. Researchers from nearly all fields of engineering in the College have collaborated with MU’s on-campus Power Plant, which recently installed the first large-scale biomass boiler in Missouri and has helped cut greenhouse gas emissions by 43 percent. Collaborative research at MU between industrial engineering and forestry into cutting carbon emissions using biomass discovered the most efficient ways several Midwestern states could partner to maximize renewable energy and minimize emissions.
Ongoing research in the College includes Li-ion battery efficiency, battery development, heat transfer and thermal management, high-density plasma and a six-program collaboration among several MU researchers, culminating in the Midwest Energy Efficiency Research Consortium (MEERC).
Likewise, opportunities exist to collaborate with university-partnered businesses, such as Tiger Energy Solutions, LLC, a Columbia-based company formed by several members of the MU faculty and an alumnus of the College of Engineering. Recent provisions to the Kansas City zoning and development code have made it easier for consumers to use residential accessory solar energy systems. For MU researchers, this has opened the door to create new, smarter solar energy harvesting systems.
Water quality research from the MU Civil and Environmental Engineering Department and the Missouri Water Resources and Research Center (MWRRC) investigates methods and management practices for determining how to ensure clean water. The MWRRC’s director — a professor in MU’s Civil and Environmental Engineering Department — recently was appointed to serve on the Environmental Protection Agency Science Advisory Board’s Drinking Water Committee, a testament to the quality of the globally renowned researchers in the College of Engineering working on water-related issues.
Missouri’s thousands of freshwater rivers, lakes and streams provide endless opportunities to conduct research. Recent research includes a Missouri Department of Natural Resources grant to monitor the performance of stormwater best management practices, particularly at nearby Hinkson Creek. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources is a frequent collaborator with the University of Missouri on environmental issues, many of which are within the purview of engineering researchers. Furthermore, College researchers have the opportunity to work with the water quality research underway at the USDA Agricultural Research Service unit, also located on campus.
Smart Cities have the ability to enhance everyday life. MU researchers already have reached key breakthroughs in this area, with the opportunity for collaborative efforts to take these ideas even further. Researchers and students involved with the University of Missouri’s Midwest Energy Efficiency Research Consortium were involved in the technological implementation and monitoring of the first certified Active House in the U.S., which adjusts automatically to sun, shade and breezes to limit overall energy consumption.
Researchers in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department’s Transportation Lab utilize intelligent transportation systems (ITS) to formulate how to improve traffic flow and efficiency, frequently partnering with the Missouri Department of Transportation on traffic-related projects. Other researchers in computer science are creating systems that will aid first responders in disaster scenarios using cloud technology, partnering with the locally-based FEMA Missouri Task Force One to test the technology’s viability. And the College of Engineering recently hired an asphalt and pavement expert to fill the role of Barton Chair of Flexible Pavement Technology to conduct research and educate the next generation of engineers on novel ways to utilize sustainable materials to create low-cost, renewable pavement materials, as well as conduct cutting-edge research into smart pavement infrastructure.