BOONE, N.C. — Four faculty members within Appalachian State University’s Department of Sustainable Technology and the Built Environment and the Department of Chemistry received $97,231 in funding from the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDA&CS) for their NEXUS research project, which is located at the Watauga County Landfill, in Boone.
These faculty are Dr. Jeremy Ferrell, assistant professor in Appalachian’s Department of Sustainable Technology and the Built Environment; Dr. Mike Hambourger, associate professor in Appalachian’s Department of Chemistry; Dr. Jim Houser, associate professor in Appalachian’s Department of Sustainable Technology and the Built Environment; and Dr. Ok-Youn Yu, associate professor and interim assistant chair in Appalachian’s Department of Sustainable Technology and the Built Environment.
“Ongoing research at Appalachian is demonstrating the use of biomass energy for greenhouse heating to help local agricultural producers extend growing seasons and increase yields through optimization of biomass and fossil fuel resources,” Ferrell said.
He and his team have demonstrated the production of syngas (synthetic natural gas) at Appalachian’s NEXUS greenhouse facility utilizing locally sourced wood waste, and, according to Ferrell, have used the combustion of the syngas to assist in greenhouse heating while producing the valuable soil amendment biochar to further support yields.
To assist local agricultural producers in developing the use of syngas for greenhouse heating, Ferrell said he and his team of researchers wish to demonstrate the viability of producing bioenergy crops on-site using marginal, non-arable, steeply sloped land. He said such production will serve to establish on-site production of bioenergy crops, while helping to stabilize fragile steeply sloped hillsides at the same time.
According to Ferrell, a recent acquisition of new acreage at Appalachian’s Nexus greenhouse research site will permit he and his team to grow locally appropriate bioenergy crops on-site for use in NEXUS’ existing gasification systems to demonstrate the viability of this biomass energy source for local producers.
Graduate students participating in the project are Barry Febos from Northampton, Massachusetts; Henry Mull ’17, a native of Hickory; and Devan Shumate ’17 of Willow Spring. Febos, Mull and Shumate are all graduate students in the appropriate technology concentration of Appalachian’s Master of Science in technology program.
About the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services works to provide services that promote and improve agriculture, agribusiness and forest; protect consumers and businesses; and conserve farmland and natural resources for the prosperity of all North Carolinians.
About the Department of Sustainable Technology and the Built Environment
One of seven departments housed in the College of Fine and Applied Arts, the Department of Sustainable Technology and the Built Environment at Appalachian State University features an integrated array of programs spanning the fields of sustainable design and technology. Its mission is to foster a strong and vibrant culture of inquiry, discovery and innovation that integrates theory with application, problem seeking with problem-solving, local issues with global perspectives and technological progress with environmental stewardship. It offers bachelor’s degrees in sustainable technology and building science, and a master’s degree in technology. Learn more at https://stbe.appstate.edu.
About the A.R. Smith Department of Chemistry and Fermentation Sciences
The A.R. Smith Department of Chemistry and Fermentation Sciences offers a Bachelor of Arts in chemistry, a Bachelor of Science in chemistry with eight different concentrations and an interdisciplinary Bachelor of Science degree in fermentation sciences. The department’s programs prepare students to attend graduate and professional schools, as well as for employment in the pharmaceutical and fermentation industries and other business sectors. Learn more at https://chemistry.appstate.edu.
About Appalachian State University
As the premier public undergraduate institution in the state of North Carolina, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The Appalachian Experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and to embrace diversity and difference. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachian is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System. Appalachian enrolls more than 19,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.
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