Michigan Tech is a leader in sustainability research. Across nearly all disciplines of the University, faculty and staff are engaged in research related to sustainability, such as energy systems, food systems, plastics reuse, ecology conservation, and water resource management. The Tech Forward Initiative on Sustainability and Resilience is building on this strong base by providing 3-5 faculty fellowships each year to increase external research funding in sustainability and resilience, focusing on large-scale interdisciplinary projects. We also host collaborative sustainability and resilience-focused research events for faculty and staff researchers, such as the SRC-Squared Working Group.
Current Research Highlights
Pumped Underground Storage Hydropower (PUSH)
Funded by a generous grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, a diverse research team of faculty and students at Michigan Tech are exploring the potential of adapting decommissioned hard-metal mines into pumped underground storage hydropower systems. In collaboration with the Keweenaw Energy Transition Lab (KETL) and the Western Upper Peninsula Planning and Development Region Commission (WUPPDR), this energy-transition project seeks to address sustainable community development, energy justice, and the social and environmental legacies that mines leave behind.
Turning Plastic into Food
Researchers at Michigan Technological University have discovered a novel method to tackle plastic waste by converting it into valuable proteins. Inspired by the process of digestion in animals, the team developed a technique to break down plastic using enzymes derived from bacteria found in the guts of waxworms. These enzymes effectively decompose polyethylene, a common type of plastic, into smaller units that can be consumed by bacteria and ultimately converted into protein. This groundbreaking approach not only offers a sustainable solution to the global plastic pollution crisis but also presents an opportunity to produce high-quality protein supplements for various applications, including animal feed and potentially even human consumption. The study highlights the potential of harnessing nature's mechanisms to address pressing environmental challenges and create innovative solutions.
David Shonnard, a renowned researcher and recipient of the 2020 Research Award at Michigan Technological University, shares insights on his work in sustainable engineering. Focusing on biofuels and bioproducts, Shonnard discusses the importance of transitioning to renewable energy sources and reducing environmental impact. He emphasizes the significance of interdisciplinary collaboration and innovation in creating a sustainable future. Shonnard's expertise and dedication to advancing sustainable engineering make him a valuable asset in addressing global challenges and shaping a greener world.