Oregon State University

U.S. Department of Energy Makes an Impact

Oregon State University researchers are successfully using DOE support to advance the science behind innovative energy technologies.

49 OSU faculty have been Principal Investigators for DOE-funded projects over the past six years.

DOE support for OSU research during Fiscal Years 2008 - 2012 totaled over $64 Million,  with over $13 Million in FY12 alone. See  data

Here are examples of DOE funds making a difference

Renewable sources

Oregon is the third largest renewable energy producer in the U.S.  Hydroelectric power is the predominant source of electricity in the state, accounting for about 70% of the yearly total. 

Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center, established in 2008, is one of three United States Department of Energy National Marine Renewable Energy Centers.

NNMREC is a partnership between OSU and the U of Washington. They collaborate with each other and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory on research, education, outreach, and engagement. NNMREC has a full range of capabilities to support wave and tidal energy development.

NNMREC serves as an integrated, standardized test center for U.S. and international developers of wave and tidal energy. Here device and array optimization can be tested for effective deployment of wave and tidal energy technologies, improved forecasting of the wave energy resource can be made, and studies leading to the increased reliability and survivability of marine energy systems can be realized.  NNMREC evaluates the potential ecosystem and human dimensions impacts. It focuses on the compatibility of marine energy technologies with ocean and coastal environments and coastal users.


OSU is regarded as the national thought-leader in marine renewable energy, using its deep knowledge and expertise to assist Congress and federal agencies in shaping policy, defining research areas in marine energy and advocating for necessary funding levels.

Thanks to support from the DOE's Wind and Water Power Program, Bob Paasch, director of the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center and OSU's Boeing Professor of Mechanical Engineering Design, is helping to answer important technology, environmental and social questions about the nascent marine hydrokinetics industry.  NNMREC works closely with the National Renewable Energy Lab and also conducts high-resolution wave tank testing for subscale wave energy devices at OSU’s O.H. Hinsdale Wave Research Lab.

Recent DOE funding includes for the NNMREC for large scale [wave] energy systems research,
one grant for almost $2.5M, and another for $2.3M

DOE was a primary sponsor in establishing what is now the Wallace Energy Systems & Renewables Facility, including a state-of-the-art wave energy Linear Test Bed for optimizing power take-off systems. Annette von Jouanne  and Ted Brekken are co-directors of WESRF. WESRF assets include a 750kVA dedicated power supply, rotary test beds up to 300hp, full capabilities to regenerate back onto the grid, and a wind/energy storage in-lab research grid to improve wind energy integration. Read more: Harnessing the Power of the Ocean ; NYT about NNMREC OSU Media Release

Illustration by Chris Buzelli

Biofuel crops

Leaves of grass: Brachypodium distachyon

Research by Todd Mockler of the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology contributes to a global initiative funded by the Joint Genome Institute that has successfully sequenced the genome of Brachypodium distachyon, which will speed research on improved varieties of wheat, oats and barley, as well as switchgrass, a crop of major interest for biofuel production.
Read More
  ; Science News Daily




Solar Frontier

Illustrations of  Marerials by Inverse Design and Conventional Approach.Chemist Douglas Keszler and electrical engineer John Wager created the Center for Inverse Design, a DoE Office of Science - Energy Frontier Research Center devoted to discovering new solar energy relevant materials. Collaborations in theoretical modeling can guide chemical design and synthesis as well as deposition and characterization of thin film technologies on the basis of physical and chemical properties.

Saving Species

With support from the Bonneville Power Administration, Dan Roby's work has helped save, so far, at least 50 million juvenile salmon and steelhead in the Columbia River estuary, many belonging to threatened or endangered stocks, by safely relocating the world’s largest Caspian tern colony. A similar management project aims to reduce impact of an even larger colony of double-crested cormorants.  Read News  and Project Website


The Environment

Carbon Cycle Science

AmeriFlux logo with sun, cloud, rain, trees

DOE’s Office of Science has significantly supported the work of Beverly Law of the OSU College of Forestry, who advises national and international policymakers about carbon cycle science and the role of forests in global climate change.Law contributes to understanding how forest ecosystems respond to disturbances and to climate variation. As the science lead for AmeriFlux network, she has helped develop a high-quality database to synthesize observations.
Read more at http://terraweb.forestry.oregonstate.edu/people/bevlaw.htm


Sustainable Production of Solar Cells

 Chih-hung Chang , Brian Paul and Vince Remcho are developing microreactor-assisted nanomaterial depositionTM (MANDTM) processes that will reduce the energy, environmental discharge and production costs associated with current nanoscale thin-film solar cells, with funding by the  Industrial Technologies Program.  Estimates indicate MANDTM-based solar cell production could save over 16 trillion Btu and reduce carbon emissions by 0.29 million metric tons of carbon equivalent (MMTCE) annually by 2015 in the thin-film solar cell industry alone.  Read more  and article

Methane Hydrates

The large scope of OSU’s collaboration with NETL’s National Methane Hydrate R&D Program is bringing advances in understanding of methane hydrates, how and where they form, their role in nature, their potential as a future energy resource, and their role in slope stability and climate change. Discoveries have already resulted in improved methods of prospecting.

OSU researchers Marta Torres, Rick Colwell and Anne Trehu have been active in expeditions in India, Alaska, Korea, and Cascadia to study natural gas hydrates in different environments. The international collaborations, in which OSU provides expertise and training, have afforded valuable opportunities for faculty as well students and are leading to further scientific partnerships. In addition, NETL has provided funding for a workshop to define scientific strategies at a planned cabled observatory facility offshore Oregon, which is part of the NSF-funded Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI). OSU and NETL are in the planning stages for a combined coring facility at the Oregon State campus.

Gas hydrate program projects for which NETL has provided support in cooperation with OSU researchers:

  • India- Gas hydrate expedition in 2006 (read more)

    OSU participants: Torres- shipboard, Trehu-shorebased

  • North Slope of Alaska-  In cooperation with BP, 2007 (read more)

    OSU participants: Torres, Colwell

    ODP Expedition 204 (2002), OSU participants Trehu, Torres, Johnson
    IODP Expedition 311 (2005), OSU participants Trehu, Torres
    Ongoing funded grant (Torres): Long-Term Variability of Cascadia Margin Slope Failures in Gas Hydrate Bearing Regions: Potential Triggering Mechanisms and Effects on Methane Dynamics
    Ongoing funded grant (Torres): Workshop to define scientific strategies at a cabled observatory on Hydrate Ridge, OR

  • Korea (ongoing):

    UBGH-2 Expedition 2010, OSU participants shipboard: Torres, Hong (grad. student); shorebased Colwell, Briggs (grad. student)
    Ongoing funded grant (Torres, Colwell): Gas hydrate investigations in the Ulleung basin, Korea

  • Student support (advisor)

Wei Li Hong, doctoral candidate (Torres), Craig Joseph, masters candidate (Torres), Brandon Briggs, doctoral candidate (Colwell), Peter Kannberg, masters candidate (Trehu)

  • Other synergies

Developing a combined coring facility between OSU and NETL

Students in Research 

Briggs, smiling.Brandon Briggs is among the OSU students who have had the opportunity to participate in meaningful research thanks to NETL funding, preparing them for careers in both scientific research and industry.   Briggs came to Oregon State University to work on his Ph.D. with Frederick Colwell. He is studying the microbial distributions in marine sediments charged with methane, with particular interest in the microbes that are producing the methane, and also microbes that eat the methane to produce carbon dioxide.  He recently submitted a paper describing a new environment that supports anaerobic oxidation of methane, an important process because it mitigates the release of methane which is a potent greenhouse gas.

He says “I was drawn to the interdisciplinary nature of the research here. You have to understand math, physics, chemistry and geology along with the microbiology. You have to be able to converse with people in all the different disciplines. . .  Knowing that what I am studying will someday help mankind is pretty motivating. My research adds a piece to the puzzle that someone else can use to further us along even more.”
NETL profile 
    ;     OSU’s Terra Magazine profile


Big Sky Carbon Sequestration Partnership

OSU is a partner in the Big Sky Carbon Sequestration Partnership (BSCSP), Phase II, that is collaborating on the research and outreach to determine the best approaches for capturing and permanently storing greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. The BSCSP is one of seven DOE-funded regional carbon sequestration partnerships that engage key stakeholders.

As part of the BSCSP, OSU researchers  Susan Capalbo, John Antle, and Andrew Plantinga, all from the AREC department, have been active in the development of a regional framework and infrastructure required to verify and deploy sequestration (geological and terrestrial) technologies. In conjunction with the other researchers involved in the BSCSP, they have conducted market assessments, economic analysis, and regulatory and public outreach to demonstrate the effectiveness and efficiencies for CO2 capture, transportation, injection, and storage at a large scale. The intent of the BSCSP activities is to promote understanding of injectivity, capacity, and storability of CO2 in various geologic formations and in terrestrial sinks. Results and assessments from these efforts will help in the commercialization efforts for future sequestration projects in North America.Map of western states, "Big Sky Carbon Sequestration Partnership."

Specific OSU Contributions to BSCSP efforts and outcomes include:
Phase II (2006-2010)

  • John Antle was leader of the Economics Team of the BSCSP while he was at Montana State University. OSU collaborators were Susan Capalbo and Andrew Plantinga.

    Economic analysis of geologic sequestration costs in the region. Results show that CO2 emissions in the region could be sequestered at a cost in the range of $40-$50/tonne CO2E (John Antle).

    Analysis of economic potential for terrestrial sequestration in the region (afforestation, cropland and rangeland soils). The analysis shows that terrestrial sequestration could account for about half of the 70 million tonnes CO2E emissions in the region (John Antle).

    Conceptual model developed for economic analysis of environmental risks associated with geologic sequestration (Susan Capalbo).

Phase III (2011-2013) (funding is pending)

  • At OSU, John Antle will lead the Economics Team for Phase III; Susan Capalbo will be a collaborator at OSU.

Phase II geologic and terrestrial analyses will be updated. New data will allow for refined cost estimates of transport and injection. Geologic modeling will be extended to account for monitoring and verification. The models used in Phase II will be integrated into a more generic modeling framework that could be used in other regions.
The conceptual analysis of environmental risks of geologic sequestration carried out in Phase II will be implemented in collaboration with geologic modeling done at Los Alamos National Lab.

Technology Innovation

Materials for Drilling

Kruzic, smiling.Jamie (Jay) Kruzic of the OSU School of Mechanical, Industrial, and Manufacturing Engineering, conducts research that focuses on the mechanical behavior of advanced materials and biomaterials, with emphasis on fracture and fatigue.  NETL has supported his studies of the performance of high strength steels designed for achieving deeper drilling environments for oil and gas extraction. Challenges that must be overcome include higher stresses, higher temperatures, and the presence of more corrosive environments as we seek to extract oil and gas from ever deeper reserves. Applications of this research may include better engineering predictions to avoid material failures of drill strings and the development of improved drill pipe steels. Additionally, NETL has supported his research on new high temperature alloys designed for making more efficient power generation and aerospace gas turbines. It is hoped that the results of this research will help reduce fossil fuel consumption and lower CO2 emissions by allowing higher, more efficient, operation temperatures than current nickel superalloy gas turbines allow.  

Nuclear passive safety and nuclear modular reactors

Nuclear power is being revisited for energy-generation, with research by Jose Reyes, head of OSU's Department of Nuclear Engineering and Radiation Health Physics,  at the forefront. Developments in high-temperature gas-cooled reactors, modular reactors, passive safety features and spent fuel recycling will make the next generation of nuclear power plants safer, cleaner, more efficient, economical, portable and flexible. The move toward a modular approach started with collaborative work by OSU, Idaho National Laboratory and Nexant/Bechtel.  Read about passive safety

The technology for NuScale Power came out of DoE-funded research for the development of a small nuclear power plant that might be used in multiple applications. The Idaho National Environment & Engineering Laboratory led the project with support from OSU. OSU has gained international recognition for development of passive safety systems that use natural circulation to provide cooling for nuclear plants.
Read more
2008 media release Reyes' work ; NuScale closer to production; SENERGI

Detection sensitivity, speed and accuracy

DOE has funded OSU researcher Abi T. Farsoni, Nuclear Engineering, for his work on Actively-Shielded Radioxenon Phoswich.

[Radioxenon is a noble gas produced when a nuclear reaction takes place; Phoswich  is a ‘phosphor sandwich.'] Farsoni's  research will take large strides towards increasing detection sensitivity, speed and accuracy. applying new designs in electronics to long-standing issues in radiation detection. A 3rd-generation triple-layer phoswich detector employs digital signal processing, an innovative approach, with applications is medical and national security situations.

Article Winter 2010
Nuclear Engineering and Radiation Health Physics’ innovative new digital ultrasensitive, two-channel detector can simultaneously detect and measure both gamma and beta radiation. It can also identify the source. This makes it adaptable for many different applications from ‘bomb sniffing’ to environmental cleanup. . .

Meanwhile, a second generation of the detector is already being born.

Last year, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) awarded NERHP a 3-year contract to adapt its digital detector for radioxenon detection. The objective is an improved version of the PNNL’s innovative Automated Radioxenon Sample/Analyzer. Fifteen of the ARSA detectors are already in place around the globe to monitor for compliance with the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

Radioxenon, a noble gas produced when a nuclear reaction takes place, works well as a red flag. “When you detect radioxenon in the air, it means there is something going on,” says NERHP Research Associate Tani Aguayo. “But, because it is difficult to get radioxenon to interact with other substances, it is difficult to detect.” The ARSA detector works by measuring the decay of radioxenon. . .

Fuel for high performance research reactors

DOE-funded OSU Researcher of note: Brian Woods, Assistant Professor in the Department of Nuclear Engineering and Radiation Health Physics, has been funded by DOE /Idaho National Laboratory, for a project on High Performance Research Reactor Hydraulic Fuel Test ProgramBrian Wood

The National Nuclear Security Administration Global Threat Reduction Initiative is working to develop high uranium density fuels. Study of the macroscopic behavior of the fuel elements must be examined. One critical area of study is the behavior of reactor specific fuel elements under prototypic thermal hydraulic conditions. Objectives of study:  to collect a database of hydraulic information needed to qualify the proposed fuel for the high performance research reactors.

Woods’ research  is on

  • experimental and computational fluid dynamics
  • nuclear reactor thermal-hydraulics
  • reactor safety

OSU is a national leader in developing advanced light-water nuclear energy technologies, making them safer, more efficient, more economical, more portable and more flexible. New engineering approaches address issues such as waste, operating safety and proliferation and underscore the potential for nuclear to raise living standards while reducing carbon emissions.

Note: Woods has worked at DOE as an engineer within the Office of Environmental Restoration.

Advanced Energy Systems

Kagan, smiling



Advanced energy systems require a large number of computation intensive sensors which must sense, decide and act upon local information to ensure efficient operation. The coordination of such computational devices is critical for the efficiency, safety and robustness of advanced energy systems. NETL sponsors research by Kagan Tumer and OSU colleagues in development of distributed control and coordination algorithms to manage a network-wide solution, leading to safe and robust operations. Read more



Pipeline Repair

Collaboration among Skip Rochefort’s  Polymer Research Team, Timberline Tool,  and NETL has created an external repair technology for damaged or defective polyethylene (PE) gas pipelines in situ, eliminating the need for large-scale isolation, excavation and replacement of pipe sections.  This safe, rapid, cost-effective technology is in final phases of commercialization.

and more

 OSU’s Joe Tanous is its chair of the Board of the Energy Commercialization Center, a DOE-funded center at the University of Utah.


 Balance of Power: OSU helps forge national marine energy policy

 by Kate Sinner, OSU Director of Federal Relations, In Terra magazine, 2011

Renewable ocean wave energy seems like a natural. It promises jobs for Oregon and carbon-free power for the nation. It can reduce our dependence on foreign oil and contribute to economic development. But before we can realize that potential, we need to be careful to find a balance. In an ideal world, offshore wave energy buoy arrays would be placed where they don’t constrain fishermen and crabbers and or harm fish and marine mammals. We need to do enough research to know that sea life — and the people who depend on it — will not be compromised.

As I coordinate Oregon State University’s government relations in Washington D.C., I work with OSU faculty members — some of the nation’s top experts — in marine ecology, coastal geophysics and wave energy engineering. Oregon Sea Grant adds strong relationships with community groups and the fishing industry. It’s no exaggeration to say that OSU is regarded as the national thought-leader in marine renewable energy. The university uses its deep knowledge and expertise to assist Congress and federal agencies in shaping policy, defining research areas in marine energy and advocating for necessary funding levels.

Renewable energy is both a national and international priority. In 2005, when the 109th Congress wrote and debated the Energy Policy Act, OSU researchers were publishing papers on wave energy. Both OSU and Congress saw the potential of this research and included the creation of marine renewable energy centers in the bill. Our advocacy effort included strategizing with policymakers and providing expert testimony. Much work by key individuals at OSU and in the office of former Rep. Darlene Hooley and her staff led to the creation of these competitive U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) centers.

While the establishment of the DOE centers was a significant accomplishment, it took a few years of strong advocacy with DOE and Congress to appropriate funding. Once that was done, OSU researchers partnered with the University of Washington to respond to requests for proposals. Ultimately OSU was awarded one of only two national centers, the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center (NNMREC). NNMREC’s goal is to lead the nation’s research in marine renewable energy with OSU focusing on wave energy and with UW working on tidal. The initial DOE award was a commitment of $6.25 million in federal funds over five years.

In 2010 OSU worked with Capitol Hill to develop a broad marine renewable energy policy. The result is HR 6344, the Marine and Hydrokinetic Renewable Energy Promotion Act of 2010. This bill contains authorization of marine renewable energy-related programs ranging from research and development to commercial application and includes increased authorizations for test centers, including NNMREC.

In addition, with leadership from the Ocean Renewable Energy Consortium, of which OSU is a member, the DOE budget for ocean renewable energy programs grew from $10 million in FY 2008 to $48 million in FY 2010. Over those years, NNMREC has competed for and won additional DOE funds.

This isn’t the only area in which OSU has been active in Washington. When the House Science and Technology Committee was marking up a nuclear energy research and development bill, we helped to refine some of the provisions. We are often called upon to provide input on national policy matters with significant budget implications. In recent years, OSU faculty members have provided expertise on forestry, climate change, agriculture, fish and wildlife, the oceans, nanotechnology and aging.

OSU leadership in these areas and our advocacy for key federal research budgets is helping to address national priorities. These initiatives have the additional benefit of supporting students who have opportunities to participate in groundbreaking studies that will achieve balance in our approach to renewable energy. OSU experts are shaping the nation’s research agenda for years to come.


Terra article October 2010

Thanks to a partnership between the U.S. Department of Energy, Oregon State University and the private sector, wave energy is moving out of the lab and into the ocean. And none too soon. In the race for carbon-free sources of electricity, this one may make a real difference for Oregon and the nation. There are still plenty of questions to answer (such as access to fishing grounds and impacts on whales and other aspects of the marine ecosystem), but as two recent videos produced by Green Science Oregon show, wave energy devices are already under construction and getting ready for deployment.

Engineering professors Annette von Jouanne and Ted Brekken and their team, including Columbia Power Technologies, Inc., (CPT) have identified more than a dozen promising direct-drive wave energy buoy designs. In the linear test bed in the university’s energy systems lab, they have tested the top five for durability and efficiency. Read More Article in Business Wire

In the Green Science Oregon program, Von Jouanne is joined by representatives of CPT, Oregon Iron Works and Ocean Power Technologies, which is planning to install North America’s first commercial buoy array off Reedsport, Ore. next year. “Oregon State’s program is the center of gravity for wave power here in the U.S.,” says Reenst Lesemann of CPT.

Studies under way at OSU are coordinated through the Northwest National Marine Renewable Center in Newport, Ore. Funding has come from the U.S. Department of Energy, the Oregon State Legislature  and other partners.

Department of Energy Funding to OSU

DoE Office/Laboratory

Award Total

Award Total (FY 12)

Argonne National Laboratory



Bonneville Power Admin



Idaho National Laboratory



Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory



Los Alamos National Laboratory



National Energy Technology Laboratory*



National Nuclear Security Administration



National Renewable Energy Laboratory



Oak Ridge National Laboratory



Office of Energy and Environmental Security Directorate



Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy



Office of Nuclear Energy



Office of Science



Pacific Northwest National Laboratory



Savannah River National Laboratory






 $  12,378,160

*National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL)
Funding to OSU

2008 $       138,352.
2009 $    2,428,409.
2010 $    7,874,733.
2011 $    6,700,935.
2012 $    5,465,341.

Total (past five years)

$ 22,607,770.


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