OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

energy and sustainability

OSU receives Gold designation for sustainability

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University has again received a “Gold” designation from the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System, or STARS, the second highest rating a university can receive.  Platinum is the highest rating, but no university received that designation this year.

STARS is administered by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, of which OSU is a member. Schools are rated in four large categories of academics; engagement; operations, planning and administration; and one additional innovation category.

“This repeated Gold designation is a great indicator of the comprehensive and consistent nature of OSU’s sustainability work,” said Brandon Trelstad, OSU’s sustainability coordinator.

“It’s a team effort that includes entities beyond the Sustainability Office, like Campus Recycling and the Student Sustainability Initiative,” Trelstad said. “We have established solid programs but are always looking for ways to expand positive impact and demonstrate leadership.”

OSU was the first Oregon university to be rated by STARS, and received a Gold designation in 2011, and again in 2013.

This year, OSU received high marks for its sustainability coordination and planning, its diversity and affordability, and a perfect score on campus engagement. It also earned high marks for academic research, including support and access.

President Edward Ray said that STARS provided a guidepost in helping the university develop programs and initiatives around sustainability.

"The assessment is a valuable tool in forging new conversations and inspiring actions around issues of global importance, like biodiversity, climate change, divestment and social justice," Ray wrote in his submittal letter to the STARS Steering Committee.

Of other participating Oregon institutions, only Portland State University received a Gold designation. Pacific University and Oregon Institute of Technology received “Bronze” designations, and University of Oregon’s designation was “Reporter.”

To see OSU’s full STARS assessment, visit http://bit.ly/1qOeGAW. For more information on OSU’s efforts in sustainability,  http://fa.oregonstate.edu/sustainability/

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Brandon Trelstad, 541-737-3307

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solar Solar panel array at Oregon State University

Technology using microwave heating may impact electronics manufacture

The study this story is based on is available online: http://bit.ly/1pJjhnK

 

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Engineers at Oregon State University have successfully shown that a continuous flow reactor can produce high-quality nanoparticles by using microwave-assisted heating – essentially the same forces that heat up leftover food with such efficiency.

Instead of warming up yesterday’s pizza, however, this concept may provide a technological revolution.

It could change everything from the production of cell phones and televisions to counterfeit-proof money, improved solar energy systems or quick identification of troops in combat.

The findings, recently published in Materials Letters, are essentially a “proof of concept” that a new type of nanoparticle production system should actually work at a commercial level.

“This might be the big step that takes continuous flow reactors to large-scale manufacturing,” said Greg Herman, an associate professor and chemical engineer in the OSU College of Engineering. “We’re all pretty excited about the opportunities that this new technology will enable.”

Nanoparticles are extraordinarily small particles at the forefront of advances in many biomedical, optical and electronic fields, but precise control of their formation is needed and “hot injection” or other existing synthetic approaches are slow, costly, sometimes toxic and often wasteful.

A “continuous flow” system, by contrast, is like a chemical reactor that moves constantly along. It can be fast, cheap, more energy-efficient, and offer lower manufacturing cost. However, heating is necessary in one part of the process, and in the past that was best done only in small reactors.

The new research has proven that microwave heating can be done in larger systems at high speeds. And by varying the microwave power, it can precisely control nucleation temperature and the resulting size and shape of particles.

“For the applications we have in mind, the control of particle uniformity and size is crucial, and we are also able to reduce material waste,” Herman said. “Combining continuous flow with microwave heating could give us the best of both worlds – large, fast reactors with perfectly controlled particle size.”

The researchers said this should both save money and create technologies that work better. Improved LED lighting is one possibility, as well as better TVs with more accurate colors. Wider use of solid state lighting might cut power use for lighting by nearly 50 percent nationally. Cell phones and other portable electronic devices could use less power and last longer on a charge.

The technology also lends itself well to creation of better “taggants,” or compounds with specific infrared emissions that can be used for precise, instant identification – whether of a counterfeit $20 bill or an enemy tank in combat that lacks the proper coding.

In this study, researchers worked with lead selenide nanoparticles, which are particularly good for the taggant technologies. Other materials can be synthesized using this reactor for different applications, including copper zinc tin sulfide and copper indium diselenide for solar cells.

New Oregon jobs and businesses are already evolving from this work.

OSU researchers have applied for a patent on aspects of this technology, and are working with private industry on various applications. Shoei Electronic Materials, one of the collaborators, is pursuing “quantum dot” systems based on this approach, and recently opened new manufacturing facilities in Eugene, Ore., to use this synthetic approach for quantum dot enabled televisions, smartphones and other devices.

The research has been supported by the Air Force Research Laboratory, OSU Venture Funds, and the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute, or ONAMI.

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Greg Herman, 541-737-2496

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Continuous flow reactor

Continuous flow reactor

OSU solar projects provide cost savings, reduce carbon emissions

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University this spring has brought the largest of its ground-mounted solar arrays online as part of the Oregon University System’s “Solar by Degrees” program.

The university now has three solar project sites in Corvallis covering some 10 acres collectively that have the capacity to generate more than 2.6 million kilowatt-hours of power per year. The system not only provides cost savings by providing solar energy for less than current utility power rates, it helps Oregon State reduce its carbon footprint in a way that doesn’t cost the university money up front.

The arrays were constructed and are owned and operated by SolarCity, which has worked with OSU and the Oregon Institute of Technology for several years on the Solar by Degrees programs. The company’s collaboration with OSU has not been limited to the Corvallis campus, according to Brandon Trelstad, the university’s sustainability coordinator.

“The way the partnership works is that SolarCity installs the solar arrays at no cost to the university, and OSU simply pays for solar energy that they produce – at a lower rate than they would pay for utility power,” Trelstad said.

This past fall, SolarCity completed a 431-kilowatt installation at OSU’s Hermiston Agricultural Research and Experiment Station in Eastern Oregon, and another 221-kilowatt solar project at the North Willamette Research and Extension Center in Aurora. Annual electrical output from all five OSU solar sites is approximately equivalent to the annual carbon emissions from 255,025 gallons of gasoline or 477 passenger vehicles, according to US Environmental Protection Agency’s Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator.

“This is another step toward meeting OSU’s aggressive carbon emissions reduction targets,” Trelstad said. “It also saves the university money and provides some unique research and educational opportunities. Advancements like Solar by Degrees don’t come along often and I’m glad that OSU has been able to maximize our use of the groundwork laid by the Oregon University System.”

Two of the sites in Corvallis have operated for more than a year, but the latest site in Corvallis - which is located near 35th Street and Campus Way – just went online. Each installation is “grid-tied,” which means it seamlessly provides power when the sun shines and blends in utility power when it doesn’t.

At the branch Experiment Stations, the arrays not only save money, they provide an example of how solar power can work in a rural and/or agricultural setting.

“The solar array at Hermiston is expected to reduce our electricity costs by about half – a savings of about $30,000 in the first year and could increase in the future depending on electricity costs,” said Philip B. Hamm, director of the Hermiston Agricultural Research and Experiment Station.

“This allows us to provide more financial support toward our mission, which is to provide new research-based information to clients.”

Michael Bondi, director of the North Willamette Research and Extension Center located just south of Wilsonville, said the center at the end of February received its first electrical utility bill since the project was launched.

“For that month, we reduced our cost from the previous year by 50 percent,” Bondi said. “I like how that looks, especially in the middle of winter and a lot of gray days. Based on the design specs for the project, we expect to reduce our electrical usage from the grid by 80 to 85 percent each year.

“I’d say we are well on the way to that goal.”

“This will likely be the largest scale installations we complete here,” said Trelstad. “However, over the next few years, we will look for additional opportunities to install solar panels on roofs since we already have used much of the compatible ground space.”

At two of the three Corvallis installations, the College of Agricultural Sciences is grazing sheep next to the solar arrays, which is how the land previously was used. “This is a great way to optimize land use and not consume productive ground solely with solar installations,” Trelstad noted.  At the Aurora location, a bee and insect pollinator habitat area is being planned. At the Hermiston location, the area had never been used for research given its irregular shape and lack of water availability, but now benefits the campus to provide solar power in an otherwise unusable space.

More information on the arrays, including photos and electricity production information, is available at: http://oregonstate.edu/sustainability/ground-mounted-photovoltaic-arrays

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Brandon Trelstad, 541-737-3307, Brandon.trelstad@oregonstate.edu; Phil Hamm, 541-567-6337; philip.b.hamm@oregonstate.edu; Michael Bondi, 503-705-2434; Michael.bondi@oregonstate.edu

OSU scientists part of national APLU report outlining research challenges

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The national Association of Public and Land-grant Universities released a report today outlining six “grand challenges” facing the United States over the next decade in the areas of sustainability water, climate change, agriculture, energy and education.

The APLU project was co-chaired by W. Daniel Edge, head of the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at Oregon State University. The report is available online at: http://bit.ly/1ksH2ud

The “Science, Education, and Outreach Roadmap for Natural Resources” is the first comprehensive, nationwide report on research, education and outreach needs for natural resources the country’s university community has ever attempted, Edge said.

“The report identifies critical natural resources issues that interdisciplinary research programs need to focus on over the next 5-10 years in order to address emerging challenges,” Edge noted. “We hope that policy-makers and federal agencies will adopt recommendations in the roadmap when developing near-term research priorities and strategies.”

The six grand challenges addressed in the report are: 

  • Sustainability: The need to conserve and manage natural landscapes and maintain environmental quality while optimizing renewable resource productivity to meet increasing human demands for natural resources, particularly with respect to increasing water, food, and energy demands.
  • Water: The need to restore, protect and conserve watersheds for biodiversity, water resources, pollution reduction and water security.
  • Climate Change: The need to understand the impacts of climate change on our environment, including such aspects as disease transmission, air quality, water supply, ecosystems, fire, species survival, and pest risk. Further, a comprehensive strategy is needed for managing natural resources to adapt to climate change.
  • Agriculture: The need to develop a sustainable, profitable, and environmentally responsible agriculture industry.
  • Energy: The need to identify new and alternative renewable energy sources and improve the efficiency of existing renewable resource-based energy to meet increasing energy demands while reducing the ecological footprint of energy production and consumption.
  • Education: The need to maintain and strengthen natural resources education at our schools at all levels in order to have the informed citizenry, civic leaders, and practicing professionals needed to sustain the natural resources of the United States.

 

Three other OSU researchers were co-authors on the report, including Hal Salwasser, a professor and former dean of the College of Forestry; JunJie Wu, the Emery N. Castle Endowed Chair in Resource and Rural Economics; and George Boehlert, former director of OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center.

Wu played a key role in the climate change chapter in identifying the need to better understand the tradeoffs between investing now in climate change adaptation measures versus the long-term risk of not adopting new policies.

Edge and Boehlert contributed to the energy chapter, which focuses primarily on renewable energy.

“The natural resources issues with traditional sources of energy already are well-understood,” Boehlert said, “with the possible exception of fracking. As the country moves more into renewable energy areas, there are many more uncertainties with respect to natural resources that need to be understood and addressed. There are no energy sources that do not have some environmental issues.”

Salwasser was an author on the sustainability chapter that identifies many issues associated with natural resource use, including rangelands, forestry, fisheries and wildlife and biodiversity. The authors contend the challenge is to use these resources in a sustainable manner meeting both human and ecosystem needs.

The project was sponsored by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to Oregon State University, which partnered with APLU and authors from numerous institutions.

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Dan Edge, 541-737-2810; Daniel.edge@oregonstate.edu

Amber fossil reveals ancient reproduction in flowering plants

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A 100-million-year old piece of amber has been discovered which reveals the oldest evidence of sexual reproduction in a flowering plant – a cluster of 18 tiny flowers from the Cretaceous Period – with one of them in the process of making some new seeds for the next generation.

The perfectly-preserved scene, in a plant now extinct, is part of a portrait created in the mid-Cretaceous when flowering plants were changing the face of the Earth forever, adding beauty, biodiversity and food. It appears identical to the reproduction process that “angiosperms,” or flowering plants still use today.

Researchers from Oregon State University and Germany published their findings on the fossils in the Journal of the Botanical Institute of Texas.

The flowers themselves are in remarkable condition, as are many such plants and insects preserved for all time in amber. The flowing tree sap covered the specimens and then began the long process of turning into a fossilized, semi-precious gem. The flower cluster is one of the most complete ever found in amber and appeared at a time when many of the flowering plants were still quite small.

Even more remarkable is the microscopic image of pollen tubes growing out of two grains of pollen and penetrating the flower’s stigma, the receptive part of the female reproductive system. This sets the stage for fertilization of the egg and would begin the process of seed formation – had the reproductive act been completed.

“In Cretaceous flowers we’ve never before seen a fossil that shows the pollen tube actually entering the stigma,” said George Poinar, Jr., a professor emeritus in the Department of Integrative Biology at the OSU College of Science. “This is the beauty of amber fossils. They are preserved so rapidly after entering the resin that structures such as pollen grains and tubes can be detected with a microscope.”

The pollen of these flowers appeared to be sticky, Poinar said, suggesting it was carried by a pollinating insect, and adding further insights into the biodiversity and biology of life in this distant era. At that time much of the plant life was composed of conifers, ferns, mosses, and cycads.  During the Cretaceous, new lineages of mammals and birds were beginning to appear, along with the flowering plants. But dinosaurs still dominated the Earth.

“The evolution of flowering plants caused an enormous change in the biodiversity of life on Earth, especially in the tropics and subtropics,” Poinar said.

“New associations between these small flowering plants and various types of insects and other animal life resulted in the successful distribution and evolution of these plants through most of the world today,” he said. “It’s interesting that the mechanisms for reproduction that are still with us today had already been established some 100 million years ago.”

The fossils were discovered from amber mines in the Hukawng Valley of Myanmar, previously known as Burma. The newly-described genus and species of flower was named Micropetasos burmensis.

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George Poinar, 541-752-0917

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Ancient flowers

Ancient flower


Pollen tubes

Pollen tubes

OSU spinoff company NuScale to receive up to $226 million to advance nuclear energy

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A promising new form of nuclear power that evolved in part from research more than a decade ago at Oregon State University today received a significant boost: up to $226 million in funding to NuScale Power from the United States Department of Energy.

NuScale began as a spinoff company based on the pioneering research of OSU professor Jose Reyes, and since has become one of the international leaders in the creation of small “modular” nuclear reactors.

This technology holds enormous promise for developing nuclear power with small reactors that can minimize investment costs, improve safety, be grouped as needed for power demands and produce energy without greenhouse gas emissions. The technology also provides opportunities for OSU nuclear engineering students who are learning about these newest concepts in nuclear power.

“This is a wonderful reflection of the value that OSU faculty can bring to our global economy,” said Rick Spinrad, vice president for research at OSU. “The research conducted by Professor Reyes, colleagues and students at OSU has been a fundamental component of the innovation at NuScale.”

NuScale has continued to grow and create jobs in Oregon, and is bringing closer to reality a nuclear concept that could revolutionize nuclear energy. The Obama administration has cited nuclear power as one part of its blueprint to rebuild the American economy while helping to address important environmental issues.

In the early 2000s at OSU, Reyes envisioned a nuclear power reactor that could be manufactured in a factory, be transported to wherever it was needed, grouped as necessary to provide the desired amount of power, and provide another option for nuclear energy. It also would incorporate “passive safety” concepts studied at OSU in the 1990s that are already being used in nuclear power plant construction around the world. The design allows the reactor to shut down automatically, if necessary, using natural forces including gravity and convection.

The Department of Energy announcement represents a milestone in OSU’s increasing commitment to university and business partnerships and its goals of using academic research discoveries to promote new industries, jobs, economic growth, environmental protection and public health.

“OSU has made a strong effort to build powerful partnerships between our research enterprise and the private sector,” said OSU President Edward J. Ray. “The DOE support for NuScale is a vote of confidence in the strategy of building these meaningful relationships, and they are only going to pick up speed with our newest initiative, the OSU Advantage.”

The Oregon State University Advantage connects business with faculty expertise, student talent and world-class facilities to provide research solutions and help bring ideas to market. This effort is in partnership with the Oregon State University Foundation.

News of the NuScale grant award was welcomed by members of Oregon’s Congressional delegation.

 

“Oregon State University deserves a lot of credit for helping to develop a promising new technology that the Energy Department clearly thinks holds a lot of potential,” said Sen. Ron Wyden, chairman of the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “Today’s award shows that investing in strong public universities leads to innovative technologies to address critical issues, like the need for low-carbon sources of energy, while creating private sector jobs.”

U.S. Rep. Peter De Fazio added, “Congratulations to NuScale and Oregon State University. This is a big win for the local economy.” 

“This is an exciting time for us, as our students and faculty get incredibly valuable real-world experience in taking an idea through the startup and commercialization process,” said Kathryn Higley, professor and head of the Department of Nuclear Engineering & Radiation Health Physics. “We continue to work with NuScale as it goes through its design certification process, and we are particularly proud of Jose Reyes for his vision, enthusiasm and unwavering commitment to this concept.”

OSU officials say the development of new technologies such as those launched from NuScale could have significant implications for future energy supplies.

“The nation’s investment in the research of small-scale nuclear devices is a significant step toward a diverse and secure energy portfolio,” said Sandra Woods, dean of the College of Engineering at OSU. “Collaborative research is actively continuing between engineers and scientists at Oregon State and NuScale, and we’re proud and grateful for the role Oregon State plays in assisting them in developing cleaner and safer ways to produce energy.

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Rick Spinrad, 541-737-0662 or 541-220-1915 (cell)

Sustainability

 

About the OSU Sustainabiity Office: The OSU Sustainability Office focuses on integrating sustainability into OSU's mission and operations.  It provides consultation and support to departments across campus and directly manages operations, outreach and assessment programming.

OSU recognized for sustainability efforts

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University has been recognized as a top performer in the 2016 Sustainable Campus Index.

The university ranked seventh overall among universities identified as doctoral/ research institutions, and fifth among all participating universities in the grounds category.

The 2016 Sustainable Campus Index, a publication of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), highlights top-performing colleges and universities in 17 areas and overall by institution type, as measured by the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System, or STARS.

Oregon State was the first Oregon university to be rated by STARS, and received gold designations in 2011, and 2013- 2016.

“Being included in AASHE’s 2016 Sustainable Campus Index is always great, and it’s nice to see a summary of the best sustainability-related work of our fellow higher education institutions,” said Brandon Trelstad, OSU’s sustainability coordinator.

“However, one of the nicest surprises was we were featured in the very short list of colleges and universities with zero or near-zero data errors in their STARS submission. STARS requires input of thousands of data points and I’m glad that the culture of high-quality control and attention to detail in the Sustainability Office, and our partner departments, is recognized.” 

The index also featured a short story on OSU’s humanitarian engineering program, which is one of the few of its kind co-located with a Peace Corps Masters International program. Faculty from engineering, the humanities, public health and forestry all participate in the program. Recent projects by students in the program include creating modeling tools for micro-hydro development in Pakistan and ground-sensing stations for an international trans-African hydro-meteorological observatory.

To view the complete index: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0Bxl_G1Xg76XlMTNPZ2pLa3NrUjg/view

For more information on OSU’s efforts in sustainability, go to http://fa/oregonstate.edu/sustainability/

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Brandon Trelstad, 541-737-3307; Brandon.trelstad@oregonstate.edu

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Recycling Pledge

New type of cement could offer environmental protection, lower cost

CORVALLIS, Ore. – If widely adopted, a new approach to making cement could significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, water consumption, help address global warming, produce a more durable concrete, and save industry time and significant costs.     

The findings of a recent study show great potential for a type of cement that gains strength through carbonation, rather than the use of water. Concrete made with this cement also appears to better resist some of the most common de-icing salts that can lead to failure and dramatically reduce the lifespan of roads.

The research was published in Construction and Building Materials, by engineers from Oregon State University, Purdue University and Solidia Technologies. This work was supported in part by Solidia Technologies, which licensed core technology from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. 

“Instead of water reacting with cement, this carbonated cement reacts with carbon dioxide and calcium silicate,” said Jason Weiss, the Miles Lowell and Margaret Watt Edwards Distinguished Chair in the OSU College of Engineering.

“This new product at first blush looks like conventional concrete, but it has properties that should make it last longer in some applications,” Weiss said. “In addition, use of it could reduce carbon dioxide emissions, which is an important goal of the cement industry.” 

Crude cement was used by the Egyptians to build the pyramids, improved during the time of the Roman Empire, and reached its modern form around 180 years ago. When used to make concrete – a combination of cement, sand and crushed rock - it’s one of the most proven building materials in human history.

This is actually part of the problem – concrete works so well, for so many uses, that 2-4 tons per year are produced for every person on Earth. It’s popular, plentiful, cost effective, and research is continuing to reduce its environmental impact. Production of the cement used in concrete is believed to be responsible for 5-8 percent of the global emissions of carbon dioxide, largely just because so much concrete is used. 

The cement industry has committed itself to the goal of cutting those emissions in half, and this new approach might help. Beyond that, the new research shows the ability of this “carbonated calcium silicate-based cement,” or CCSC, to be far more resistant to degradation from deicing salts such as sodium chloride and magnesium chloride.

“In places where deicing salts are routinely used, they can cause damage to roadways that cost about $1 million a mile to fix, and can reduce a 40-year lifespan of a surface to as little as 8-10 years,” Weiss said. “By using a type of cement that requires carbon dioxide to make, and in turn greatly extend the lifespan of some roads, the environmental benefits could be enormous.” 

These products are just now being developed and tested, Weiss said, and some obstacles exist to their widespread, global use. New construction codes and standards would need to be developed. However, the new approach has already been adapted to existing raw materials, formulas and equipment.

Some of the first uses of these products, Weiss said, will be in pre-cast concrete products that can be created in a factory and transported to where they are needed. More ambitious and widespread use of the new approach may take longer. Other technologies, such as topical treatments to resist deicing salts, or the use of waste products to produce supplemental cements, may gain earlier use to address some of these issues. 

In the latest research, the new CCSC concrete was shown not to react with deicing chemicals in the way that conventional concrete does. Such chemicals can cause a serious and premature deterioration in concrete pavements, even if the concrete does not experience freezing and thawing.

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Jason Weiss, 541-737-1885 or Jason.weiss@oregonstate.edu

OSUsed Store changing, expanding schedules in 2016

The OSUsed Store, OSU's on-campus reuse store, is changing its public and departmental sales schedules in 2016.

Public sales will now be held twice a week, instead of once, on Tuesdays from 5:30-7:30 p.m. and Fridays from noon to 3 p.m. The changes, which are now in effect, will allow extra times to shop, more evening times, and a schedule that does not change from week-to-week, officials say.

Between 250 and 275 members of the public currently attend weekly sales at the OSUsed store. These changes will provide more opportunity and evening sales for people with busy schedules and work, said Rae DeLay, manager for materials management with Surplus Property.

The new public schedule will also be consistent from week to week, rather than offering one monthly evening sale and three afternoon sales.

With this change, the new hours for OSU departments, government agencies and nonprofits to shop will be Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. They may also shop during the public sales, but will have better selection and faster service during these times.

 

The shop’s merchandise has increased dramatically over the last three years, DeLay said, and opening the shop to the public more often will help turn over items more quickly and allow new ones to be added. Staff will also be able to more promptly pick up surplus items from campus departments.

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Andrea Norris, 541-737-5398; andrea.norris@oregonstate.edu