May 31, 2006

SIUC officials part of delegation headed to China

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Three Southern Illinois University Carbondale employees and a member of the SIU Board of Trustees are part of a contingent leaving today (May 31) for a 10-day visit to China aimed at sharing ideas about energy and trade.

John Koropchak, vice chancellor for research at SIUC, along with John Mead, director of the SIUC Coal Research Center and Tomasz Wiltowski, associate professor of mechanical engineering and energy processes, are making the trip. John Simmons, member of the SIU Board of Trustees, also is going.

Koropchak, Mead, Wiltowski and Simmons will visit at least three Chinese cities and several top research centers during the trip, which was arranged by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. The group from the United States, which also includes representatives from DCEO, business and private industry, returns June 9.

With China’s economy growing quickly, the country is in need of more energy, Koropchak said. The SIUC group will discuss several aspects of energy, including mining, combustion and environmental impacts, with Chinese government officials and researchers.

“They need energy, period,” Koropchak said. “But they have several issues. China has some significant environmental issues, which is a problem that can come with using fossil fuels. At SIUC, we’ve developed several technologies that can deal with those issues.”

Koropchak pointed to technology developed at the SIUC Coal Research Center, as well as the University’s main power plant, as examples of clean, efficient coal-fired operations.

“We have the technology to deal with coal combustion,” he said.

Koropchak said SIUC also has a long history of developing mining technology, which has led to better, safer and more efficient techniques.

“Our faculty work on training miners and mining companies in activities that increase production and safety in mines,” Koropchak said. SIUC researchers also are making strides in robotic mining and wireless underground communications, he said.

On the environmental side, SIUC is a leader in finding useful applications for coal mining byproducts and mine reclamation, Koropchak said. He pointed to the SIUC Cooperative Wildlife Research Laboratory, which works with local mining companies to turn former mines into wildlife areas.

Koropchak said SIUC’s long association with the state’s effort to capture the FutureGen next generation coal-fired power plant project made it the natural choice for the trip.

“If you look statewide in terms of energy research, SIU is leading the way,” said Koropchak, pointing to the SIU Edwardsville campus’ efforts at the National Corn to Ethanol Research Center, as well. “We are a significant part of coal research efforts and we’re part of the team that has been fighting to bring FutureGen to Illinois. At this point, we have the opportunity to make our state the energy capital of the Midwest.”

The group will visit the cities of Beijing, Shengyang and Shanghai, meeting with scientists and government energy officials. They will visit research centers such as the China University of Mining and Technology, the Shengyang National Laboratory for Material Science, Shengyang Agriculture University and Jiaotong University Institute for Fuel Cell Research, among others. Tsinghua University, regarded as one of China’s leading technology centers, also is on the itinerary.