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Glass beakers

Air Force Academy energy research will yield global benefits, October 18, 2012

Glass beakers

By Lt. Col. Patrick Suermann
Air Force Academy Civil and Environmental Engineering Department

“I am Air Force Energy” is more than just a catchphrase at the Air Force Academy. Those words, provided by Air Force Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Dr. Kevin Geiss as the theme for Energy Awareness Month, resonates at the Air Force Academy, whose faculty are innovating across the spectrum of academic departments to further educate and develop future leaders of character and advance energy technology.

After studying energy-related topics in two core courses, Chemistry 110 and Physics 110, cadets can take the science and technology energy systems core option or specialize in approximately 17 major’s courses from Economics to Engineering that deal with the importance of being informed energy consumers and engineers.

Dr. Darrell Pepper, a distinguished visiting professor from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas teaching in the Academy’s Engineering Mechanics Department, donated a 3-kilowatt wind turbine for study in the renewable energy course offered here. The turbine provides hands-on experience for cadets, Pepper said.

In time, Pepper said he expects the turbine will be moved outdoors so cadets can study it in a more realistic setting.

“This class, with its practical approach, will prepare our cadets to make energy-wise decisions when they are leaders in the Air Force,” said Dr. Mike Maixner, an instructor in the Engineering Mechanics Department. “The Defense Department will greatly benefit from energy-aware officers.”

Similarly, Dr. Karen Henry received a grant to install an energy foundation system and associated monitoring equipment in a lavatory facility recently constructed at the Field Engineering and Readiness Laboratory in Jacks Valley. The facility uses a geothermal approach to heating and cooling: Energy foundations combine with the structural supports for a building with a heat pump so that the foundations can be used as ground-source heat exchangers.

This provides a cost-efficient approach to conserve energy, reduce carbon emissions and reduce installation costs. Eventually, Henry will compare measured performance indicators, including construction and lifecycle costs, with those expected for conventional heating and cooling systems.

Lt. Col. Andrew Laffely, Maj. Brian Cooper and Al Mundy have established a renewable energy lab in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department with support from the Office of the Secretary of Defense. The lab allows cadets to study the implementation of wind and solar energy. In the past four years, cadets have developed wind turbines, solar power systems and an electric vehicle. The team is currently integrating these technologies into a deployable vehicle system and modular microgrid that can operate without external fuel supply for the life of the battery system.

Col. Robert Kraus, the Academy’s chief scientist and director of research, and Dr. Randy Knize, the center director, highlight two projects at different levels of completion: cycloidal wave energy and silicon’s use in photovoltaic solar cells.

Academy researchers studied wave energy conversion using cycloidal turbines from September 2008 to August 2012. The project demonstrated advances in harnessing ocean waves and resulted in the foundation of a spinoff company, Atargis Energy Corporation. Atargis Energy obtained U.S. Energy Department funding to further advance their approach.

Knize also overseas Academy researchers conducting studies into black silicon. Silicon is the premier material for the conversion of solar energy directly into electrical energy. They are investigating a process that uses laser irradiation to increase silicon’s absorption, thus increasing energy conversion. Black silicon was invented at Harvard about 10 years ago; research shows it could improve the efficiency of solar cells. Knize’s research team showed that black silicon could be created with less expense using nanosecond lasers and possibly continuous-wave lasers.

The Defense Department is the largest federal energy consumer, and the Air Force is the largest energy consumer in the DOD. With this understanding, faculty members here will continue to do their part to think and act locally with research that will yield benefits globally.

Photo: Glass beakers and aluminum foil mark the beginning for different breeds of algae as part of the Life Sciences Research Center’s research into harvesting algae for biofuels. (U.S. Air Force photo by Bill Evans)

Memorial dedication

Veterans Day: reflecting on service, Air Force Memorial

By Tech. Sgt. Karen J. Tomasik
Air Force Public Affairs Agency

Veterans Day is near and dear to my family since many family members have served this nation across several service branches. I’ve attended many ceremonies and services at various locations over the years, but there is a place I have yet to visit on a military holiday – the Air Force Memorial.

Why would I want to spend Veterans Day visiting the Air Force Memorial specifically? It’s because my daughters are finally old enough to notice the details of the memorial and what they mean. It’s a visual representation of me and my husband’s Air Force service, and I’d really like to see the wonder in their eyes at seeing the memorial for the first time.

What I remember most about the first time I ever saw the memorial, was the way the three soaring, shiny stainless steel spires seem to rise up out of the trees when driving up to the memorial site. It was their graceful curvature that took me back to my childhood when I saw the Thunderbirds perform what’s known as the bomb burst maneuver.

I also remember a lot of the news that came out about the design and building of the memorial – some people liked the design while others were very vocal in saying how much they didn’t like it. What mattered to me was my service branch finally having a memorial for our Airmen that captures our mission – much like the Navy’s Lone Sailor Statue signifies the service of Sailors and the Marine Corps War Memorial embodies the courage and sacrifice of Marines.

The memorial is not just for the men and women serving in today’s Air Force but also those who served in early organizations like the Aeronautical Division and Aviation Section of the U.S. Signal Corps; the Army Air Service; the U.S. Army Air Corps; and the U.S. Army Air Forces among others. This is for all of America’s Airmen.

The memorial also features a bronze honor guard statue, which I also identify with – not as a ceremonial guardsman in the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard – but as a young Airman allowed to participate as a member of the base honor guard at McChord Air Force Base, Wash.

The opportunities I had to render final honors for many who served in the Army Air Corps and some who served much more recently really opened my eyes to how much we owe to people who choose to join the ranks of those going off into the wild blue yonder for their country.

As a kid growing up in rural Ohio, I loved watching the crop dusters flying over local farms and enjoyed each chance I got to fly to Texas to visit my grandparents for summer vacations. I’m sure all that, my dad’s service in the Ohio Air National Guard, and my being born in San Antonio, home of the Gateway to the Air Force, played a part in my decision to join.

The Air Force memorial is more than just steel spires, bronze statues, granite walls or the glass contemplation wall honoring fallen Airmen. It shows the American people the spirit of its Airmen through the decades, represents our core values and recognizes the three components that make up our Total Force.

It is a legacy of American Airmen and airpower that I hope future generations, including that of my daughters, can look upon with awe as they remember the great feats we have accomplished and the leaders we have developed.

Photo: The Air Force Memorial in Arlington, Va., is the site of a dedication ceremony Oct. 14, 2006, at 9 a.m. Organizers braved the cooler afternoon temperatures Oct. 12 making final preperations for the dedication ceremony. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Larry A. Simmons)