Research Grants/Fellowships/SBIR

2008 Progress Report: Syracuse Center of Excellence in Environmental and Energy Systems

EPA Grant Number: X832325
Center: Syracuse Center of Excellence in Environmental and Energy Systems
Center Director: Bogucz, Edward A
Title: Syracuse Center of Excellence in Environmental and Energy Systems
Investigators: Bogucz, Edward A
Institution: Syracuse University
EPA Project Officer: Levinson, Barbara
Project Period: October 1, 2007 through September 30, 2008
Project Period Covered by this Report: August 1, 2007 through July 31,2008
Project Amount: $11,704,724
RFA: Targeted Research Center (2003) Recipients Lists
Research Category: Targeted Research



This report summaries progress made by the Syracuse Center of Excellence in Environmental and Energy Systems (SyracuseCoE) during the third year of a four-year grant to Syracuse University from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (Grant No. X-83232501-0). The SyracuseCoE is a federation that includes 12 academic and research institutions. Members of the SyracuseCoE federation collaborate to develop fundamental knowledge, technologies and processes that will improve the health and well being of persons living and working in built and urban environments. This US EPA grant supports SyracuseCoE activities that pursue the following specific objectives:
  • Increase the number of active multidisciplinary collaborations among academic and research  member institutions within the SyracuseCoE;
  • Increase the number, quality and diversity of students who pursue degrees in environmental science and engineering and who enter the workforce in these areas; and
  • Increase the number of academic-industry research collaborations.

In pursuit of these objectives, grant funds are allocated in five areas:

  1. Collaborative Activities for Research and Technology Innovations (CARTI) program for funding  academic research,
  2. Graduate Student Fellowship program,
  3. Technology Application and Demonstration (TAD) program to foster pre-commercial development of products and systems,
  4. Student Internships, and
  5. Outreach and dissemination activities.
The CARTI, Fellowship, and TAD programs involve competitive peer reviews by members of an independent Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC), which also periodically reviews the overall direction of SyracuseCoE activities funded by the EPA grant.

Progress Summary:

SyracuseCoE achieved considerable programmatic success in the third year of this grant, including results obtained from projects awarded in prior years and completion of one new award competitions. Major accomplishments include:

  • The third round of competitive awards for CARTI projects attracted 40 pre-proposal applications        resulting in 21 invited full proposals. Review of full proposals yielded 6 new projects, committing $600,000.
  • Of the 13 first-round CARTI awardees, four projects were completed and four projects continued their work as scheduled. (Note five other first-round CARTI projects were completed previously, as reported in last reporting period.) Successful outcomes, such conference presentations, peer-reviewed publications, successful grant applications from other sources for follow-on work were achieved.
  • 16 projects awarded in the second round CARTI also resulted in successful early outcomes. To date, PI’s of these awards have secured follow-on funding based on CARTI project outcomes in excess of $ 1.3million.
  • Two Graduate Fellowship recipients successfully completed their academic requirements and graduated; the remaining six are actively continue their research.
  • Placement of six interns with local companies actively engaged in business areas aligned with SyracuseCoE mission.
  • Successful completion of two SyracuseCoE annual symposia (in October 2007 and September 2008) with additional information dissemination activities through forums, media coverage, and e-Newsletters. 
Further details on these accomplishments and other activities during the reporting period are presented below.
1. CARTI Program
The results of CARTI projects initiated in 2006 and 2007 and the response of applicants to the third solicitation demonstrate that the CARTI program is successfully meeting its objective of encouraging and enabling collaborative research among SyracuseCoE academic and research partners. The third CARTI solicitation attracted 40 pre-proposal applications, and upon review and recommendation by our SAC, resulted in 21 invited full proposals. Further, the program continued to successfully foster the establishment of several new multidisciplinary collaborative teams among SyracuseCoE academic partners. Teams that received funding in the first two solicitations are pursuing continuation funding from other sources; during this period, teams have been successful in securing funding from external sources (NSF , NYSERDA, AABA, March of Dimes) to expand on their CARTI funded early research.
1.1 CARTI Projects – First Round (Award Year 2006)
Four projects of 1-year duration were completed during this reporting period, and work on four projects of 2-year duration demonstrated continuing progress during this reporting period. A summary of key accomplishments of these projects is provided in Table 1 (attached). Highlights include:
  • Major outcomes of the four completed 1-year projects:
    •         Successful development and testing of an unmanned aerial vehicle for urban airshed monitoring to measure pollutant levels above buildings;
    •         Development of a novel method to potentially detect prenatal exposure to tobacco smoke, based on whole-genome screening in mouse DNA for the presence or absence of methylation,
    •         Development of a method to predict mold formation in various parts of any home based on humidity and temperature which will enable ventilation design to avoid or prevent conditions when mold will likely form; and
    •         Development of advanced techniques based on CO2 sensor network for indoor occupancy estimation and event detection., which enables targeted air supply for indoor air quality improvements in buildings;
    •         Dissemination of research results at conferences and through peer-reviewed publications (8 conference presentations; 5 papers published, pending or in preparation);
    •         One patent application was filed and is pending;
    •         A research collaboration with United Technologies Research Center was expanded and resulted in the team securing additional funding from NYSERDA ;
    •         Successful receipt of competitive funding from March of Dimes by one PI based on foundational CARTI project work; and
    •         Additional project support from NYSERDA and ABAA for expanding work of CARTI projects
  • Four 2-year projects are continuing, with no-cost-extensions. These extensions were justified due to technical challenges: one project required monitoring in Summer 2009 due to difficulties in instrument development; a second project required additional recruitment of patients to reach the targeted number; a third to resolve model vs. monitoring discrepancies; and a fourth to resolve difficulties encountered in building energy flow simulations. Good progress is being made by these four 2-year awardees, including: modeling of particle exposure at the scales of room, breathing zone, and respiratory pathways; ultrafine particulate exposure and health effects monitoring protocol implemented for study of cardio rehab patients; development and testing of a field deployable remote monitoring system to measure cyanobacteria in urban watersheds; and development of an integrated monitoring system, and spatial modeling of surface runoff using GIS based tools. Ongoing work from these projects also resulted in 12 presentations and 4 pending publications.
1.2 CARTI RFA – Second Round (Award Year 2007)
The 16 awarded projects demonstrated strong progress. A summary of key accomplishments of these projects is provided in Table 1 (attached). Highlights include:
  • Major outcomes of the two completed 1-year projects include:
    •         Successful construction of connected hydroshells and its use as a viable method to detect antigens in water-borne toxins, which will enable a fast and accurate detector; and
    •         Development and testing of a gold nanoparticle probe as sensor of E-Coli in water, with preliminary results indicating additional research into enhancing probe sensitivity
    •         Dissemination of research results at conferences and through peer-reviewed publications (1 conference presentation; 5 papers pending or in preparation)
    •         Receipt of competitive follow-on funding from NSF and NYSTAR (two PIs) based on their foundational CARTI project work 
  • Five 1-year projects are underway with no-cost-extensions. Complexity of modeling the SyracuseCoE HQ building required one project to develop additional tools and algorithms; difficulties encountered in three-dimensional pollutant transport modeling under natural ventilation was resolved by a second project team by manipulating modeled pressure differentials; a third project resolved issues in air flow simulation of 3- and 2-bedroom apartments; DNA contamination in PCR inhibitors in field samples was successfully diagnosed and resolved; and a statistical model to predict impact of storm water run-offs required a much larger set – 1000 years – of weather simulations. 
  • Good progress made by nine 2-year awardees, including:
    •         Modeling of distributed demand control ventilation in an office building;
    •         Construction two urban monitoring tower systems;
    •         Development of a urban watershed monitoring in lake-river systems to document the impact of lakes on water quality of river systems;
    •         Set-up for testing indoor-outdoor pollutant transport using SyracuseCoE HQ building as a testbed;
    •         Engineer molecular switches to simultaneously detect Giardia and Cryptosporidium;
    •         Develop a PCR method to rapidly detect pathogens in drinking water; and modeling and simulation of weather-water quality coupling to forecast impacts on runoffs due to population impacts.
    •         Additionally one of the CARTI projects [PI: Borer] was able to leverage the results to secure NIH funding for three projects, including an SBIR, in excess of $ 1.3 million.
1.3 CARTI RFA – Third Round (Award Year 2008)
The third CARTI RFP was issued on November 16, 2006 to 12 SyracuseCoE Charter Member academic and research institutions. The solicitation and the review process were modified from prior years to include a pre-proposal stage and, following SAC review, an invited full proposal stage. Applications were requested in two program areas: air quality and water resource management. Competition highlights include:
  • Submission of 40 pre-proposal applications (23 air quality, and 17 water resource management), resulting invitations to 21 applicants to submit full proposals (11 air quality, and 10 water resource management).
  • 6 awards valued at $600,000 ($200,000 for air projects, $400,000 for water projects) were made to PIs affiliated with five member institutions (See Table 3)
A hallmark of all our regranting programs is the involvement of external referees in the review process. The two-stage CARTI proposals review, conducted from December through April 2008, was performed by a review panel comprising members of our SAC, and an ad hoc reviewer to ensure that appropriate expertise was available for the proposals submitted. The air quality team was chaired by Barry Ryan (Emory University); the water resources team was chaired by Denice Wardrop (Pennsylvania State University).
Each pre-proposal was reviewed individually by three members of the SAC and these individual reviews were then compiled and presented to the SAC; the SAC deliberated on, summarized and identified pre-proposals to be invited to submit full proposals. Full proposals invited to submit were reviewed individually by the same three SAC members. These individual reviews were compiled and presented to the SAC; the SAC deliberated on, summarized and rank ordered the proposals. Only those proposals receiving scores of Very Good or Excellent were forwarded for consideration by the Executive Director for funding. The recommendations were evaluated for programmatic balance and significance, and resulted in proposals recommended for funding [see Table 3]. These were shared with EPA prior to release. All applicants were notified of competition outcomes and reviewers’ feedback on their proposal in May 2008.
A public event, attended by the project PIs and collaborators, was held in June 2008 at Syracuse University. Each PI had the opportunity to briefly summarize of their proposed work. The CARTI RFA and awarded project information is posted at our website [].
Syracuse University’s Office of Sponsored Programs is responsible for subrecipient award management; they prepared and issued subcontracts with each institution, flowing down prime award terms and conditions. The PI of each awarded project is required to complete a Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP) for review and approval by SyracuseCoE, prior to commencement of work on the project. Reporting requirements for CARTI awardees includes participation at the annual SyracuseCoE Symposium, held in September 29-30, 2008. Representative(s) of each project team attended the 2008 Symposium.
2. SyracuseCoE Graduate Fellowship Program
A total of 26 applications were received from students enrolled in graduate programs at SyracuseCoE member Universities, in response to the two calls under the Graduate Fellowship Program. The awardees, representing five different Universities, demonstrate the breadth achieved by this program. Two of the fellows who completed their graduate studies were gainfully employed, a Ph.D. graduate at U.S. EPA, and the second at a local manufacturing company. To date, this program is meeting its objectives of training high quality students in environmental science and engineering, and to enable their employment in their field of study.
2.1 Graduate Fellowships – First Round (Award Year 2006)
The six graduate fellows reported continued progress with their academic research work. One of the fellows [Mike Janos], who was awarded a 1-year fellowship, completed his work and subsequently secured employment as energy manager with Longwood University in Virginia. Three fellows completed their 2-year graduate fellowship award period, and are continuing their research work towards their thesis. During this reporting period, the fellows submitted 2 papers and a made total of 5 presentations at made national and regional meetings.
2.2 Graduate Fellowship Applications – Second Round (Award Year 2007)
SyracuseCoE awarded four graduate fellowships during second round of awards; all four graduate fellows reported progress with their academic research work. Two fellows [Jill Crispell and Mayrita Arrandale], who were awarded 1-year fellowships, completed their work. Ms. Crispell subsequently secured employment as Project Scientist with QEA Inc. of New Jersey, and Ms. Arrandale has accepted the position of R&D Associate with Atotech Semiconductor Technology at College of Nanoscale Science & Engineering, SUNY_Albany. Two 2-year fellowship award winners are currently continuing their graduate studies and research work. A total of three papers were submitted by these Graduate Fellows (under review or in the process of publication), and a combined total of five presentations were made at made national and regional meetings. One fellow [Jason Dittman] won the Don Ronnie Memorial outstanding student paper award from New York Sea Grant Institute.
3. Technology Application and Demonstration Program
The results of TAD projects initiated in the first two rounds demonstrate that the TAD program is successfully meeting its objective of encouraging and enabling development and demonstration of prototypes and/or new methods by SyracuseCoE industry partners, collaborating with academic researchers. To date, six TAD projects have successfully demonstrated early prototypes of their development. Follow on work of one project [OrthoSystems, Inc.] resulted in NIH-SBIR funding. Project teams are also actively pursuing additional competitive funding from organizations such as NYSERDA.
3.1 Organizational Challenge Involving TAD Grant Administration
During the first two years of this grant, Syracuse University relied on the SyracuseCoE Office for Industry Collaboration (OIC), an independent non-profit corporation (formerly known as the New York Indoor Environmental Quality (NYIEQ) Center, Inc.), to administer the SyracuseCoE TAD program. During the current reporting period, two important events occurred.
  • In December 2007, SyracuseCoE and the Syracuse CoE OIC agreed to realign resources to better administer grant awards to subrecipients. In the realignment, Syracuse University assumed responsibility for issuing subrecipient awards and subrecipient billings. SyracuseCoE OIC retained responsibility for organizing the TAD call for proposals, proposal review, and award decisions. This revised process for subcontracting has resulted in administrative efficiencies for all parties.
  • In July 2008, Dr. Sandra Downey resigned as Executive Vice President of SyracuseCoE OIC. To insure continuity of ongoing projects and the future of the TAD program, a team SyracuseCoE staff plus SyracuseCoE OIC corporate officers was formed to carry out Dr. Downey’s TAD Program responsibilities. Team members reach out directly to TAD grant recipients regarding work progress and needs. The team also insures that funds are used in a manner consistent with scopes of work and overall award requirements. SyracuseCoE staff members, Dr. Lisa Cleckner and Mark Lichtenstein, have organized the initiation of the third TAD call, released on September 29, 2008. Although this second organizational challenge was unexpected, overcoming it is not impacting the programmatic or budgetary integrity of the overall EPA grant effort. The SyracuseCoE OIC Board of Directors is considering the best options for the future of the non-profit corporation. A decision and plan for the SyracuseCoE OIC are anticipated in the first quarter, 2009. In the meantime, the TAD program will continue to be administered by SyracuseCoE staff.
3.2 TAD Awards – First Round (Award Year 2006)
The first round of the TAD program was administered by SyracuseCoE OIC. All five projects awarded, to small New York state-based businesses, in this round reported continued progress. A listing of awarded projects is provided in Table 4. Highlights of accomplishments include:
  • Four projects awarded in the first round were successfully completed, with demonstration and testing of prototype products.
  • Air Innovations, Inc. demonstrated a prototype of a unique combined heat recovery ventilation and air purification system. In a pilot study, this prototype unit was tested at a home in the bedroom of an asthmatic child. Preliminary results show that the unit performed well in removing particulate matter from room while introducing fresh air. Limited clinical data also showed that the child displayed reduced number of asthmatic reactions.
  • OrthoSystems, Inc. successfully demonstrated a distributed system for water quality monitoring. This work was presented at two conferences. The project team, which also worked on the basic research issues through a CARTI project, was successful in securing $950,000 funding from NIH-SBIR program to expand and continue this work.
  • Phytofilter Technologies developed prototype of a plant-based air cleaning device. This device is currently undergoing long-term field testing at the ICUBE lab at Syracuse University. A provisional patent application is being prepared for some elements of this prototype.
3.3 TAD Awards – Second Round (Award Year 2007)
The second round of the TAD program is being administered by SyracuseCoE, under the governance of Syracuse University. Similar to the first round of TAD awards, all five projects in this round were to small New York state-based businesses. All five projects reported continued progress. A listing of awarded projects is provided in Table 4. Highlights of accomplishments include:
  • Propulsive Wing, LLC developed a prototype of a multi-use personal ventilation and filtration system. The project team demonstrated this prototype, as an attachment to a laptop computer, to provide clean air at the personal scale for the laptop user. This project was demonstrated at the 2008 SyracuseCoE annual Symposium and received wide publicity.
  • Taitem Engineering developed a new approach to air conditioning based on geothermal desiccant cooling. A prototype based on this principle was constructed and was tested at the BEES lab at Syracuse University. A demonstration and information sharing event was held in August 2008 to show and share laboratory data as the unit was undergoing testing.
3.4 TAD Awards – Third Round (Award Year 2009)
The third round of TAD proposal review and awards is following the same process established during the first two calls. SyracuseCoE released the request for applications on September 30, 2008; completed applications are due on December 2, 2008. A review panel consisting of SAC members Ryan, Bayer, Wardrop and Thornton is slated to review and develop a list of meritorious projects recommended for funding; the Executive Director will make awards based on SAC recommendations and programmatic balance.
4.0 Entrepreneur/Intern Program
The SyracuseCoE OIC offers internships to support qualified college students hosted by Central Upstate New York companies working in the indoor environmental quality, highperformance/ green building design, and water resources fields. This activity is critical to our objective of increasing the number, quality and diversity of students who pursue degrees in environmental science and engineering and who enter the workforce in these areas. The internship program is also essential to our related goal of enhancing post-graduation student retention in Central Upstate New York by establishing valuable relationships between college students and local companies with interests in the environmental quality field. Junior/senior undergraduate and graduate students at SU or other Central Upstate NY academic institutions enrolled in a part- or full-time degree program are eligible to apply for the internships. Two Internship Program calls in the previous reporting period resulted in a total of 11 awards (8 summer, and 3 fall). Two of the past interns under this program were hired by their local company sponsors; one additional student is under consideration for a position. The internship program was advertised in student notice boards, college/university departments, and through our website []. During the summer of 2008, an additional six internships were awarded.
5.0 Outreach and Dissemination
SyracuseCoE pursued a multitude of activities to disseminate information on EPA-supported program outcomes as well as education and outreach on our core focus areas. We also employed our website [] to post and disseminate information on programs such as CARTI [], and announcement of forthcoming annual Symposium, meetings and forums. Notable activities included:
  • The SyracuseCoE co-hosted a major sustainability event in Syracuse in April 2008, with sustainability and IEQ being one of the areas of focus. This event was attended by more than 1,000 participants including over 100 high school students. Many media sources covered this event, including local ABC, CBS, and Time Warner television stations.
  • A public event was held on October 1, 2007 to announce these awards. This event, held at the fabrication facility of Propulsive Wing, LLC, one of the award recipients, was covered by local television stations and the Syracuse Post Standard newspaper.
  • During this period, the SyracuseCoE continued its comprehensive E-newsletters, which included articles on research and notification of forthcoming presentations
  • Publication of several newspaper articles on the research and work of SyracuseCoE in Syracuse Post Standard, Syracuse University Record, and Syracuse Orange, a student newspaper
  • Conducted a public and press event in June 2008 to announce the project awardees from the third CARTI round. This event was also extensively covered by Syracuse Post Standard, and local Television Channels.
Research & Technology Forums. The Research & Technology Committee of the SyracuseCoE identified and developed forum topics in emerging areas to enhance discussion and collaboration opportunities in areas of potential benefit to local companies and regional businesses. The forums were also jointly held with the local chapter of US Green Building Council to augment our outreach. In a notable forum, Bill Chadwick of Carrier Corporation discussed “Particle Air Filtration, Picking the Type that Meets Your Needs.”
2007 Annual Symposium. The 2007 SyracuseCoE Annual Symposium, titled “Building Innovations for Climate Change”, was held during October 22-23, 2007. In addition to 12 invited talks, the Symposium included over 30 podium/poster presentations by researchers and students working on areas of research closely affiliated with the CARTI and TAD programs. Three CARTI researchers and one TAD principal investigator were also invited to give talks on their current work. The Symposium was attended by over 250 participants. Logistical planning for the 2008 SyracuseCoE Symposium also occurred during this reporting period.
2008 Annual Symposium. The 2008 SyracuseCoE Annual Symposium, titled “Creating Resilience in Sustainable Communities”, was held during September 29-30, 2008. A total of four keynote speakers led segments of the Symposium. The Symposium included parallel tracks on indoor environmental quality, and water resources, the two focus areas of CARTI and TAD programs. Speakers in these sessions discussed their research and potential applications. The Symposium also included over 60 podium/poster presentations by researchers and students working on areas of research closely affiliated with the CARTI and TAD programs. The Symposium was attended by over 450 participants.
Additional Dissemination Activities. The SyracuseCoE 2007 annual progress report was released at the annual Symposium on October 22-23, 2007. The 2008 annual report was released at the annual Symposium on September 29-30, 2008. These reports, covering activities of the SyracuseCoE, were designed to reach scientists, local businesses and general public, and included several technical briefs by researchers affiliated with the SyracuseCoE. The annual progress reports were distributed locally and regionally, and also in electronic form available through our website. Additionally, researchers from SyracuseCoE affiliated partners participated and published results of their work at ASHRAE’s winter meeting in Quebec City, Canada, ASHRAE’s summer meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah A&WMA’s annual meeting in June 2008, and at Indoor 2008 international meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Plans for 2008-2009
CARTI. Presentations of CARTI projects awarded in the first two rounds will be presented to an audience of the SyracuseCoE’s Scientific Advisory Committee, EPA project officer, researchers affiliated with the SyracuseCoE, and members of the industry partner firms of the SyracuseCoE. This event is being scheduled for December 2008. All funds allocated for the CARTI program competitive research project awards have been successfully distributed in the three CARTI rounds.
Plan for TAD Proposal Review and Award. The third TAD competition is currently open, with applications due on December 2, 2008. It is anticipated that application review and project selection will be completed within two months after application due date. Announcement of winning projects is anticipated to take place on or after January 2009. Project duration is one year, and projects are expected to have a start date of March 1, 2009. The total amount of funding available for the third round of TAD is $580,000.
Success toward achieving project objectives
SyracuseCoE is achieving the stated objectives of this grant through its three regranting programs, internship program, and information disseminating activities. The CARTI program received wider recognition among the SyracuseCoE academic partners and resulted in an enthusiastic response towards collaborative research. Our first CARTI RFA attracted applications from 40 collaborative teams. The second CARTI call resulted in 60 applications. In the third round 40 teams competed for six available projects. The program is meeting its primary objective of encouraging collaborative research among SyracuseCoE academic and institutional members. Early evidence of continued academic collaborations, beyond the CARTI program, is seen in grant applications to funding organizations such as NSF and NYSERDA. Similarly, we are fostering collaborative efforts between industry and academia as seen in a number of TAD applications. Industry partners are working faculty members of SyracuseCoE member institutions and are utilizing advanced laboratory facilities available at these member universities. We also witnessed discussions on collaborations between academia and industry during our R&T forums. Our observations also indicate that preliminary discussions are taking place among industry and academic partners on potential future collaborations, beyond the TAD program, to seek funding from other external sources such as NYSERDA. Our Graduate Fellowship Program was well subscribed. A total of 10 students have received awards through this program in two separate rounds, furthering their studies in environmental science and engineering and related fields. To date, four graduates from this program also gained employment related to their area of study. The committed funding for fellowship awards under this program is now fully distributed. The Internship Program continues to be successful during summer months, since academic year internships are affected by various factors including, class schedules, limited ability of students to commute outside the campus area, etc. We are engaging available additional means, such as local student newspapers, and student peer networks to disseminate the availability and benefits of Internships. Our information sharing and dissemination activities are proving fruitful. Research & Technology forums on topics of immediate interest to our academic and business community were well attended. Newspaper and television coverage of our academic research and TAD awards were informative and well received. 

Supplemental Keywords:

RFA, Scientific Discipline, Air, climate change, Air Pollution Effects, Environmental Monitoring, Atmosphere, adaptive technologies, water quality, ecosystem sustainability, outreach, air quality

Progress and Final Reports:
Original Abstract
2006 Progress Report
2007 Progress Report