3 months ago

Southern Research moving ‘green chemistry’ team to new Birmingham lab

Southern Research has moved a team of scientists working to develop promising clean-energy technologies from North Carolina to a new state-of-the-art laboratory it is opening on the organization’s downtown Birmingham campus.

The research team, led by Amit Goyal, Ph.D., has devised cost-efficient, environmentally friendly methods to produce valuable industrial chemicals from sources such as waste materials and harmful carbon dioxide.

“These leading-edge technologies hold significant potential for commercialization, and relocating our talented scientists to an ultra-modern laboratory in Birmingham will help them advance their important work,” said Art Tipton, Ph.D., president and CEO of Southern Research.

“We are committed to supporting the research being conducted by Amit’s team because it fully aligns with Southern Research’s core mission – finding innovative solutions to make the world a better place,” Tipton said.

Southern Research is investing $1 million to outfit an existing 7,200-square-foot building on its Southside campus as the Sustainable Chemistry and Catalysis Laboratory. Work is under way to install pilot-scale chemical reactors and other equipment at the facility. Funds raised through the recent Change Campaign effort are also helping to drive this important project forward.

The lab is expected to be operational by mid-February, and Goyal’s team, comprising eight researchers, is already working full time in Birmingham, according to Corey Tyree, Ph.D., senior director in Energy & Environment (E&E) at Southern Research.

“This will be a world-class lab where brilliant inventors are creating new technologies that offer a better way of manufacturing everyday products,” Tyree said. “This group is doing award-winning work, and now that work will be carried out right here in Birmingham, where Southern Research has made many groundbreaking discoveries in its history.”

Green technologies

Goyal and his team have developed a method to convert biomass sugars into acrylonitrile, the chemical building block of carbon fiber, which is increasingly used in airplanes, automobiles and other manufactured products because of its strength and light weight.

The Southern Research process to produce acrylonitrile for high-performance carbon fiber is around 20 percent cheaper than conventional production methods and sustainable, lowering greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 40 percent.

Goyal’s team has also developed a process to transform CO2 into high-value chemicals known as olefins, which are used to make a sweeping range of products such as packaging, plastics, textiles, paints and electronics.

Energy-intensive methods are currently used to produce ethylene and other widely used chemicals in the olefin family, so the Southern Research technology could yield significant environmental benefits while also converting a greenhouse gas.

“This relocation represents an exciting and important opportunity to capitalize on significant Southern Research infrastructure and the scientific community in Birmingham,” said Goyal, director of Sustainable Chemistry and Catalysis for Southern Research. “This puts science at the heart of everything we do because our long-term success depends on improving R&D productivity and achieving scientific leadership.”

Expanding capabilities

Mayor Randall Woodfin welcomed Goyal’s team to the city where Southern Research works to discover and develop new medicines, tackles engineering challenges for major government agencies, and researches energy and environmental technologies.

“Birmingham is increasingly becoming a key location for world-class research and a place where important discoveries are being made on almost a daily basis,” Woodfin said. “Southern Research’s decision to move its ‘green chemistry’ scientists to a new lab in the city will add to this momentum. I look forward to seeing their work advance in Birmingham.”

As a result of the team’s relocation, Southern Research has closed its office in Durham, North Carolina. The organization’s Environmental Technology Verification team, led by Tim Hansen, P.E., will continue to operate from the city, evaluating new clean technologies around the world.

Tyree said the decision to close the Durham office will yield cost savings and increase efficiency for the nonprofit organization. The move also unites the Sustainable Chemistry team with other E&E researchers in Birmingham, who focus on issues such as energy storage systems and solar panel durability.

Southern Research opened the Durham office in 1992 to support work for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which at the time operated a major research and development facility in Research Triangle Park.

In recent years, the work in Durham has focused primarily on various green energy technologies from the U.S. Department of Energy and other customers, making the location in North Carolina less necessary than when it was tied to the EPA work.

This story originally appeared on Southern Research’s website.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

Everyone can now have their own sweet home in Alabama

Now that it’s 2019, no longer does the term “Sweet Home Alabama” have to be just a famous Lynyrd Skynyrd song, or a Reese Witherspoon romantic comedy.

That’s because anyone who has always wanted to own a home of their own in Alabama now has a new tool to help them do that for the first time, or even the first time in a long while.

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In Alabama, the First-Time Homebuyer and Second-Chance Savings Account (FHSA), is now available for anyone who has never owned a home or for those folks who are re-entering the housing market and haven’t owned a home for at least a decade.

Individuals or couples can open one of these tax-free savings accounts at any local bank, credit union or other financial institution in Alabama. The principal deposits and earnings will be deductible on their state income taxes.

The savings in this account can be used to pay for a down payment and/or closing costs for a single-family dwelling.

ABOUT THE ACCOUNTS

“First-time buyers can now begin the process of buying a home years in advance, simply by starting a savings account, and get a tax break by doing so,” said Morgan Ashurst, 2019 Alabama REALTORS® Public Policy Chair. “We are proud to have played a role in helping provide first-time buyers with this new resource.”

The option to use this account was created in 2018 when the Alabama legislature passed a bill and Gov. Kay Ivey signed it into law. It allows individuals or couples to make deposits and earnings up to $50,000, with a mandate that qualified expenditures must be made within five years from opening the account.

“One of the most commonly asked questions from first-time buyers is, ‘Where do I start?’ This savings account is the new starting point,” said Stacey Sanders, 2019 Alabama REALTORS® President. “We are excited to see the growth this new homebuying tool spurs in Alabama’s housing market.”

A POSITIVE IMPACT

And while this benefit is great for the first-time homebuyer and those who may have had to hit the reset button for a time and are ready to own a home again now, it’s a benefit to all Alabama residents.

Even though other Alabamaians can’t take advantage of the FHSA, they benefit because home ownership helps improve neighborhoods, which in turn attracts businesses, which creates jobs and improves our local economy.

Homeownership provides wealth accumulation for owners, in addition to social and economic benefits.

Overall, 90% of Alabama residents believe homeownership is a good financial decision.

So, there’s a stake in homeownership for everybody in Alabama, where, according to the song, the skies are so blue. And those skies will be bluer and brighter with more homeowners, which is why those that qualify should take advantage of the FHSA now that it is available.

BY Anthony Sanfilippo

Byrne: Alabama the Beautiful

As the weather continues to warm and summer temperatures approach, I am reminded of the incredible natural beauty that lies here in Alabama.

For many schools throughout Southwest Alabama, April marked Spring Break for students and teachers, and so many families take advantage of that time to get out and enjoy the great outdoors throughout our state.

As a hunter and outdoorsman, I know the importance of managing our wildlife areas and natural resources – private, family-owned and public lands – to ensure they are around for our children and grandchildren to enjoy for decades to come. That is why I have once again joined the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus to protect and advance our national heritage of hunting, fishing, recreational shooting and trapping.

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As anyone who lives here knows, along the Gulf Coast we are blessed with an amazingly diverse and important ecosystem.

This week, I will be visiting the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge along the Fort Morgan Peninsula to celebrate the completion of a significant land conservation effort within the Little Point Clear Unit. Bon Secour is home to countless species and is a favorite outdoor spot for many Southwest Alabamians.

Just across Mobile Bay, I’ll also have the privilege of participating in the Lightning Point Restoration Project groundbreaking in Bayou La Batre, another successful coastal restoration project made possible by local leadership and public-private partnerships.

With miles of trails and plenty to do and see, I am committed to preserving these important resources and habitats for future generations.

Just here in our backyard of Southwest Alabama, we also have Gulf State Park, Meaher State Park, Fort Morgan, Fort Gaines, Frank Jackson State Park, dozens of walking trails, outdoor spaces and campgrounds.

It is up to us to take care of our area. Just a few weeks ago, Orange Beach was named the cleanest town in Alabama. What an accomplishment for Orange Beach residents!

It is also up to Congress to ensure that we take care of our natural resources as well. That is why I have continued to fight for just compensation in cases of natural disaster or human error.

The RESTORE (Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States) Act has provided funds for the cleanup from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill that greatly impacted our shores and communities. It is important that the entirety of those funds are distributed as intended to the impacted communities and that such a disaster is not repeated in the future.

Similarly, I am grateful to President Trump for maintaining the funding for the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA). This legislation provides for fair compensation to Alabama by creating revenue sharing provisions used for coastal conservation, restoration and hurricane protection.

Enjoying the beauty of mother nature along the coast also means having to recover when she turns violent.

We are unfortunately all too familiar with hurricanes and other violent storms in our area. Being prepared goes a long way to riding out the storm, but it is how we recover that defines the spirit of resilience that we have here in Alabama. When the worst does happen, I always fight to ensure that the people of Alabama have access to the necessary funds and resources to recover from those natural disasters.

I have lived my whole life in Alabama, and I believe we live in the most beautiful state in the country. Whenever I am out in nature with my kids and grandkids, hunting, fishing, or simply enjoying God’s creation, I understand why we call it “Alabama the Beautiful.”

This year, as the Spring turns into Summer, make sure you take time to enjoy nature and get out and enjoy our parks, history and everything Alabama has to offer.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope.

2 hours ago

Rebuild Alabama projects keep coming: Hwy 82 in Prattville and Hwy 411 in Cherokee County

Announcements of Rebuild Alabama infrastructure projects are starting to become an everyday occurrence.

Governor Kay Ivey on Tuesday outlined that the Alabama Department of Transportation has selected major transportation projects in Autauga and Cherokee counties as part of the Rebuild Alabama First Year Plan 2020.

“Drivers across Alabama have experienced the troubles of the state’s crumbling infrastructure for far too long. In selecting these projects in Autauga and Cherokee counties, we’re showing that stagnation is no longer the case in Alabama,” Ivey said in a statement. “For the ease of our drivers, for the safety of our drivers and for the future of our state, it’s finally time we Rebuild Alabama!”

This comes after announcements of significant projects for the Huntsville area and Tuscaloosa in recent days.

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In a cluster of Rebuild Alabama First Year Plan projects, ALDOT will widen U.S. Highway 82 in Prattville, a project that this area has long been awaiting for over 60 years. These enhancements to US 82 will shorten the daily commute of over 17,000 drivers and also complete the Prattville Bypass, according to the governor’s office.

Additionally, the widening of US 82 will improve access for loggers traveling to the International Paper plant from 18 Alabama counties. Six hundred workers from 23 Alabama counties will reportedly find increased ease in their work commutes, as this project improves access to the James Hardie Building Projects Facility and the other companies in the area.

State Sen. Clyde Chambliss (R-Prattville), who carried the Rebuild Alabama Act in the Senate, lauded the announcement as a huge win for jobs and the community. He also emphasized that these types of projects will ultimately be transformational for the Yellowhammer State.

“These are the first steps of many that will begin the process of Rebuild Alabama. Industry is a backbone of our economic engine, and I am pleased that Governor Ivey is moving Alabama forward with these improvements,” Chambliss remarked. “I firmly believe that we will look back on 2019 as a turning point in the history of our state.”

State Rep. Will Dismukes (R-Prattville), who represents this project’s district in the House, voted against the Rebuild Alabama Act. A freshman legislator, he is currently considering a run for the U.S. Senate, as reported by Yellowhammer Podcast Network’s “The Insider.”

‘Long-awaited’ project for a rural part of Alabama

In Cherokee County, ALDOT will widen U.S. Highway 411 as part of the Rebuild Alabama First Year Plan.

“The widening of US 411 has been long-awaited by the folks of Cherokee and Etowah counties, and it is vital for the economic development of this area,” State Sen. Andrew Jones (R-Centre) said. “As we begin to see dividends from the Rebuild Alabama Act, I once again thank Governor Ivey for her leadership in its passage and look forward to continually working together in the future.”

Cherokee County is one of 16 Alabama counties currently not served by a four-lane route to an interstate. This Rebuild Alabama project will fulfill a promise that the people of this area have waited for since the early 1960s.

“I appreciate and support Governor Ivey’s Rebuild Alabama plan, including investing in rural districts,” State Rep. Ginny Shaver (R-Leesburg) said. “Four lane access to the interstate will greatly increase economic development opportunities for new and existing industry in our area. The people have been waiting decades for this project to be completed, and Governor Ivey is the one who is getting it done!”

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 hours ago

Ivey to introduce book published by Alabama nonprofit dedicated to health and literacy

As part of its HEAL Day celebration in Montgomery, an Alabama nonprofit advocating for health and literacy will host Governor Kay Ivey for the introduction of a new book written by its founder.

Ivey will read the book, written by HEAL founder and CEO Christy Swaid, to 200 children in the state capitol auditorium.

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The Ultimate Treasure Hunt is a book that Swaid hopes will help children better understand the connection between health and literacy.

HEAL is an acronym summarizing the group’s mission: Healthy Eating Active Living. According to HEAL, it is “dedicated to unifying Alabama to reverse the trend of chronic disease and poor literacy.” The organization works with 30,000 students and 85,000 family members in 153 schools across the state.

Ivey’s book reading is part of an event the group is calling “HEAL Day: A day of education & celebration of health, academic achievement and literacy in the great state of Alabama.”

Where: Alabama State Capitol
When: May 1, 10:30am-1:00pm — Governor’s presentation is set for 11:00am with book reading to follow
Watch:

HB352 seeks to save the American Dream for Alabama small business owners

The American Dream.

It is woven into the fabric of our nation’s success and yet, at some point, for small business owners across Alabama, the dream of small business success that drives hardworking Alabama men and women to work 70 hour weeks, to pour their hearts and souls into building small businesses the vision of leaving something behind for their children, began to be threatened by large out of state corporate interests and under current Alabama law, there were no legal protections for those that saw their hard work, sweat, tears and dollars taken away.

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The Bush family spent nearly three decades building a successful small business in rural Elmore County. Twenty-six years ago, Darrel Bush’s parents purchased a Huddle House franchise and began the grueling task of opening a new restaurant. The restaurant grew into a success and, as they became ready, the next generation of the Bush family joined the business. Two generations of a single family were living the American Dream until the Huddle House corporation decided they wanted the profits that the Bush’s were making for themselves – cut out the small business owners that built the Huddle House name in Wetumpka.

Once the corporation had their eyes set on the Bush’s business, they used corporate bullying to drive the Bush’s out of business so that the corporation could build a company-owned Huddle House just a mile down the road. Alabama law had no protections for the Bush family and they lost the dream they had devoted their lives to achieving.

Unfortunately, the Bush family is not alone. Time after time, Alabama’s small business owners find themselves at the mercy of large out of state corporations due to our state’s weak franchisee protection laws.

Under current statute, the out of state franchisors hold all of the cards while Alabama small business owners are largely powerless to defend themselves. It is not uncommon for these franchisors to come back year after year and demand changes to franchise contracts. If the franchisees balk at agreeing to the changes, their businesses are threatened. They are often forced to purchase products at far above the fair market value, forced to make investments of their profits into systems and programs that benefit the corporation, not their small business. If a location gets too successful, they are at risk of being shut down so that a corporate owned store can open up down the street and usurp the profits for the corporation. Often, franchise owners are told that they can’t leave their businesses to their children.

Many Alabama franchisees lives in a constant state of fear.

Representative Connie Rowe (R-Walker County) is hoping to give Alabama’s small business men and women a fair playing field in the State of Alabama with HB352, the Alabama Small Business Act. The legislation, which will be heard in committee in the Alabama House of Representatives this week, will protect the rights of the state’s business owners and the 125,000 jobs they provide.

The bill gives franchisees the rights to have disputes heard in Alabama’s court system, rather than being forced to go to court in the franchisor’s home state. It would also require that franchisor corporations negotiate in good faith in their dealings with Alabama’s franchise owners.

This legislation is about more than protecting the rights of business owners. This legislation is about protecting the American Dream and that is something we should all be able to support.