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IAC to continue auditing, educational program

For 40 years , the U.S. Department of Energy’s Industrial Assessment Centers program has partnered with various higher education institutions to provide small- and medium-sized manufacturers with assessments on how to improve productivity and energy efficiency, and students have benefitted from the ability to learn how to complete such assessments through hands-on learning techniques. The University of Missouri College of Engineering has been a partner for the last 10 years and recently received word that its partnership was accepted for another five-year term.

A rusty pipe and scattershot insulation.

Items such as inefficient application of insulation are things students are trained to spot while working for the Midwest Industrial Assessment Center, which recently was accepted for a third-consecutive round of funding. Photo courtesy of Sanjeev Khanna.

MU Engineering hosts the Midwest Industrial Assessment Center, one of 28 such centers located on college campuses nationwide. The DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy allotted $35 million in funding to the centers, with MU earning a nearly $1.5 million share.

Sanjeev Khanna, C.W. LaPierre professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, serves as director, and Yuyi Lin, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, is associate director. Assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science Prasad Calyam and assistant dean for industrial relations and entrepreneurship Steve Devlin serve as affiliate faculty.

“Our goal here is mainly to help medium-size industries to save energy by making their production systems more energy efficient,” Khanna said. “That has been the traditional goal of these programs.”

The program benefits industrial partners by helping them cut costs through greater energy efficiency. To be eligible, companies should have less than 500 employees, can’t produce more than $100 million in gross sales of a given product and have more than $100,000 in energy costs per year.

The university’s educational mission benefits by using the program to give students the expertise to complete audits and make recommendations that will affect real-world manufacturing. Khanna said between 10 and 15 students — both graduate and undergraduate students — usually go through the program at MU each year, doing an average of between six and eight audits each. Before completing the audits, students participate in two-day training sessions on each of the areas in which they’re expected to complete audits, which include manufacturing processes and related energy analysis, energy assessment procedures and energy management systems.

Alongside energy efficiency, the DOE is tasking the IACs with assessing cyber security, ways to limit water waste and methods for producing assessments for automated systems, which can be tough to simply shut down for an assessment. Given prior results, this is sure to help companies trim costs further by eliminating even more waste and unnecessary risks.

“On average, nationwide, the savings to each industrial partner is more than $50,000 per year in terms of annual energy cost, and Missouri industries are expected to save millions of dollars every year,” Khanna said.

Sometimes the experience gleaned from working with the IAC helps students and faculty get involved with additional real-world projects. Because of the experience gained in the IAC program, a notable collaboration undertaken by Khanna along with several other partner organizations was the nation’s first Active House, located in St. Louis. An Active House is one designed to naturally adjust to sun, shade and breezes to maximize energy efficiency and clean air throughout the house. Khanna and the student assessment team collected data throughout the first year of the home’s existence to study its performance in terms of energy efficiency and air quality.

Experiential learning is a key part of Mizzou Engineering’s efforts to educate the next generation of leaders in the field. And the renewal of the Midwest IAC is a critical piece of that puzzle.