UT Engineers Work on Improving Batteries

A team of engineers here at UT is on the cutting edge of science, developing better batteries that are safer and more reliable.  The group is led by Joshua Sangoro, an assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at the university.  Sangoro’s team is trying to change the design of traditional batteries, including the substances inside of them, in a way that will solve the problems that traditional lithium ion batteries pose.  The biggest of which being overheating, which leads to unwanted chemical reactions that can create hazardous situations involving poisonous gasses and fires.

We use so many things in our day to day lives that involve portable power in the form of batteries: cell phones, laptops, vehicles, airplanes, even children’s toys – they’re everywhere.  The work of Sangoro and his team will have an impact on the world and shape the way we think about power.  Their work will extend past powering personal devices, expanding the capabilities of anything needing a portable power source – including things like solar cells.  The National Science Foundation recently awarded the team a grant of $348,000 to continue their work.

Check out the article from Tennessee Today to learn more about this promising project!

Evolve Your Lightbulb

Welcome back to class, Big Orange. The summer was filled with sunny days, but when school is back in session, chances are you’re going to be burning that midnight oil more and more. That’s why it’s important to upgrade your lightbulb and save as much energy as you can. Here’s a breakdown of light bulbs and their energy efficiency.


Incandescent bulbs have already been phased out of stores for failing to meet federal energy efficiency standards, so if you still have any, be sure to replace them with more efficient models as they burn out. LEDs, while being a little more expensive at the outset, will ultimately save you money due to their long hours before burning out and their even greater energy efficiency that CFLs. Good luck in those classes, Vols!

Electric Charging Lanes to Begin Testing in UK This Year

We, here at UTK, have 17 electric vehicle charging stations on campus: 6 by staff lot 23, 6 on the Ag Campus, and 5 at the 11th Street Garage.  These stations are open to students, staff, faculty, and the greater community in efforts to reduce our overall environmental impact.  Electric vehicles are a great alternative to standard vehicles in that they have a significantly lower environmental impact than their counterparts, but they have their drawbacks.  Because they can only go so far on a single charge (between 50-100 miles is standard) and in refueling they can take as many as 16 hours to recharge to a full 100% (though the option of fast charging to 80% is available, but it can be damaging to the battery and still takes at least 30 minutes), they aren’t really convenient on long trips.

All hope is not lost, however.  The British government has an answer to this global conundrum – roads that recharge electric vehicles while you drive.  Wireless charging for personal devices has been around for a bit, and is even popping up on a larger scale for cars –  but none of them has ever been charged while going 60 mph.

The UK is getting ready to begin the testing phase for this new technology in the next few months.  The government will install the devices under test roads and in vehicles, and work toward making this technology a realistic solution for the sovereign state’s highways.  This prototype could potentially work for all types of vehicles, and because it goes under the road there won’t be anything above ground that increases the risk of collision or electrical shock.  It breaks down the limitations of other projects aimed at lowering emissions on roadways, like overhead cables used for trains and trolleys or LA’s prototype zero emission highway.

To learn more about this awesome project, check out the press release here.

Clean Locomotive Engine Will Begin Tests Next Month in Knoxville

Knoxville Locomotive Works (KLW) is hurdling a milestone in their 3 year plan to develop a cleaner engine for locomotives in order to meet new federal standards.  In about a month, KLW plans to have their first prototype engine installed and ready for testing.  Their goal is to substantially reduce the amount of hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, particulates, and nitric oxides in the exhaust of their engines.  KLW boasts that in smoggy areas, these engines have the potential to actually clean the air because what they emit is going to be cleaner than the air they take in.  If all goes according to plan, the engine prototype will be certified by early next year.

Check out the Knoxville News Sentinel’s article for more information on this local story!

DIY Air Fresheners

Sometimes after spending a summer vacation, even a good cleaning isn’t enough to get that stale apartment smell out of your dorm room. Unfortunately, air fresheners and plug-ins often come in unsustainable aerosol cans or impossible to recycle plastic dispensers, and are filled with less than earth-friendly chemicals. Beeswax or soy candles can be a good alternative, but for many students living on campus, these options are prohibited because of the open flame. The good news is that these commercial air fresheners are very easy to replace with your own green alternatives. Here are some of our favorite recipes for DIY air fresheners.

Big Orange Freshener

Essential Oil Spray

Baking soda



Green Move-In

Move-In can be a stressful time and environmental issues are probably one of the last things on your mind as you pack. However, Move-In and Move-Out are two of the places where students can make the biggest environmental difference by taking very simple measures to reduce their waste and energy consumption. As you’re packing for Move In this summer, keep these sustainable tips in mind. They’ll make your move in easier on the environment, and easier for you!

  • Pack light! As you’re packing, think about what you will really use and take size into consideration. It’s easier to keep clean and green in an environment free from clutter. Not to mention, the less stuff you bring, the less fuel you have to expend to lug it to your new place.
  • Communicate with your roommate ahead of time so you don’t bring unnecessary duplicate items.
  • Bring reusable plates, mugs, utensils, and containers.
  • Bring a power strip with a switch. Then, when your electronics are not in use, you can flip it off and save energy.
  • Bring a bike or rent one at UTOP!
  • Use large reusable boxes to pack. Not only are these less wasteful, but they are easy to pack again for move-out and simpler to carry than all those small cardboard boxes.
  • If you have fragile items, wrap them in t-shirts instead of packaging. You’ll end up with much less waste and it’s more space-efficient.
  • For smaller items, take the stairs. You’ll thank yourself when you don’t have to wait in those long lines for an elevator.
  • Recycle any packaging you can’t reuse.

UT Recycling Jobs

Interested in making a sustainable difference on campus during your time at UT? Look no further than these internships with UT Recycling! These internships provide experience in materials management and marketing, and they are a great way to become involved with environmental programs at UT.

Compost Intern

Materials Management

Responsibilities include: Completing compost route, dumping compost, cleaning bins, working Zero Waste events, and helping with daily operations as needed.


20 Hours a Week (between 8am and 5pm)

Open to All Majors

Email Jay Price (jayprice@utk.edu) your resume. You should follow up on your application by calling (865) 974-3480 and leaving a voice mail with your name, contact information, and position for which you have applied.

Marketing Intern


Interested in gaining social media, community outreach, and educational campaign experience? If so, this is the opportunity for you! Learn how to work with a talented team to execute current initiatives, manage social media accounts, and coordinate with various stakeholders to drive environmental stewardship on UT’s campus. If this sounds like something you would like to do, apply to be the Marketing Intern for UT Recycling!


20 Hours a Week (between 8am and 5pm)

Open to All Majors

Email your resume and a cover letter to Sarah Murray (smurra17@utk.edu). Call 974-3480 to follow-up after you have submitted your resume and leave a message stating you name, position you have applied for, and contact information.


Be the Sustainability Coordinator for TCWN!

The Tennessee Clean Water Network is looking for a new Sustainability Coordinator. The primary work of the Sustainability Coordinator is to work with the Director of Environmental Health Projects and the Executive Director to continue to develop relationships and strengthen partnerships with Tennessee universities’ offices of sustainability.  The coordinator will aim to increase students’ access to drinking water, work with student groups to develop campaigns to promote choosing water over sugar-sweetened beverages and bottled water, and assist in the development of the Knox County Schools Bringing Tap Back pilot project. The position will also support TCWN’s Executive Director and Director of Environmental Health in the statewide campaign to promote and increase access to safe, affordable, convenient water via public drinking fountains and water bottle refill stations. If you’re interested in making an environmental difference with your job, this could be just the position for you! Check out more information and apply here

Green Camping

Very few things seem more environmentally friendly than camping. Getting off the grid for a weekend and engaging with nature seem like inherently “green” things to do, but challenge yourself and you’ll find that there are plenty of ways you can reduce your environmental footprint even when camping. Here are some ways to make sure your camping trip causes as little disruption as possible.

Buy Used Gear or Rent

Camp Nearby

Stay on the Trail

Build a Safe Campfire

Make your Trip Zero Waste


Carnivorous Plants Family Event with UT Gardens

UT Gardens hosts an excellent series of events called “growing together” where families can come and learn to grow various garden plants together. While all of these events are wonderful, upcoming this Saturday is an especially cool event. This event teaches families to grow carnivorous plants, plants adapted to catch and eat insects. This session will take a look at several carnivorous plants and explore why they eat insects. Participants will even get to take a carnivorous plant home. Check out our full event listing here for time, place, and cost.