RTI International has landed a $4.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to research means of reducing energy needs for manufacturing firms.

The award is one of 13 totaling $54 million that were granted across the country.

The winning programs are contributing $17 million in cost sharing toward the projects, the Energy Department said.

RTI will work with Duke University and private sector firm Veolia Water Solutions & Technologies North Americaq. The grant is for three years. 

The team plans to develop what it calls an “advanced hybrid membrane system” to capture waste heat from industrial processes and use what is typically wasted energy to treat wastewater.

“This technology has the potential to reduce industrial energy and water consumption, lessen the environmental impacts associated with industrial operations, and stimulate the creation of other new technologies,” said RTI CEO Wayne Holden.

The RTI-led group believes the technology could reduce electricity use for wastewater treatment by up to 91 percent while also cutting water usage by 34 percent and slicing water discharges by 94 percent. Greenhouse gases also could be reduced.

“This really is a collaborative effort between RTI and our research partners,” said James Cunningham, Ph.D., senior research engineer and project director for RTI, in a statement. “We will be combining Duke and RTI’s expertise in environmental science, process engineering and technology development and applying it in a novel way to solve an industrial challenge.”

Federal Grant Goals

Researchers are to seek “transformational technologies, materials and processes” that can “dramatically increase” energy efficiency.

“By investing in breakthrough processes and technologies that can drastically reduce the amount of energy consumed during manufacturing, the Energy Department is supporting President Obama’s blueprint for an economy built on American manufacturing, American energy, and skills for American workers,” said U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu in a statement. “When it comes to clean energy, our motto should be: ‘Invented in America, made in America, and sold around the world.’ The projects announced today will improve the competitive position of U.S. industry and help North Carolina’s manufacturers produce more while saving energy, saving money and protecting our air and water.”

[RTI ARCHIVE: Check out a decade of RTI stories as reported in WRAL Tech Wire.]