ISTC at the Naturally Illinois Expo


The Naturally Illinois Expo is a biennial event (annual before 2014) held in the spring by the Prairie Research Institute. The event spotlights the research of scientists and engineers from the Institute’s five scientific Surveys (Illinois Natural History Survey [INHS], Illinois State Archaeological Survey [ISAS] Illinois State Geological Survey [ISGS], Illinois State Water Survey [ISWS], and Illinois Sustainable Technology Center [ISTC]).  Over 2,000 people usually attend the Expo which includes about 1,000 grade school students on field trips.

This year’s Expo will be on Friday April 17 from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. and Saturday April 18 from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. at ISTC (1 E. Hazelwood Dr., Champaign) and the Forbes Natural History Building (1816 S. Oak St., Champaign; one block north of ISTC). Fifty plus exhibits are on display for residents from the area to learn about Illinois from exhibits such as: Coal in Illinois, Fun with Water Chemistry, Did They Really Eat Like That? Frontier Foodways in Illinois, and Greening School Grounds: Creating Habitats for Learning. All ages have the opportunity to talk to Survey scientists about their research and enjoy some of the activities. More detailed information, maps, and exhibit descriptions are available on the Naturally Illinois Expo website.

Exhibits Presented by ISTC at the 2015 Expo


  • Native plantings for yard and fields - Photos and posters of students working with native plants will be displayed. Some plants will be on display as well. Careers in Science
  • What is a green job? - Ever wondered what a green job is? Or if sustainability principles could be applied to other jobs outside of environmental science? Come discover the world of possibilities!


  • Waste to Oils - Come and learn what different kinds of wastes can be converted into liquid fuels using a pyrolysis (heating in absence of oxygen) process. This process is usefulness in converting waste materials (e.g. plastic, used tires), waste lipids (e.g. waste fryer oil, animal fat, soapstock, trap grease) and biomass (e.g. corn stover, algae, defatted seedcakes, lignins) to fuels (drop-in fuels and bio-crude oils).


  • Buildings are cool, except when they are hot - Explore building energy use with our model house, and see yourself in predator vision with our Infrared cameras!
  • IDOT Stewards of the Environment: Claiming Roads for Renewable Energy - ISTC is working with U of I experts to evaluate the use of plants mown from along Illinois highways as a bio-energy source. IDOT spends a lot of money to maintain roadsides. What if that wasted resource could be turned into energy? The answer is complicated. University experts in agronomy, manufacturing processes, business, and public policy are working to see how to do it -- from planting the seeds to harvesting the energy.
  • Less is More: Changing the way we "see" light - By choosing light bulbs based on the lumen (light we get from the bulb) instead of by the watt (energy the bulb consumes), we can save money and reduce the amount of energy we use. You will be able to measure the amount of energy consumed by incandescent, CFL, and LED household light bulbs.

Environmental Issues

  • 30 Years of Service to Illinois Citizens and Business - ISTC's 30th anniversary offers an opportunity to consider ISTC’s contributions to the progress the state has made in reducing pollution and optimizing our use of water and energy.
  • Biochar: Is It a Win-Win Scenario for Sequestering Carbon and Improving Agronomic Yields? - Come and learn how to produce biochar from yard wastes and agricultural residues, how biochar acts as a novel strategy for carbon sequestration, how biochar serves as a soil amendment to improve soil productivity and enhance crop yields.
  • Biochar supersupercapacitor desalting - A modern Robinson was floated onto a remote island without freshwater because of a cruise accident. He needs survival first and wants to leave there some day. How could you help him?
  • Charting a New Route to Cleaner Coal - Did you know that coal has to be washed before it can be used to make power? What happens to the water and fine coal particles after the washing process? Usually, this wash slurry is put into retention ponds that could leak harmful chemicals into the environment. Come visit us to find out a simple way to eliminate these retention ponds all together with advanced technology!
  • Emerging Contaminants: Extending Knowledge and Mitigation Strategies - Learn more about the sources of emerging contaminants such as pharmaceutical and personal care products (PPCPs) and hormones, how they enter into the environment from sewage treatment plants and animal farms, whether plants can take up and accumulate these pollutants from contaminated irrigation water, and what approaches we are using to control this pollution.
  • The Plight of the World in 5 Minutes - Have you ever heard about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch or wondered what it would be like to live without all the stuff we have? Stop by to watch short videos on a variety of sustainability topics.
  • Ultrafiltration - Illinois is in the top 10 states for manufacturing jobs. See how companies use a simple concept to reduce waste and save money.
  • Using Lake Sediment as Reclaimed Topsoil - Display on restoring ecological and recreational benefits to lakes that are filling with sediment. Videos and photos will show heavy equipment removing sediment and trucks dumping it on land for use as topsoil.


  • Saving Water One Drop at a Time - As population increases, the demand for clean, fresh water will also rise, making existing supplies a very precious resource in Illinois and other parts of the US. Come check out the sustainable practices and innovative technologies that businesses, citizens, and organizations in IL are using to save water.

    Zero Waste and Recycling

  • Is Your School Up To The Challenge? - Is your school up for a little competition? Are you willing to put your building's sustainability up against other schools? If so, consider joining the Illinois Green Office Challenge, a friendly contest to reduce the environmental impact of schools and other buildings. Find out more at
  • The Secret Life of Electronics: Environmental & Social Impacts from Design to Disposal - How much do you know about the natural and human resources invested in your new smartphone, tablet, or other device? This interactive quiz will present the impacts of electronic products throughout their lifecycles. Learn how design choices affect recyclability, and the connections between your gadgets and civil war, health, labor conditions, planned obsolescence, energy use, and other issues.
  • What is Sustainability? - Ever wondered what people mean by this buzz word “sustainability” or how sustainable you could be? Come explore the exciting world of all things sustainable!
  • Zero Waste Illinois: Reducing Waste at Home, on Campus, and Beyond - When is nothing better than something? When the something you’re talking about is waste. Zero waste is an approach to the way materials are handled throughout their life cycle, in which discarded materials are recognized as resources rather than wastes. Learn about zero waste projects across campus and throughout the State—including the Zero Waste Homecoming Game—and find out what you can do to reduce waste in your own home.