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ISE Benefits from Multiple Funding Sources

The sustainability research performed by the faculty and students in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering has been rewarded through funding from a diversity of different sources.

Using tools in modeling, optimization, and analytics, ISE faculty and students are solving sustainability issues at the global, national, and regional levels that have received funding from the likes of the National Science Foundation, Department of Energy, U.S. Department of State, and corporations like Volkswagen and Eastman.

“We are good at applying system thinking and industrial engineering tools to address pressing sustainability issues,” Department Head Mingzhou Jin said. “Our department places a big emphasis on being able to use systems thinking and the results are clearly showing.”

Among the ISE projects that have recently received funding are:

EXCET (US-Japan)

A team from UT is leading a collaboration between the U.S. and Japan that is funded by the state department. EXCET will encourage communication and collaboration with researchers on the issues of renewable energy, green energy, and environmental and energy justice issues. EXCET will also make policy recommendations and identify concrete strategies to promote sustainable, economic, and social development in Japan and the US.

NSF global crop supply chain

An NSF-funded project that involved advanced food-energy-water systems modeling methodologies to improve the understanding of global crop supply chains by developing a framework to integrate climatic, economic, governmental, societal, and technological changes. The results identified technical, societal, and policy solutions to improve the sustainability and resilience of the global crop supply chain.

US food loss and waste

A collaborative project between ISE and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) that estimated mass flow as well as food loss and waste along the US food supply chain for 10 commodity groups and nine management pathways to provide a baseline for designing efficient strategies to reduce, recycle, and recover food loss and waste. The team also built a database of the energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions from the US food system at the national and state level by food supply chain stage, fuel type, and food commodity, and identified the high-impact areas that are crucial initial steps to transforming the US food sector and net-zero emissions. The work was published in Communications Earth & Environment

ETISE, DOE East Tennessee Smart Management

Funded by the Industrial Efficiency and Decarbonization at the U.S. Department of Energy, ISE teamed with UT Center for Industrial Services and ORNL, to launch the East Tennessee Initiative for Smart Energy Management (ETISE). The initiative created a regional model for technical assistance and workforce training to effectively integrate smart manufacturing in energy management systems into energy-related business practices.

Volkswagen, Energy Management, secondary battery usage and Life Cycle Assessment

ISE faculty and students are helping Volkswagen achieve net carbon-neutral balance by 2050. The team helped the VW plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee analyze and predict energy consumption, resulting in the plant receiving an ISO 50001 energy management certification. An ongoing undergraduate senior design team is also designing an energy storage system with comprised batteries to shave the manufacturing power during peak times.

Eastman, Mass Balance

The ISE team is helping Eastman in Kingsport, Tennessee, study the Mall Balance method, which is an application of conservation of mass to the analysis of physical systems. Eastman is using the method for enhancing sustainability in the plastics industry and helping the development of a new ISO standard about the Mass Balance method.

Through the diversity of funding, ISE faculty and students have been able to apply their skills and expertise to help facilitate positive changes across the globe, around the nation and right down the street from the university.

“Some of these projects involved visits to the companies to help them improve their energy efficiency,” Jin said. “For Volkswagen and Eastman, we helped them reach their net-zero goals. We work together with them to reach those goals together and those have a real impact for the region.”


Rhiannon Potkey (865-974-0683,