Sustainability is more than just a buzzword. It is important for human survival and prosperous communities around the world. Researchers from College of Engineering To The University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) contribute greatly to sustainability efforts that will have lasting effects on the climate, resources and more for years to come.
Minor in sustainable engineering
The College’s multidisciplinary minor in Sustainable Engineering empowers students to positively impact the environment and broaden their employment prospects. Engineers trained in sustainability help agencies and industries use energy more efficiently and reduce their environmental impact.
They are forward thinking and strive to avoid activities that cause pollution, rather than react to problems caused by pollution. Students take two core courses in sustainable engineering, as well as one elective course in economics and three elective courses in sustainable engineering in fields such as architecture, geology, physics, and engineering.
Caroline Krejci, assistant professor of industrial engineering, is helping develop a framework of simulations to analyze food, energy and water systems in Iowa that could lead to more sustainable cities.
She creates a social simulation model of farmers and consumers who interact, learn and make decisions about producing or purchasing locally sourced food.
The project will examine how changes in farming and consumption habits might affect climatic, environmental and social factors. It will also examine the potential for increased urban agriculture, community gardens and other green spaces within the city that could increase food security, improve energy efficiency in buildings and dissipate heat.
“The hope is to find out the implications of policies, including what we could do to get farmers to do something, or action that would convince consumers to pay more for their products,” Krejci said.
As sea levels rise around the world, coastal areas of the United States are experiencing increased flooding, causing damage to infrastructure and natural areas.
Michelle Hummel, Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering, is studying ways to mitigate flooding by identifying how natural features and natural features, as well as man-made structures known as gray infrastructure, could be used alone or in combination to control local flood risks.
“We are trying to find strategies that will mitigate coastal flooding and be sustainable over the long term as sea levels rise,” Hummel said. “The key is to understand whether nature-based approaches and their benefits are as effective as engineering approaches.”
Gray infrastructure refers to man-made structures such as dikes and levees, while natural features include sand dunes, marshes, and wetlands. The natural features combine man-made structures such as dikes with natural features, such as marshes.
Inside massive data centers, electrical data interconnects consume huge amounts of electricity. But an alternative, semiconductor laser-based optical interconnects, offer an energy-efficient solution for the sustainable power consumption needed to keep up with the explosive growth in data traffic.
Weidong Zhou, professor of electrical engineering, is working to determine the minimum amount of energy required to develop high-speed, energy-efficient lasers based on nanophotonic cavities and nanostructured materials.
Zhou’s research explores carrier dynamics, or the speed at which electrons are distributed and how quickly they turn into light in different materials. In lasers, better carrier dynamics lead to better efficiency and higher speed.
“Our goal is to ultimately understand and demonstrate new laser structures that will be better than the current state of the art,” Zhou said.
Artisanal and small-scale gold mining, or ASGM, is a way of life for many small towns in Colombia and Peru, but the decades-old techniques employed by workers can have negative effects on production. health of residents and the environment.
Kate Smits, professor of civil engineering, works with researchers and educators in these countries to find ways to increase sustainability and reduce the negative effects of mining while allowing communities to continue their ancestral way of life. .
About 30% of all gold used in the world comes from ASGM sources. This type of mining leads to deforestation and environmental contamination as mercury is used to process the ore.
The Smits team is working with communities to find out why some suggestions to improve sustainability are accepted while others are not.
“We’re talking to people who know the issues because they live in these communities,” Smits said. “Peruvian students do a lot of interviews because they are more in touch with the culture. They ask residents what their concerns are and what they want us to work on.
3D printing is becoming common around the world and with it an increasing amount of plastic filament waste is reaching landfills.
Assistant Professor of Industrial Engineering Yiran “Emma” Yang is working with UTA Central Library FabLab and Associate Professor of Bioengineering Yi Hong to develop a new waste recycling system to be used for thermoplastic waste generated by additive manufacturing.
If successful, the research will greatly facilitate closed-loop material flows in additive manufacturing and improve the efficiency of materials use. It will also reduce the amount of waste going to landfills and the costs associated with purchasing materials that are not fully used.
Institute of Solid Waste for Sustainability
Under the direction of Sahadat Hossain, professor of civil engineering, the Institute of Solid Waste for Sustainability is known worldwide for its research and training in solid waste management and recycling.
SWIS researchers identify common operational issues for solid waste management and work to develop innovative, inexpensive and environmentally friendly technological protocols to address these issues. They also work to improve air quality by capturing landfill gases, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and converting landfill gas emissions into electricity.
Hossain has also worked extensively with landfill mining, in which landfill operators can potentially reclaim physical space once most of the waste has decomposed and gas production has declined, which in an optimized bioreactor, only takes 10 to 15 years.
“It’s imperative that we get buy-in from foreign governments and their solid waste officials,” Hossain said. “We are working with the US State Department to continue our mission of proper solid waste management in a modern and technologically advanced manner. “
Make the difference
These are just a few examples of the College’s research into sustainability. Their teachers and students are making great discoveries, making the world more resilient, and reducing the amount of resources used and the pollution created. The advances made in UTA laboratories today will have an impact on generations to come.