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Sustainable Futures Institute
Sustainability Research Projects Poster Session
and Annual Banquet at the Rozsa Center

October 28, 2010

Graduate Student Council People’s Choice First Place Poster award

Rajat Arora

Spray Characterization of DI spray to understand Flash Boiling Phenomenon at High injection Pressure

As the focus of automotive industry is shifting towards usage of bio fuels because of issues related to energy security and tight CO2 emission regulation. Highly concentrated ethanol is being considered advantageous in comparison to gasoline because of its higher thermal efficiency and lower NOx emissions due to its higher octane number and lower combustion temperature respectively. At the same time higher latent heat of vaporization results in poor mixing resulting in poor cold startability and high NMOG emissions. It is essential to understand spray characteristics such as spray angle, penetration of E85 compared to those of gasoline under same operating conditions. Therefore, experimental study is being carried out in a combustion vessel utilizing a multi hole GDI injector over a range of temperature and pressure in order to understand flash boiling characteristics of E85 above atmospheric pressure. High injection pressures are applied throughout the study as high injection pressure results in smaller droplet size which promotes better mixing. Simultaneous high speed imagings such as schlieren and mie scattering techniques have been implemented. Schlieren imaging is beneficial in providing information regarding different phases of spray whereas mie scattering will be beneficial in providing liquid penetration of spray. This experimental data will be highly useful for development of future development of flex fuel injector and Direct injection engines.

Sustainable Futures Institute’s Operations Manager Award 2010

Katelyn A. Watson, Meredith M. Ballard, Rabi Gywali, Ali Mirchi

Modeling and Analyzing the Use, Efficiency, Value, and Governance of Water in the Great Lakes Region: An update on our progress and plans for the future

Water, a resource that is fundamental to our economy, society, and environment, has not traditionally been assessed like other materials with respect to stocks and flows, opportunity costs, and a full valuation, including social, environmental, and service costs.  This NSF funded MUSES (Material Use: Science, Engineering, and Society) project focuses on modeling the current and future quantity and quality of water in the basin and analyzing water use, governance, and value throughout the Great Lakes Region.  We present our progress on water quantity, quality, and systems dynamics modeling and future directions for the project.


First Place finishers: CPM Enterprise

Alex Ash plus others…

CPM Enterprise 

Consumer Product Manufacturing (CPM) is a multi-disciplinary enterprise specializing in product development life cycle, and manufacturing optimization.  In 2010, CPM worked with De la Terre Bistro, a local restaurant dedicated to sustainable business and locally grown cuisine.  The Lake Linden establishment sponsored a project to evaluate performance and environmental impact of an outdoor wood-boiler, their primary heating source.  Challenges included analyzing the existing boiler, design recommendations for emission/performance improvement, optimized boiler design, and cash-flow analysis of the new design.  Results concluded that outdoor boilers may be among the best sustainable energy option for homes and businesses in the Upper Peninsula.


Yu Liu

Understanding Fundamentals of Asphalt Concrete Materials with Discrete Element Models

Abstract: Asphalt concrete is highly used for building highway or runway pavements, whose performances are not only governed by its components’ properties, but also impacted by loading and environmental conditions. Both traditional experimental and analytical methods have limited capability for studying fundamentals of asphalt concrete. With the rapid development of computational facilities, numerical methods become important and powerful tools for engineers and researchers. Discrete element method (DEM) is a numerical method which has been utilized for modeling asphalt concrete materials since 1993. The purpose of this poster is to present the authors’ research progress in DEM modeling for understanding fundamentals of asphalt concrete materials. In term of environmental or sustainability benefits, this research will ultimately result in longer-lasting roads by improving pavement and mixture design methods. Additionally, the research findings can be used for studying other anisotropic composite materials which have the similar microstructural features


Azad Henareh

Assessment of land cover change as a function of climate change and anthropogenic disturbance in Iranian Zagros forests

Zagros oak forests are extended northwest to southeast of Iran, and are one of the main sinks of the atmospheric humidity and the origin of the main rivers in the region. These forests have been subject to long and intensive human use (e.g., harvesting, grazing), and are at risk from these pressures as well as increased drying due to climate change. These pressures may overwhelm the resilience of the forests and lead to vegetative collapse. This research assesses the change in composition and configuration of Zagros forest cover across apace and through time using remote sensing imagery.  A sample area was selected as a typical Zagros forest landscape. A LANDSAT-2 MSS image of the area in 1976 and the synchronized LANDSAT-5 TM image of the same area in 2009 were obtained. The images were geometrically and radiometrically rectified and classified to forest, water and other land-covers to evaluate the changes in water and forest covers as the vulnerable land-covers to climate change and human utilizations. The results showed a 55% decrease in water and a 31% decrease in forest cover in the 33 year period; a paired binary test of changes in the number of cells for forest and water covers in two time points evaluated the decreases as highly significant (Z test, P<0.00001). A descriptive comparison of the metrics of landscape configuration shows a pronounced increase in habitat fragmentation and landscape shape irregularity through the time period. The more detailed investigation of the change in using imagery from multiple time periods will unravel the nature and trajectories of changes to assess whether these changes occurred gradually or suddenly across time and space. Assessment of these changes will help to identify the temporal and spatial location of possible vegetative changes in the oak forests, and to evaluate a link between the changes in the vegetation cover structure and potential for catastrophic shifts in Zagros ecosystems.


Julian Mills-Beale 
PhD Candidate, Civil Engineering

Title: Bioasphalt and Nanoclay – Innovative Materials for Durable Asphalt Road Infrastructure

ABSTRACT: In this project, bioasphalt modified binder (BMB) and nanoclay-modified binder (NMB) are used as innovative materials to improve the high and low temperature rheological properties of asphalt binders and pavements. The BMB was produced from the thermochemical conversion of swine manure while the nanoclay was obtained from surfactant-modified nanoclay in a coupling agent. From the results, the BMB reduced complex shear modulus which allows for better low temperature cracking resistance while reducing mixing and compaction temperatures. Conversely, the NMB reinforced the asphalt by increasing complex shear modulus for enhanced high temperature rutting resistance. Using these materials in asphalt pavements leads to: 1) high energy savings; 2)long-lasting asphalt pavements; 3) recyclable usage of older pavements and; 4) reduced impact on diminishing HMA resources.


Felix Adom

Carbon Footprint Study of Grain and Forage Crops for Dairy Milk Production in the United States

Abstract: A carbon footprint study of cultivation and harvesting of grain and forage crops used for production of dairy milk in the U.S was conducted, and a preliminary impact assessment of a single dairy feed mill in Michigan was also undertaken.  The final analysis yields a greenhouse gas (GHG) impact assessment of dairy feed production and processing in the U.S. on a regional basis. This study is a subsystem of larger study undertaken for the dairy industry sector to identify leverage points where innovation can lead to significant reductions in the carbon footprint of dairy products

Jaclyn Nesbitt

Characterizing Fuel Spray Parameters Using an Advanced Diesel Engine Fuel System for Emission Reductions and Fuel Efficiency Improvements

Advisor: Dr. Jeff Naber
Understanding fundamental spray parameters provides insight into fuel spray mixing which governs combustion, fuel consumption, and emissions. Advancements in emission reductions and fuel efficiency improvements are needed for a sustainable society and can be achieved via advanced fuel systems and diesel engines, which can provide improved combustion. These studies are achieved with back-scattering imaging using an optically accessible combustion vessel capable of replicating diesel engine conditions. Studies characterized diesel spray penetration and cone angle under vaporizing conditions using a multi-hole piezoelectric injector. Of interest are fluctuations in steady-state liquid spray penetration and plume variations, which will largely influence emissions of spray controlled diesel combustion. Diagnostics developed for this study can be used to validate surrogate diesel fuels which emulate physiochemical and combustion properties of petroleum and green diesel, thereby facilitating alternative fuel development and a sustainable transportation infrastructure.


Jifei Liu

Characterization of a Forest Products Wastewater Stream for Producing Fermentable Sugars

The forest products industry (FPI) generates large quantities of wastewater containing suspended and dissolved organic solids.  Rather than processing these aqueous waste streams using conventional wastewater treatment, it is feasible to convert a large portion of the solids which contain complex carbohydrate molecules into fermentable sugars using chemical and biochemical catalysts.  In this research we describe a research program whose goal is to identify optimum hydrolysis conditions for maximum yields of monomer and oligomer sugars and minimum production of possible fermentation inhibitors. 


Yuejun Yin1, Fengli Zhang2, and Emily Harrison3

A robust and cost-efficient supply chain for bio-fuel facilities

1 postdoctoral research associate, Department of CEE,
2 Ph.D. Candidate, Department of MEEM,
3 Graduate student, Department of MEEM,

In the past 25 years, 48% of U.S. oil consumption is imported. Such a high dependence increases U.S. strategic vulnerability and prompts more research on renewable energy production.

The production of ethanol, which could be a substitute for gasoline, from non-food biomass has seen increased interest. As part of the CoEE project (Center of Energy Excellence), this study will build a supply chain model that aims to provide a robust, cost-efficient, sustainable supply chain of biomass for an ethanol mill located in Kinross of the Chippewa County of the State of Michigan. The supply chain model is driven by both daily demand of the mill and the daily log production at harvesting areas distributed in 29 counties in the Lower and Upper Peninsulas. The outputs of the supply chain model will include but not limited to the overall cost (e.g., transportation or travel time), energy consumption, and CO2 emissions, etc.

The supply chain model will provide recommendations regarding the establishment of the actual biomass supply chain, and help the decision makers of the mill to improve the biomass supply chain.


Jamie Kleinendorst,

EcoCAR enterprise

Do you want a job?
In today’s economy, finding a job is getting more difficult. EcoCAR, The NeXt Challenge, is a competition that gives engineering students the chance to design and build a hybrid vehicle. MTU is proud to be the only university selected to represent MI. Only 16 schools were selected out of a pool of 200 universities to participate in the competition. Member’s get the opportunity to build professional relationships with the competition sponsors including the Department of Energy, GM, and Natural Resources Canada. Active members of EcoCAR Enterprise are generally placed in sustainability-related jobs when they graduate.


Dianna Cacko

ETEC Ford Forestry Center

The Ford Forestry Center is located in Alberta, Michigan and consists of roughly 40 buildings.  During the winter months 18 of these buildings are heated using fuel oil and propane. Unfortunately, most are not insulated and those that are have not been insulated to present energy efficient standards, thus the current insulation levels are inadequate.  The challenge that this ETEC design team accepted was how to retrofit these buildings in a manner that would make them energy efficient and cost effective for the center to operate during the winter. The first charge was to reduce the energy consumption by developing an insulation system for the building’s envelope.  Once the insulation system was developed, the team sought solutions to improve the efficiency of the heating system.



Generations of Energy 

Managed by Efficiency through Engineering and Construction Enterprise (ETEC), this project brings together college students, local high risk high school students and non-profits to form teams that winterize the homes of low income elderly people. This two year project is sponsored by Ford Motor Company Fund through a Fund College Community Challenge (Ford C3) grant. In addition to gaining efficiency, other project goals include; introduction of energy efficient concepts to high school students, and the elderly act as mentors for the high school students, encouraging those students to complete high school and hopefully, go on to continue their educations.  Since the start of the program in August 2009 18 buildings have been weatherized and two high school enterprises have been established.

Michael Brodeur-Campbell

Enzymatic Hydrolysis for Cellulosic Ethanol Production

Cellulose represents a vast potential source of sugar for industrial fermentation processes for cellulosic ethanol and other high-value products, but hydrolysis of cellulose into its constituent sugars remains a major barrier to implementation.  Enzymatic hydrolysis is the most promising technology, but the enzymes that are commercially available are slow-acting and expensive.  To address this problem, we are using the tools of molecular biology and directed evolution in our lab to create a high-throughput system for rapid production and characterization of many different cellulase enzymes.  We have transferred genes for several cellulase enzymes from the wood-rot fungus Trichoderma reesei into the yeast Kluyveromyces lactis for characterization.  Our goal is to create a large number of gene variants in a population of yeast, and to screen them for increased cellulose hydrolysis activity.  The best performing variants will be selected,  characterized, and then propagated with minor genetic variations through several generations in a process of directed evolution.  Through this process of genetic variation and selection we intend to produce novel enzymes with higher specific activity for commercial biofuel production, and to advance the fundamental understanding of enzymatic cellulose hydrolysis.


Joe Frauenshuh, Justin Uhall, Amanda Guza, Douglas Frank Weyher

Green Campus Enterprise 

The goal of Green Campus Enterprise is to help Michigan Tech’s Administration effectively engage the University community in reducing its carbon footprint.  Our poster displays some of our current and past projects. These include a carbon footprint analysis of the university, a wind turbine feasibility project, reducing the energy consumption of campus computing, and a study of the feasibility of replacing current thermal solar panels atop the SDC. Green Campus Enterprise promotes sustainability in that all of the teams share the end-goal of carbon reduction within Michigan Tech’s campus, which we believe is a primary component of sustainability.


Jiqing Fan 

Development and Validation of a Hemicellulose Depolymerization Kinetic Model for Aspen During Dilute Acid Hydrolysis

Research into ethanol production from lignocellulosic biomass has grown significantly over the last few decades, for it offers a potential solution to replace conventional fossil fuels while not competing with food production. Hemicellulose is a major component of lignocellulosic biomass, accounting for 25-35% of total mass. Thus, the efficient conversion of hemicellulose to fermentable sugar is vital to ethanol yield and optimizes the economic performance of the production process. A kinetic mechanism for hemicellulose hydrolysis is highly desired as a tool to understand and improve lignocellulosic biorefining. The most common mechanism is a two-step pseudo first order irreversible reaction where xylan in hemicellulose is hydrolyzed directly to xylose, which is dehydrated subsequently to furfural and eventually tars.  However, oligomers are found to be a significant fraction of the product for dilute acid pretreatment, especially at short times, and oligomers are not taken up by fermenting microorganisms unless the oligomers are hydrolyzed further. In this current study, a depolymerization model is applied to describe the dilute acid hydrolysis of hemicellulose. The hemicellulose is considered as a polymer chain consists of xylose unit, which can be broken into smaller oligomers and finally xylose monomer and degradation products. This poster will describe the results of this preliminary research into modeling complex depolymerization reactions and comparing model predictions with oligomer data from the laboratory using aspen as a model woody biomass species.


Brandon Miller,

IME Enterprise 

The overall goal of the LED environment lighting project is to provide smart, self sustaining, energy efficient lighting to a specific environment.  To accomplish this, the lighting system is comprised of specially designed LED light sources and control modules.  LED’s are well known for their advantages in efficiency when compared to standard incandescent lighting sources.  By introducing an intelligent control scheme, an energy rich system can be achieved.  Ambient light sensors contained in the light sources will be used to dynamically adjust the brightness of the LEDs, thereby reducing overall power consumption.  Motion sensors will also be integrated to intelligently keep the system in a low power state until moments of activity.
The experimental area to be illuminated for this project is the IME Youth Outreach Trailer.  This trailer is a platform used to get K-12 students excited about math, science, and sustainable engineering.  The LED environment lighting will be placed in this trailer not only for practical use, but also to present a welcoming environment for displaying engineering projects and exhibits.  Once the lighting system is incorporated into the trailer the future outlook is to mount solar cells onto the rooftop of the trailer.  This would create an efficient lighting system with a self-sustaining power source.


Kelli Whelan , Stephanie Tulk, Steve Schaenzer, and Andrea Walvatne.

EWB Guatemala  
“Sustainable Implementation of a Protected Water System”

Since 2006, the student chapter of Engineers Without Borders at Michigan Tech has partnered with the citizens of La Fronterizo and Cantón Libertad, Guatemala, to improve overall community health. Thus far, the EWB group has focused on drinking water supply. Progress was made in 2007 with the implementation of two protected wells, but these failed to provide an adequate potable water supply during the dry season. This issue was addressed in 2010 with the installation of two additional protected wells. In contrast with the 2007 trip, the communities took complete ownership of the construction in 2010, showing the sustainability of the design.


Chris DeDene  Kal Johnson  Zhanping You, Ph.D.

Improving Aged Asphalt Materials with Waste Engine Oil

It is universally known that the use of recovered binder in asphalt pavements results in a stiffer asphalt mixture.  One sustainable material that holds potential in softening the stiffened mixture is engine oil.  Large quantities of engine oil on pavements are undesirable because of damage it imposes on the asphalt pavement.  However, small amounts of waste oil may improve the recovered binder’s performance characteristics since the stiffer asphalt is softened.  The objective of this poster is to present research related to the characterization of the properties of recovered asphalt binder from reclaimed asphalt pavements blended with waste engine oil. 


Kenny Ng

Investigation of Internal Frost Damage of Concrete for Sustainable Transportation Infrastructures

As an essential component of the U.S. infrastructure system, the durability of concrete plays a central role in the infrastructure sustainability. Developing sustainable materials have broad economic, social and environmental impact through significant increase of material service life and reduction in infrastructure rehabilitation, repair or replacement.
The primary objective of this NSF-CMMI collaborative research project is to combine expertise in microstructure-based computational modeling and innovative sensor technologies to study the fundamental mechanisms of frost damage in concrete. Research at Michigan Tech will include the experimental characterization of concrete microstructure across different length scales, and the formulation and validation of a frost-induced damage model. The preliminary results on these studies will be presented in poster. This research will help develop durable concrete and benefit the industries involved with concrete design and construction in cold regions.


Nate Kroodsma and Dennis Desheng Meng

An Integrated On-Demand Microfluidic Hydrogen Generator with Self-Circulation and Self-Regulation of the Liquid Reactant

Many portable electronics in today’s market use a Lithium-based rechargeable battery (e.g. Li-ion) as a power source.  It is anticipated that micro Proton Exchange Fuel Cells (µ-PEMFC) may replace these batteries as µ-PEMFCs offer several advantages over batteries such as: 1) higher energy density and 2) minimal re-charging time.  However, a complex balance of plant architecture for µ-PEMFCs reduces the overall energy density.  In our efforts to combat that disadvantage, we have designed and developed a micro hydrogen generator that can deliver hydrogen without any parasitic loss to the fuel cell, thus increasing the overall energy density of the system

Shu Wei Goh 

Sustainable Asphalt Pavement Materials To Meet The Challenges of Decaying Road System

Transportation infrastructure will be the driving force behind the growing demand for energy.  Currently, asphalt pavements are the largest end-user of energy in most developed countries. Hence, strategies to improve pavement sustainability are needed.  At the Michigan Tech Transportation Materials Research Center, research is being conducted into enhancing the structural and environmental friendliness of asphalt pavements through areas like: recycled concrete aggregates, Warm-Mix Asphalt, reclaimed asphalt pavement, recycled asphalt shingles, Bio-asphalt, e-waste plastics, and used engine oil. Testing was conducted to evaluate the application of these materials and the results have shown these materials have potential in improving pavement infrastructure



Xiaobao Geng, Pragnesh Petal and Dennis Desheng Meng*

A Self-Adaptive Thermal Switch Array for Rapid Temperature Stabilization under Various Thermal Power Inputs

Abstract: A self-adaptive thermal switch array (TSA) based on actuation by low-melting-point alloy (LMA) droplets is reported to stabilize the temperature of a heat-generating MEMS device. TSA stays off and works as a thermal insulator at low temperature, so that the MEMS device can quickly heat up to its optimal working temperature during startup. Once the switching temperature is reached, TSA is automatically turned on, working as an effective thermal spreader. Therefore, the MEMS device stays at working temperature without complex thermal management components and the parasitic power loss. The stabilization temperatures under various power inputs have been studied both experimentally and theoretically.


Jamie Davis, Felix Adom, Jiqing Fan, David Shonnard

Potential Industrial Waste Streams for Production of Biofuels and Bioenergy in the United States


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