Category Archives: Environmental Sustainability

Asatekin Wins NSF CAREER Award

Ayse Asatekin, Assistant Professor, Chemical and Biological Engineering

Assistant Professor Ayse Asatekin received an NSF CAREER Award for her proposal to engineer novel membranes with new capabilities by designing polymers that self-assemble to form nanostructures. Membrane filtration is energy efficient, simple, scalable, and a key technology for generating clean, safe water and for preventing water pollution. Asatekin’s research focuses on controlling the pore size of a novel family of membranes with high flux, exceptional fouling resistance, and sharp size-based selectivity, prepared by coating zwitterion-containing amphiphilic copolymers on porous supports.

Brugge Comments on Uranium-Contaminated Water

Doug Brugge

Adjunct Professor Doug Brugge (CEE) is quoted in South Dakota’s Rapid City Journal about the dangers of water sources contaminated with uranium. Research teams at Tufts and the University of New Mexico are linking long-term exposure of drinking uranium-contaminated water to signs of reproductive and genetic damage, among other problems.

“We should not have any doubts as to whether drinking water with uranium in it is a problem or not. It is,” said Brugge, professor of public health and community medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston. “The larger the population that’s drinking this water, the more people that are going to be affected.

Read Wins $10K DOW Sustainability Challenge, Farmer Wins Honorable Mention

 

Laura Read wins $10K DOW Sustainability Challenge

Laura Read wins $10K DOW Sustainability Challenge

Laura Read, a doctoral student in the Water Diplomacy | IGERT program, won one of two top prizes for the DOW Sustainability Innovation Student Challenge Award (SISCA). Her proposal, based on research with Professor Richard Vogel, seeks to better prepare engineers to incorporate the effects of climate change and urbanization into the design of flood management solutions. Doctoral recipient Will Farmer, also an advisee of Rich Vogel, received an honorable mention for his proposal on sustainable water management in ungauged basins. Congratulations, Laura and Will!

New Catalysts May Provide Path to Low-Cost Production of Future Fuels

Maria Flytzani-Stephanopoulos

Maria Flytzani-Stephanopoulos

New catalysts designed by Tufts University School of Engineering researchers and collaborators from other university and national laboratories have the potential to greatly reduce processing costs in future fuels, such as hydrogen. The catalysts, composed of single gold atoms bound by oxygen to sodium or potassium atoms and supported by a wholly unique structure comprised of non-reactive silica materials, demonstrate comparable activity and stability with current catalysts used in producing highly purified hydrogen.

The work, which appears in Science Express, points to new avenues for producing single-site supported gold catalysts that could produce high-grade hydrogen for cleaner energy use in fuel-cell powered devices, including vehicles.

“In the face of precious metals scarcity and exorbitant fuel-processing costs, these systems are promising in the search for sustainable global energy solutions,” says senior author Maria Flytzani-Stephanopoulos, the Robert and Marcy Haber Endowed Professor in Energy Sustainability.

The paper appeared in the November 27 edition of Science Express. (doi:10.1126/science.1260526). This research is primarily supported by the U.S. Department of Energy under grant # DE-FG02-05ER15730.

Image from Science Express, Nov 27

Faculty Receive NSF Major Research Instrumentation Grants

semiconductor

Advanced semiconductor made in the Vandervelde REAP lab.

John A. and Dorothy M. Adams Faculty Development Professor Tom Vandervelde received a $1M grant for equipment crucial in the development of solar cells, infrared cameras, high-speed (100+GHz) circuits, lasers, and LED lighting. He received a Major Research Instrumentation award from the National Science Foundation to build a multi-chamber molecular beam epitaxy system, which enables the creation of novel semiconductor materials and devices.

Associate Professor and Chair Kyongbum Lee and colleagues in the Department of Biomedical Engineering received a $338K grant for the acquisitions of a state-of-the-art mass spectrometry (MS) system for a range of metabolomics and proteomics applications. Mass spectrometry has emerged as the technology of choice for workflows seeking to identify, detect, and/or quantify metabolites and other small molecules as well as proteins and peptides in complex biological samples.

Engineers Develop Early Warning System for Cholera Epidemics

In two recently published papers, School of Engineering researchers have established new techniques for predicting the severity of seasonal cholera epidemics months before they occur and with a greater degree of accuracy than other methods based on remote satellite imaging. Taken together, findings from these two papers may provide the essential lead time to strengthen intervention efforts before the outbreak of cholera in endemic regions.

Cholera, caused by the bacteria Vibrio cholerae, is rare in the United States and other industrialized nations. However, globally, cholera cases have increased steadily since 2005 and the disease still occurs in many places including Africa, Southeast Asia, and Haiti. According to the World Health Organization, there are an estimated 3–5 million cholera cases every year, more than 100,000 cases are fatal. Image credit: CDC.gov

The team, led by Shafiqul Islam, professor of civil and environmental engineering, used satellite data to measure chlorophyll and algae, organic substances, and flora that also support growth of the cholera bacteria. Using satellite images, the researchers created a “satellite water marker” (SWM) index to estimate the presence of organic matter including chlorophyll and plankton based on wavelength measurements.

In a separate paper published online in the journal Environmental Modeling and Software, ahead of the September 1 print edition, Antarpreet Jutla, EG13, Islam, and Ali Akanda, EG13, showed that air temperature in the Himalayan foothills can also be a factor in predicting spring cholera.

“A Water Marker Monitored by Satellites to Predict Seasonal Endemic Cholera,” Antarpreet Jutla, Ali Shafqat Akanda, Anwar Huq, Abu Syed Golam Faruque, Rita Colwell, and Shafiqul Islam, Remote Sensing Letters, published on line before print June 3, 2013, Vol. 4, No. 8, 822–831.http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/2150704X.2013.802097

The research reported in this paper was supported, in part, from National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants 1RCTW008587-01 and 2R01A1039129-11A2.

“A Framework for Predicting Endemic Cholera Using Satellite Derived Environmental Determinants,” Antarpreet S. Jutla, Ali S. Akanda, Shafiqul Islam, Environmental Monitoring and Software, published online before print http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.envsoft.2013.05.008

The research reported in this paper was supported through NIH funding under award number 1RCTW008587-01. Dr. Jutla acknowledges the support from Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV.

Entrepreneurial Engineers Design Water-Saving, Color-Changing Shower head

Engineers Brett Andler, E13, Joo Kang, A13, Sam Woolf, E13, and Tyler Wilson, E13, designed a water-saving, color-changing showerhead.

The recent graduates worked on their project, Uji, as part of their senior capstone thesis with Senior Lecturer Gary Leisk. The Uji team members were winners in the 2013 $100K business plan competition hosted by Tufts Gordon Institute.

The shower turns from green to red after seven minutes of use. In initial reports submitted to the School of Engineering, the team determined that, on average the Uji showerhead, will shorten shower times by over 10 percent. This estimate is now being reported as a 12 percent decrease.

The team and the technology was featured on National Public Radio’s weekly innovation blog  “All Tech Considered”  and was subsequently featured by FastCompany, and USA Today.

The team is now piloting the technology on university campuses. The Uji website claims that Uji showerheads count as low flow showerheads enabling universities to earn LEED green credits toward certification.

Follow Uji on Twitter (@UjiShower) to keep up with the team.

Levine Studies Cat Contributions to Wildlife Loss

Cat attacks are one of the most frequent causes of injury to wildlife that are brought to the veterinary school. (Photo: iStock)

Cat attacks are one of the most frequent causes of injury to wildlife that are brought to the veterinary school. (Photo: iStock)

Felines are responsible for large loss of indigenous wildlife, says a group of Tufts researchers, and they suggest remedies.

Cats are listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as one of the 100 worst non-native invasive species. They kill more wild animals in the United States than any other human-linked cause, according to the IUCN, and they have caused or contributed to 14 percent of all modern bird, mammal and reptile extinctions. The estimated annual environmental and economic cost of feral and free-roaming cats in the United States is $17 billion, according to a 2005 article in Ecological Economics.

Feral and free-roaming cat populations cause tremendous and often irreversible damage to indigenous wildlife populations in both urban and rural environments around the globe. Currently there are no methods that will easily and effectively eliminate a population of feral cats. On the other hand, damage caused by owned free-roaming cats can be solved effortlessly, simply by keeping your pets indoors.

According to Associate Professor Steven Levine, in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, computer models indicate that vasectomy and hysterectomy should be much more effective at eliminating feral cat populations, but this still requires validation in actual populations of feral cats.

This story (“A Cat-Eat-Bird World“) originally appeared in TuftsNow, July 8, 2013.

Aussie Water Dispute Could Resolve with Islam’s Water Diplomacy Tactics

Robin Stonecash, a strategy consultant and director of executive projects at University of Technology Business School in Sydney, presented “Water – our need for a new brand of diplomacy” on at a Holistic Management Conference  in Orange, Australia on August 6, 2013.

Stonecash was a participant in last year’s Water Diplomacy workshop hosted by Professor Shafiqul Islam in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, director of the Water Diplomacy | IGERT doctoral program. She was featured in TheLand.com, discussing her work in Australian water conflicts and her experience at the Water Diplomacy workshop.

Stonecash may contribute to resolving Australia’s ongoing water disputes in areas such as Murray-Darling Basin. In July, the South Australian Government formally signed the Murray-Darling Basin Plan agreement, which is the first step in returning 3,200 gigalitres of water to the area.

Thirty-two participants from 17 countries participated for the inaugural water diplomacy workshop held in 2011.

The next workshop will be held June 23-27, 2014. Visit the Water Diplomacy site to learn about registration details.

Poor Infrastructure Could Lead to Unsafe Drinking Water, Islam Says

River Mountains Water Treatment Facility (Credit: snwa.com)

River Mountains Water Treatment Facility (Credit: snwa.com)

Professor Shafiqul Islam of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering told CNBC.com the poor state of the nation’s infrastructure could lead to unsafe drinking water if not addressed.

“This is serious, and if it’s not fixed, we could see a breakout of diseases from unsafe water,” Islam told CNBC.

The Environmental Protection Agency released a report in April (“Drinking Water Infrastructure Needs Survey and Assessment“) saying the U.S. water infrastructure would need $384 billion in upgrades from 2011 through 2030.

“Besides the dangerous threat of disease from contaminated water, the economic impact from not upgrading the system is serious,” said Islam, also the director of Tufts Water Diplomacy | IGERT doctoral program.

Exterior of the River Mountains Water Treatment Facility (Credit: SNWA.com)

Exterior of the River Mountains Water Treatment Facility (Credit: SNWA.com)

Islam says that some cities, such as Las Vegas, are exemplars of addressing infrastructure issues to provide safe drinking water.

According to the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) nearly 90 percent of the region’s drinking water comes from Lake Mead and is treated in two water treatment facilities. SNWA’s River Mountains Water Treatment facility can treat up to 300 million gallons of water per day, but it was designed to expand to meet Southern Nevada’s needs. In the future, the River Mountains facility will be able to treat up to 600 million gallons of water a day.

This story was first reported at CNBC.com, June 14, 2013.