College of Engineering 1996 Annual Report: Progress By Design Civil and Environmental Engineering
This computer-generated image showing nickel oxide particles deposited on a nickel foil was created with information obtained from an atomic force microscope (AFM) in the Water Chemistry Building. AFMs are used to study flat surfaces at near-atomic-scale resolution. Civil engineers also commonly use AFMs to study corrosion processes on surfaces. (57K JPG) NiO deposits image

Air resources program meets growing need

A program begun two years ago under the Institute for Environmental Studies is preparing students for one of the fastest growing fields of environmental engineering: air quality management. Chaired by Professor Erhard F. Joeres, the 36-credit curriculum leads to an MS in Land Resources with an air resources management emphasis. With its first students expected to graduate in fall 1996, the program was developed in response to demand by industry and government, says Joeres. Aiding its success is a related research and internship project, which gives more than 20 students per semester hands-on experience with the DNR's Bureau of Air Management. Other engineering faculty involved are Professors Kenneth W. Ragland (mechanical) and Paul M. Berthouex (civil).

Civil engineers building better pollution barriers

To prevent groundwater contamination, environmental engineers often use barriers that react with volatile organic compounds and remove some of the harmful chemicals. Graduate student Brian Grant Palmer, under the guidance of Associate Professor Craig H. Benson and Professor Tuncer B. Edil, has proven that coal fly ash may be one of the best materials to use in making these reactive barriers. In the lab Palmer found that amended fly ash can have hydraulic properties that meet government standards for reactive barriers. At a test site, he learned that constructing a fly ash liner with these same hydraulic conductivities is difficult, but indeed possible. His study also demonstrated a viable way to reuse fly ash, which is typically disposed of in ponds or landfills.

Advances made in groundwater remediation

Due to improper disposal by some industries, the toxic degreasing agent trichloroethylene (TCE) sometimes ends up in groundwater. Bacteria that use methane as a growth substrate (methanotrophs) possess enzymes that enable remediation of this potential drinking water through biological degradation. However, TCE oxidation byproducts are toxic to these bacteria, and therefore the bacteria must first be cultivated using methane as a growth substrate. Grad student Lee Clapp, under the guidance of Associate Professor Jae (Jim) K. Park, is proving that methanotrophic bacteria can be grown efficiently as a biofilm on gas-permeable silicone tubing that is pressurized with methane and air. His aim is to optimize the ratio of bacteria produced to the mass of methane consumed, and to demonstrate that fast TCE degradation rates can be maintained in a bench-scale bioreactor.

Creating an intelligent transportation system

Because the government generally doesn't fund new highways until the old ones are overcrowded, traffic gridlock is a given in most major cities. But Assistant Professor Bin Ran is involved in creating an Intelligent Vehicle Transportation System on which autos would be guided by on-board computers receiving navigational information from traffic management centers. These centers would coordinate the routing, speed, arrival and departure times not only of cars and trucks, but also of trains, airplanes and watercraft. Currently, Ran is helping develop an intelligent highway corridor in the Gary-Chicago-Milwaukee area. He is creating mathematical models of the computer and vehicle networks to find the most efficient way they can interact. Also, through the National Automatic Highway System Consortium, Ran is helping to develop an "ultimate highway" on which motorists could drive "hands off" and "feet off."


Copyright © 1996 University System Board of Regents

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Date last modified: Wednesday, 25-Sep-1996 12:00:00 CDT
Date created: 25-Sep-1996

1996 Annual Report Contents