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Pitt and CMU professors share prestigious Environmental Engineering award


Contacts: Chriss Swaney, CMU: 412-268-5776, swaney@andrew.cmu.edu

Paul Kovach, Pitt: 412-624-0265, pkovach@pitt.edu

PITTSBURGH  (April 29, 2013) ... Carnegie Mellon University's  David A. Dzombak  and the University of Pittsburgh's  Radisav D. Vidic  were recently recognized by the American Academy of Environmental Scientists and Engineers (AAEES) at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., for helping to address the global water shortage for use in power plant cooling systems. 

Dzombak and Vidic received the 2013 Grand Prize in the University Research category of the AAEES Excellence in Environmental Engineering and Science competition for a project titled "Use of Treated Municipal Wastewater as Power Plant Cooling System Makeup Water."

"This is a wonderful honor for seven years of work, supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, to develop an integrated approach for use of municipal wastewater for cooling systems in electric power plants," said Dzombak, the Walter J. Blenko, Sr. University Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and director of the Steinbrenner Institute for Environmental Education and Research at CMU. 

"We need a great deal of water for electric power production to condense steam in the power plant steam cycle. Air cooling is possible but is more costly and less efficient. Water will continue to be the preferred coolant for new thermoelectric power plants," said Vidic, the William Kepler Whiteford Professor and chair of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the Swanson School of Engineering at Pitt.

The CMU-Pitt research shows that treated municipal wastewater is a common and widely available alternative source of cooling water for thermoelectric power plants across the U.S. However, the biodegradable organic matter, ammonia, carbonate and phosphates in the treated wastewater pose challenges, including fouling and corrosion issues. The researchers along with their graduate students from both CMU and Pitt investigated how to address these challenges. 

Dzombak and Vidic noted that the results of their work show the need to evaluate the growing competition among the energy industry, farmers and residents for scarce water supplies. Every day, water-cooled thermoelectric power plants in the U.S. withdraw more than 200 billion gallons of fresh water from rivers, lakes, streams and aquifers. Freshwater withdrawals for cooling thermoelectric power production alone account for about 40 percent of all withdrawals, essentially the same amount taken for agricultural irrigation, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. 

"Our research shows that alternative sources of water are needed for new power production in regions without new sources of available freshwater," Dzombak said. "Our research will not only help promote the use of properly treated municipal wastewater at cooling plants, but help contribute to economic development."

For more information about the research project and topic investigated, see http://cooling.ce.cmu.edu or  http://www.waterreuse.pitt.edu/


About Carnegie Mellon University:
 Carnegie Mellon ( www.cmu.edu ) is a private, internationally ranked research university with programs in areas ranging from science, technology and business, to public policy, the humanities and the arts. More than 12,000 students in the university's seven schools and colleges benefit from a small student-to-faculty ratio and an education characterized by its focus on creating and implementing solutions for real problems, interdisciplinary collaboration and innovation. A global university, Carnegie Mellon's main campus in the United States is in Pittsburgh, Pa. It has campuses in California's Silicon Valley and Qatar, and programs in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and Mexico. The university is in the midst of "Inspire Innovation: The Campaign for Carnegie Mellon University," which aims to build its endowment, support faculty, students and innovative research, and enhance the physical campus with equipment and facility improvements. 

About the Swanson School of Engineering:  The University of Pittsburgh's Swanson School of Engineering ( engineering.pitt.edu ) is one of the oldest engineering programs in the United States. The Swanson School has excelled in basic and applied research during the past decade and is in the forefront of 21st century technology, including energy systems, sustainability, bioengineering, microsystems and nanosystems, computational modeling and advanced materials development. Approximately 120 faculty members serve more than 3,200 undergraduate and graduate students in six departments, including bioengineering, chemical and petroleum engineering, civil and environmental engineering, electrical engineering, industrial engineering and mechanical engineering and materials science. In 2011, the Swanson School was the top-ranked U.S. school in the percentage of doctoral degrees awarded to women in engineering, according to a ranking based on 2010-11 data from the American Society for Engineering.

Contact: Paul Kovach