Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Center researchers to focus on biofuel and fossil fuel applications using revolutionary concept

October 26, 2010

Contact: Jana Smith, Director
Strategic Communications for R&D
University of Oklahoma
405-325-1322; jana.smith@ou.edu

Norman, Okla.—A University of Oklahoma research team recently received a $2.9 million grant from the Department of Energy Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research to establish a new Center for Interfacial Reaction Engineering, which will focus on applications of biofuel and fossil fuel upgrading using a revolutionary concept developed at OU.

Daniel Resasco, OU professor in the School of Chemical, Biological and Materials Engineering, will direct activities of the multi-institutional project, which includes team members Jeffrey Harwell and Friederike Jentoft, OU professors with expertise in colloidal chemistry and catalysis; Sanwu Wang, University of Tulsa professor with expertise in theoretical modeling of interfaces; and Khaled Gasem, Oklahoma State University professor with expertise in thermodynamic properties.

According to Resasco, tiny nanoparticles are used in the process to accelerate reactions at the interface of water and oil. Solid nanoparticles converted into catalysts that work in both water and oil have been called ‘Janus’ particles like the mythological, two-faced Roman god. Nanoparticles that are attracted to water and oil seek out water-oil interfaces. The product of the reaction is an emulsion used to convert biomass in the refinery process or in enhanced oil recovery processes.

More important, these catalysts can be recovered even from complex mixtures, such as those that result when biomass products are upgraded into fuels. Clearly, there are many other applications for this group of solid catalysts that can stabilize water-oil emulsions and catalyze reactions at the liquid-liquid interface. The chemical and pharmaceutical industries should find these catalysts useful in new drug development.

An article on this subject was published in the Jan. 1, 2010, issue of the scientific journal Science at www.sciencemag.org.

Oklahoma astronaut William Pogue to visit National Weather Center in Norman

Published: October 26, 2010

NORMAN — Oklahoma native William Pogue, an astronaut who spent 84 days orbiting Earth aboard Skylab, will give a free public chat at 2 p.m. Wednesday at the National Weather Center, 120 David L. Boren Blvd., on University of Oklahoma's south research campus.

Pogue will share his experiences as an astronaut and answer questions. Pogue was command module pilot for Skylab 4, the third and final manned flight to the Skylab space station. He spent 84 days orbiting Earth and made two spacewalks that totaled 13 hours, 31 minutes.

He also will present a $10,000 Astronaut Scholarship to OU senior Heather Hollen during his visit. The Astronaut Scholarship is the nation's largest scholarship awarded to science and engineering undergraduate students based solely on merit.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Panel highlights water, sanitation shortages

OU Daily
By Elizabeth Oberg/Contributing Writer
Monday, October 18, 2010

A panel of five jurors participated in OU’s WaTER Symposium to discuss key issues about solving the world’s major water problems on Friday.

Estimating more than 2.6 billion people lack adequate sanitation, the World Health Organization also estimates more than 1.1 billion people do not have access to safe drinking water.

The WaTER Center’s mission is “to help solve drinking water and sanitation challenges for impoverished regions in developing countries through innovative teaching and research initiatives,” according to its brochure.

“The only way to tackle a tough problem is to jump in and take it on one thing at a time. It can be done but it’s going to take all of us to contribute to the cause,” said Randy Kolar, associative director of the WaTER Center.

Most of the symposium focused on the five panelists addressing the issues of the global water and sanitation crisis and the work they do, along with discussing the lack of access to safe drinking water for developing countries, poor sanitation and poor hygiene.

“Our job is to advocate and spread the word to the people about this problem,” said panelist Robert Adamski, vice president of Municipal Infrastructure Programs at Gannett Fleming.

Diana Maritza Betancourt, who works for Water for the People in Honduras, said her work focuses on changing hygiene behavior in schools and at home.

“I strongly believe what we are doing now is trying to make a generational change, they [the kids] will replicate these habits,” Betancourt said. “Changing hygiene behavior requires long term intervention and larger regional alliance.”

Another panelist, Jean McCluskey, former UNICEF manager, said it is important to “listen, consult and understand. Give men, women and children their space to voice their opinions.”

Each juror agreed that advocacy and sustainability were important factors in making a change.

“Water holds the key to life on this planet,” OU Provost Nancy Megler said.

According to the World Health Organization, 2 million people die every year due to unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene.

Also during the symposium, the jurors choose a recipient for the 2011 Water Prize.

“We developed the prize to recognize someone whose work in this area is excellent and longstanding in developing countries,” Kolar said.

This year the panel chose Ben Fawcett, an environmental health engineer, lecturer and researcher who has worked on emergency humanitarian projects across Latin America, Asia and Africa and co-authored the book “The Last Taboo: Opening the Door on the Global Sanitation Crisis,” which addresses the hygienic states of developing countries.

Nominating Fawcett was panelist James Mihelcic, civil and environmental engineering professor at the University of South Florida, who said he hopes to create a revolution by distributing Fawcett’s book to campuses across the country and outside the U.S.

“This book is the battle flag for global sanitation,” Mihelcic said.

Awarded every odd-numbered year, the prize was first awarded in 2009 to Dr. Stephen P. Luby, who works for the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research in Bangladesh. He is the head of the Programme on Infectious Diseases and Vaccine Sciences and the head of the Bangladesh Center for Disease Control.

The winner of the prize is chosen by the jurors from one of the individuals each juror nominates.

“The ripple effect of the water center and its prize will be palpable and it will get bigger and do more,” said Robert Con Davis, former dean of the Honors College and Executive Director of World Literature Today and Professor of literature.

The prize will be awarded at the Water Conference Oct. 24 25, 2011.

What this means

» A child dies approximately every 15 seconds because of lack of access to safe water and adequate sanitation.

» The poorest people in underdeveloped countries often pay the highest cost for safe drinking water.

» In the poorest countries in the world, one out of five children dies from a preventable water disease.

» Only a limited amount of fresh water is available (about 3 percent relative to total amount).