UB engineering team with CSEE student wins statewide research competition

Ghafari (left) and Sabbaghi (right) with research poster behind them

Team of engineering students investigate sustainability through emissions control

By Peter Murphy

Published June 5, 2017

“It’s kind of flipping the current method on its head and trying to go the other way”
John Atkinson, assistant professor
environmental and water resources engineering

A UB Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering PhD candidate was part of a two-person team who took first prize at the New York State Pollution Prevention Institute’s (NYSP2I) graduate student research competition in April.

The competition is organized annually by the Rochester Institute of Technology’s NYSP21, and provides students in colleges and universities across the state the chance to promote their research and ideas to improve the sustainability of communities.

Mohsen Ghafari, a PhD student concentrating in environmental and water resources engineering was part of “Anti-NOx,” the team that won the first place Jeffrey J. Sama Award. The team also included Mostafa Sabbaghi, a PhD candidate in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering. CSEE faculty member John Atkinson served as the team’s advisor.

The project, Catalytic NO Oxidation with Liquid Absorption Using Polymeric Catalysts: Sustainable and Cost-Effective NOx Control, deals primarily with stationary combustion sources like power plants. This research applies to any plant or emission source that needs to control its nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, meaning anywhere fuel is burned.

The current methods for controlling NOx emissions, a precursor to acid rain and urban smog, convert NOx into nitrogen gas. Ghafari’s research looks at doing the opposite, converting the emissions into oxygen, or oxidizing and absorbing. “It’s kind of flipping the current method on its head and trying to go the other way,” said Atkinson.

Ghafari is studying the use of polymeric materials for pollution control. Historically, carbon (charcoal, coal with pores, etc.) and zeolites (natural or synthetic rocks) are the primary materials used to prevent emissions of air pollution. Polymers were typically too expensive to utilize as the primary material to prevent emissions. Polymers are hydrophobic giving them an advantage over carbon for use in NOx emission reduction.

Ghafari and Sabbaghi hope to submit their project to a peer-reviewed publication this summer.

To learn more about the competition, check out the article from UBNow.