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Chemical engineering students win top conference award for emissions-reducing innovation

Megan Reed | Apr 24, 2017
Chemical engineering students win top conference award for emissions-reducing innovation

Chemical engineering students win top conference award for emissions-reducing innovation

Megan Reed | Apr 24, 2017

A team of Ohio University chemical engineering students traveled to the WERC International Environmental Design Contest in Las Cruces, New Mexico, earlier this month, bringing back one of the competition’s top awards as well as practical experience beyond the classroom.

Juniors Michael Cole and Daniel Riordan and seniors Ben Howell and Tony Winters won the Judges’ Choice Award for their paper on selectively removing chlorides from power plant emissions streams. The students presented their designs using a conference-style poster and written and oral presentations, which were judged by a panel of professionals.

“All of the hours of hard work paid off, and it felt good holding a trophy when the competition was over,” said Cole, who’s from Medina, Ohio. “This has been the best experience OHIO has given me thus far.” 

The contest draws hundreds of students from around the world and tasks them with creating bench-scale solutions to real-world issues. The Russ College students were awarded in the open task portion of the contest, which challenged students to identify an environmental-, energy- or water-related issue and create an economically feasible solution to the problem.

The team chose to develop an alternative method to removing chloride from power plants’ wastewater. Flue gas from coal-fired boilers is scrubbed with limestone slurry before being sent into the air, and while this process removes many pollutants such as sulfur dioxide and hydrogen chloride, it’s not effective at removing total dissolved solids, mainly chlorides.

The students proposed scrubbing the flue gas of hydrogen chloride gas prior to desulfurization to reduce the accumulation of chlorides, a process they estimated would reduce evaporation by 91 percent.

Team advisor Darin Ridgway, associate professor and assistant chair for undergraduate studies in chemical and biomolecular engineering, said the contest helps students prepare for their careers by giving them firsthand problem-solving experience.

“Whether a team wins any awards or not, the WERC Design Contest is an excellent experience for the students,” Ridgway said. “It gives them experience in dealing with all the various aspects of a difficult design problem, including possible technologies, creating a working bench-scale process, large-scale economics and even the relevant legal and regulatory issues.”