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Experts Available to Comment on EPA’s New Air Quality Rulings
The Environmental Protection Agency issued its annual report on the air quality of the nation’s cities, and Houston remains on the list as having to continue working to clean up its air. At the University of Houston, scientists and engineers are already on course to develop resolutions. UH researchers are available to discuss the following air quality issues.
Developing Air Quality Forecasting Tools
In the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, Daewon W. Byun, a professor in the Department of Geosciences, directs the Institute for Multi-dimensional Air Quality Studies (IMAQS), which is a diverse group of researchers from the fields of geoscience, math, computer science and chemistry. Committed to using premier scientific tools to model the complex issues of air quality and climate change, the institute’s modeling efforts address critical components simultaneously that include emissions inventories, meteorology and atmospheric chemistry. IMAQS is currently developing air quality forecasting tools to support the greater Houston community to provide “real time” information on local and regional air quality. IMAQS works closely with national, state and local agencies, as well as leaders in academia, to identify key scenarios to run on the institute’s modeling systems so that public policy is guided with the best science.
Reducing Diesel Fuel Emissions
In the Cullen College of Engineering, emerging technologies offer promising possibilities for reducing the polluting emissions found in diesel engine exhaust, a major culprit of smog, that would ultimately improve urban air quality. Michael Harold, a professor and chair of the Department of Chemical Engineering, is the principal investigator on a five-year air quality project to conduct diesel emission research, technology development, testing and data analysis. This research is part of a $3.8 million contract awarded to the UH engineering college from the City of Houston to test new technologies that may reduce emissions from the city’s fleet of 2,800 diesel-powered vehicles. Diesel fuel burns much more efficiently than gasoline, so the development of effective diesel emissions technology offers great promise for reducing energy consumption that, in turn, could reduce the production of carbon dioxide, which often is associated with global warming. Harold additionally has received funding from the State of Texas Advanced Technology program to research advanced catalytic converter technology for nitrogen oxide (NOx) reduction from lean burn and diesel vehicles. This research involves fundamental bench-scale and modeling studies of the “NOx trap,” conducted by Harold and fellow Chemical Engineering Professor Vemuri Balakotaiah.
Stopping Nitrogen Oxide to Prevent Ozone
Also in the Cullen College of Engineering, Chemical Engineering Professor James T. Richardson is working on an innovative solution to the ozone problem that may stop nitrogen oxide (NOx), an ozone precursor and major contributor to urban smog, before it ever gets started. Roughly one-third of fossil fuel in the United States is consumed for electrical power generation and industrial process heat. When exhaust from that fuel is vented into the atmosphere, it typically produces several pollutants that include NOx. If these NOx emissions from power plants could be prevented, a major battle against the formation of ground-level ozone would be won. A new catalytic combustion design being developed by Richardson presents the power industry with an affordable combustion alternative to virtually eliminate NOx emissions by ensuring that most of it never gets created in the first place.