ERC Visit to Industrial Indiana Field Trip
Seven students and one faculty member went on a two-day field trip to Industrial Indiana. Student participants were from University of Cincinnati’s (UC) industrial hygiene and occupational medicine residency programs. On Thursday, 08/18/2016, the group left UC by coach bus and visited Purdue University’s Birck Nanotechnology Center. On Friday, 08/19/2016, the group visited the Meadow Lake Wind Farm, BioTownAg Anaerobic Digester, and Liberty Landfill.
ERC Visit to the Birck Nanotechnology CenterAuthored by Bhargav Chandrashekar and Christopher Brann
Our visit to the Birck Nanotechnology Center in Discovery Park at Purdue University was one that was enjoyable and educational (see Figure 1). We met with José Rivera, a Purdue University graduate student, who discussed several research and projects being conducted in the lab. We saw equipment used to etch nano designs on various “wafers” to increase the amount of layered information that can be incorporated on microchips frequently used in automobiles, mobile communications, and other industries. We saw the clean air room that uses high grade ULPA filters on several floors to ensure a clean air supply for sensitive equipment. José also discussed the importance of minimizing vibration between floors as well as between laboratories to maintain the quality of various experiments by insulating floors with concrete and air pockets. Even minute vibrations can have consequences on the research being done in this laboratory, to the point that even lawn care is kept to a minimum by not having any grass against the building that would require mowing. Research themes included NanoPhotonics, Photovoltaic Technology, and Nano Health/Safety in the form of sensor development to detect glucose levels and oxidative stress. The lab also focused on cancer research and being able to use nanomolecules to both identify and deliver certain doses of a medication specifically to cancerous cells. It was interesting to see the large amount of collaboration that takes part within the facility from as many as 117 different research groups. Overall it was a great trip, and look forward to our next trip to Discovery Park.
Figure 1. The Birck Nanotechnology Center.
Meadow Lake Wind FarmBy Worrawit Nakpan and Mamadou Niang
On August 19, 2016, students and a faculty member (see Figure 1) of the University of Cincinnati's Education and Research Center visited a turbine wind mill which provides clean energy. We started at the wind farm operations and maintenance facility. Our tour guide was Frank Walker. He was providing a briefing at the start of our site tour. The Meadow Lake Wind Farm consists of 303 turbines which generate electricity to approximately 150,000 Indiana homes. The power capacity of this wind farm is 500 megawatts per year. It is considered clean energy because it does not emit toxic chemicals such as carbon dioxide and nitrogen dioxide compared to other power generating technologies. Three companies are represented at the Meadow Lake Wind Farm and according to our tour guide it costs around one billion to build something like the Meadow Lake Wind Farm. There is four hundreds Landowners with three years contract and they only use two percent of their ground. It costs around $3-4 million to build each turbine wind power structure. The wind farm also is installed within the agricultural area which allow farmers to grow crops in the same time and earn about $7,000 of tax free income for each structure on their farm. Then, we stood directly underneath one of the structures for a close-up view. The environment around the turbines was clear and nice. The noise created by the turbine engine at the top of the structure was lower than expected. Also, the size of the wind mill was bigger than we expected. The turbine part itself at the top of the wind mill structure was 20 feet long and looked like a school bus sitting atop the structure. This was a very good opportunity for us to learn about green technologies at the Meadow Lake Wind Farm.
Figure 2. Students at the Meadow Lake Wind Farm.
Figure 3. Standing underneath a wind mill.
Biotown Ag Anaerobic DigesterBy Kelechi Isiugo and Jeffrey Huth
The anaerobic digester in Monticello, Indiana is a key component of a comprehensive recycling effort to minimize waste and maximize energy production from farming and livestock operations. At the start of the production and recycling operation is the introduction of food waste from companies including Kraft, Walmart, and Hostess (see Figure 4). Millions of pounds of unsold product are separated into fractions fed to livestock such as cattle and hogs or used as a fuel source in the anaerobic digester to make methane gas. The carbon content and the bacteria in the livestock manure and food waste is harnessed to create methane gas. When these waste products are liquefied and heated in the anaerobic digester (see Figure 5), methane gas can be siphoned off to serve as a fuel source for electric generators. The energy produced at BioTownAg can power 2,000 homes for a year. But the production and recycling cycle does not end with electricity. The organic byproducts of the anaerobic digester are highly nutritious for plants and are used to create fertilizer rich in phosphorus and essential mineral content. The water from the digester is recycled reducing wastewater production by 36 million gallons per year. Electric generators convert about 40% of the chemical energy in methane to electricity. The other 60% is lost as heat. On the drawing board are designs to use this excess heat to run greenhouses for produce production and fish ponds for shrimp and tilapia production. BioTownAG is a key driver of alternative energy and as a result, is helping the U.S. achieve the tenets of Paris agreement. In 2015, the U.S. and 194 other countries signed a treaty to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases and the use of non-fossil fuels is a vital step in achieving this goal. Power stations and exhaust emissions are major sources of greenhouse gases and combustion products such as nitrogen dioxide, which are associated with ill respiratory health. If more industries replicate the ongoing production of clean energy at BioTownAG, we will be sure to have a pristine environment for a healthy future generation.
Figure 4. The BiotownAg Production and Recycling Cycle.
Figure 5. BioTownAg Anaerobic Digester.
Liberty LandfillBy Rhea Richardson
Liberty Landfill receives 240 truckloads daily of industrial and residential wastes from the surrounding community as well Gary, Indiana and Chicago, IL. Due to recent heavy rains and flooding, our group had to observe the landfill process from across the street. The site representative explained how the waste was managed in accordance with environmental regulations. Methane gas created from landfill waste is vacuumed from the ground into the engineering plant where four engines capture and convert the methane into electricity (see Figure 6). While inside the engineering room, a control operator explained we could not enter the engine room due to the loud decibels (107 db) emitted from the four engines and additional noise created by the noise vibrations bouncing from the walls. In order to reduce the noise into the engineering room, the engine room was built with concrete blocks filled with sand. The sand is used to absorb the noise vibrations and reduce the noise entering the adjacent engineering room. Ear plugs and noise deterrent headphones were immediately for workers needing to enter the engine room while in operation (see Figure 7). A student from the group used an app on his smartphone to measure the noise from the engineering room adjacent to the engine room. The measured noise level was 60 db. If visiting a landfill again in the future, it would be helpful to have the industrial hygiene team meet with the student group to discuss specific and common exposures to the landfill workers.
Figure 6. Engine room at Liberty Landfill.
Figure 7. Engineering room with noise deterrent headphones visible.