The University of Toledo continues to build global relationships through its expertise in alternative energy and environmental research.A UT delegation recently returned from the United Arab Emirates, where it participated for the fifth consecutive year in the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi. The summit convenes world and industry leaders, researchers and others committed to renewable energy and sustainable development. The 2013 event featured 650 companies from 40 countries that showcased products, 165 speakers as part of its International Renewable Energy Conference, and thousands of attendees from 150 countries.
“The University of Toledo is one of few U.S. institutions committed to active participation in this event. It’s a great opportunity to promote the University, interact with other leaders in advanced renewable energy, explore partnerships with industry, and recruit students to attend UT,” said Dr. Frank Calzonetti, vice president for government relations.
Dr. Sammy Spann, assistant provost for international studies and programs, and Dr. Nagi Naganathan, dean of the College of Engineering, attended the summit as part of the University’s efforts to attract potential students. More than 5,000 school and university students from across the United Arab Emirates attended the energy summit.
The UT delegation also included Diane Miller, assistant vice president for federal relations, and Margie Traband, grant director for the National Science Foundation Renewable Energy Project, both from the Office of Government Relations, as well as Lawrence J. Burns, vice president for external affairs, and UT trustee Linda Mansour, who was instrumental in a number of introductions and convening meetings with area leaders held during the visit.
All participants were busy at the UT exhibit at the summit that featured the University’s research and educational programs. Many global leaders in renewable energy visited the UT exhibit; these included the director of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, representatives from the International Renewable Energy Agency, the energy minister of Iceland, and the CEO of Masdar.
Burns also connected UT participants with several publications covering the event and facilitated the production of a video by World Action TV — a global media services firm tapped into alternative energy groups and institutions in a number of countries — to be shared with alternative energy organizations and groups to promote the University internationally.In addition, Dr. Alvin Compaan, UT Distinguished University Professor Emeritus of Physics and Astronomy, was a 2013 World Future Energy Summit speaker and discussed “Solar Energy — The Technologies.”
“When we began participating in this event years ago, it was about introducing The University of Toledo. We are now becoming more of a known entity, and people are inquiring about the work that we do as we explore more potential relationships and collaborations,” Calzonetti said.
In addition to participating in the summit, a team of UT research faculty traveled to the United Arab Emirates for scheduled meetings with the Environment Agency in Abu Dhabi and United Arab Emirates University. The faculty members were:
• Dr. Richard Becker, assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences, who shared his research related to groundwater sustainability and satellite mapping of harmful algal blooms.
• Dr. Jiquan Chen, professor of ecology, who discussed the University’s ecosystems research and his work with carbon sensors and climate change.
• Dr. Isabel Escobar, professor in the Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering, who talked about her research into the use of membrane filtration to desalinate drinking water.
• Dr. Ashok Kumar, professor and chair of the Department of Civil Engineering, who explained his research related to indoor air pollution and studies involving air quality on TARTA buses.
• Dr. Carol Stepien, professor of ecology and director of the Lake Erie Center, who provided information about the research center and specifically her work related to fish stocks and sustainable fishing, which is of great interest in the Gulf region.
Water resources are one of the main concerns in the United Arab Emirates and throughout the Middle East. The UAE has one of the highest per capita water usage rates in the world, while the country has limited access to drinkable water. Useable groundwater is expected to be fully depleted within 55 years at current rates of use, and the primary processes for desalinating water from the Gulf use great amounts of energy to heat the water, are not sustainable, and are not efficient at removing all of the salt.
Becker discussed some methods that could be used to help determine what level of certain water resources is sustainable. “They have a similar sense of urgency about water resources as we do about oil and gas,” he said. “The circumstances are remarkably alike. People understand there is limited quantity and there is a lot of talk about sustainable use, but there are a number of solutions that still need to be explored and implemented.”
Escobar offered a more economical and energy efficient way to remove salt from the Gulf by using membranes to filter the water, which cost 46 cents in U.S. dollars per cubic meter of water produced compared to 60 cents for the multi-stage flash distillation process currently used. The membrane desalination process, which is a reverse osmosis technology, also is easier to scale up for larger production value and can meet existing and future water regulations, Escobar said.
“Our research was well received by both the Environment Agency and with the academics at United Arab Emirates University,” Escobar said. “Our specialties complement a lot of what they do, and we look forward to finding additional ways where we can work together.”
Mansour also helped facilitate a meeting with His Excellency Dr. Anwar Gargash, who holds two cabinet positions in the United Arab Emirates: Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Minister of State for the Federal National Council. Gargash was the keynote speaker at the University’s fall commencement ceremony in December.
UT also hosted a reception for alumni in the country and met with officials from UAE universities. In addition, there was a visit to the Royal Palace to meet the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research Shaikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, as well as a visit to Dubai to meet with the UAE Minister of Health.