WVU engineer invited to participate in prestigious Frontiers of Engineering Symposium
West Virginia University Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources Assistant Professor Oishi Sanyal joins 83 other young engineers from across the country to discuss the world's most pressing engineering problems at the National Academy of Engineering’s 27th annual U.S. Frontiers of Engineering symposium.
Story by Adrianne Uphold, Graduate Assistant
Climate change is an important topic for discussion during the symposium, and an issue that interests Sanyal and many others in the chemical and biomedical engineering department. In April 2021, President Biden announced the United States plans to reduce carbon emissions by 50 percent, according to an official press release issued by the White House. This one of the many tasks the country is facing to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by no later than 2050 and limiting global warming by 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Sanyal explained that the plans in place to help achieve these guidelines may not be able to reduce carbon emissions fast enough, leaving scientists with the task of figuring out a way to physically extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Not only is carbon dioxide removal an expensive process, but to be able to separate the carbon from other molecules in the air is a challenging and meticulous task.
“Calculations done by climate change experts show that, while we must continue to cut down on emissions from coal power plants or natural gas plants, it might still not be enough to meet that goal,” Sanyal said. “It means that not only do we have to cut down on emissions, but we might have to physically eliminate some of the carbon dioxide that has accumulated over this period of time.”
To remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, Sanyal said that researchers must develop aggressive physical separation strategies to extract the carbon dioxide.
“That is challenging mainly because even though the carbon dioxide level is higher than what it needs to be, it is still relatively low compared to nitrogen, oxygen, and everything else that we have in the atmosphere,” Sanyal said. “We need a system that is extremely selective and that will only select the carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.”
Sanyal will have the opportunity to discuss and collaborate on this issue, along with data and digital infrastructure, cybersecurity and the future of space exploration at the symposium with other engineers. The two day event provides these young engineers with a place where they can share ideas, learn from research and best practices in education and leave with a charter to bring about improvement in their home institution.
“There are a lot of my colleagues that are interested in learning and doing research in the topic of climate change,” Sanyal said. “I am excited to meet my fellow early career engineers from industry, academia and national labs and am especially excited for the panel discussions on direct air capture, which is a major area of interest for my research group as well as few other groups in my department.”
The 2021 USFOE will be held September 22-24 at the National Academies’ Beckman Center in Irvine, California. To be selected to attend the NAE U.S. Frontiers of Engineering Symposium, engineers are nominated by other industry professionals, which allows NAE to select a handful of engineers for the symposium. Sanyal was nominated by her mentor Professor William J. Koros from Georgia Tech.
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