Introducing cutting edge labs

Purdue Calumet Water Institute, Energy Center introduce cutting edge labs

Purdue University Calumet’s Water Institute and its Energy Efficiency & Reliability Center now have cutting edge laboratories from which to advance research that benefits northwest Indiana and its economic development.

The university introduced the new $2.7 million labs during a “ribbon cutting” event Monday afternoon (12/17). U.S. Representative Pete Visclosky helped the university obtain U.S. Department of Energy grants in support for the labs. The labs are located in the basement of Purdue Calumet’s Schneider Avenue Building, one block east of campus, south of 169th Street.

Water Institute

The 2,000-square feet Water Institute lab is supported by $1.8 million in grants and gifts from the U.S. Department of Energy; National Science Foundation; BP; and the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineering. The facility includes:

  • Class 100 Clean Room for conducting experiments sensitive to air contamination;
  • laser system for measuring the size and speed of water particles;
  • Scanning Electron Microsopy Machine to enhance membrane process understanding;
  • inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer machine for metal analysis;
  • fume hold for removing potentially volatile chemical vapors during experiments;
  • geothermal unit for heating and cooling air;
  • a membrane system for studying water filtration; and
  • sensor station/area for studying water contaminants.

Student explains experiments in the new Purdue Calumet Water Institute

“Our new lab and equipment allow us to examine at a more minute level properties of water, contaminants and filtration types,” Water Institute Director, Professor and Head of Mechanical Engineering George Nnanna said. “This will enable us, not only to increase knowledge in fields in which we currently are focusing our research—membrane technologies and sensors for detecting contaminants in water—but also to investigate new areas such as emerging contaminants.”

Research grants

The Water Institute has received more than $8 million in research grants and engaged in 60+ partnerships with industries, municipalities and other organizations since its establishment in 2005. Early this year, the Water Institute, working collaboratively with Argonne National Laboratory completed a five-year study for BP that examined emerging technologies and approaches for minimizing discharges into Lake Michigan.

Ten Purdue Calumet faculty members across academic disciplines have worked collaboratively with the Water Institute on various projects. Additionally, more than 20 students have worked within Institute on research projects.

The Water Institute serves to address water-related challenges and problems as they relate to local and state agencies; business and industry; and the environment. Previously, the institute was spread across three campus labs.

Energy Efficiency & Reliability Center

Introduced in 2004, Purdue Calumet’s Energy Efficiency & Reliability Center conducts research on new energy systems, as well as devices and methods to enable more efficient use of energy. Support for the center’s new 1,000+ square feet lab facility came from a $900,000 grant from the Dept. of Energy.

The new space is designed to be highly flexible in response to current and future needs, while meeting physical, safety and security requirements for ongoing and anticipated energy research activities. The lab is equipped to handle chemicals, relevant biological organisms, hydrogen and other gases, energy storage systems, renewable energy, light analysis and electric power. There also is computational and visualization capability for local data processing and analysis.

Value-producing research

“This new laboratory greatly extends our ability to conduct meaningful and value-producing energy research for a broader range of opportunities that can assist in helping northwest Indiana businesses and communities maximize the value of the energy they purchase and use,” Center Director and Professor of Physics Robert Kramer said.

Serving to advance the value, efficiency, quality, reliability and benefits of energy resources and processes though research, the center has been engaged developing energy systems that employ hydrogen, various chemical processes and biological organisms.

“With the initiation of operations at our new facility, it will be possible to consider a wider range and size of research topics and extend our ability to assist the community, as well as enhance the educational experience of our students,” Kramer said.

Such initiatives

Such new research initiatives, he added, will relate to advanced control schemes utilizing neural networks and fuzzy logic in a feed forward configuration for industrial, commercial and building applications.

Director of the Purdue Calumet Energy, Efficiency & Reliability Center Bob Kramer explains an experiment to visitors.

Other initiatives will link to wireless communications and control; production of liquid transportation fuels, fertilizer, coke and bulk hydrogen from coal; biological production of hydrogen; control of large industrial loads to improve electric transmission system reliability; combined heat and power; industrial energy efficiency; building energy efficiency; renewable energy systems; nuclear reactor engineering analysis; electric, thermal and renewable energy system design, integration and optimization for large data centers; thermal coating design and efficiency; and optimization and production of hydrogen from an aluminum-water process.

Currently, researchers of the Energy Efficiency & Reliability Center are engaged in nine research activities of regional, state and national significance, according to Kramer. Students and faculty members are active participants.