Housing Issues for the 21st Century to be Tackled at TMS 2008

Energy, housing and recycling solutions for the 21st century are among the research topics that will be presented at the TMS 2008 Annual Meeting & Exhibition, March 9-13, in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. These topics are part of the “Materials and Society” vein of the meeting, which focuses on engineering solutions to some of society’s most perplexing problems.

“Engineers solve problems, make things happen and enhance the quality of life on this planet. This has always been a constant; however what has changed over time has been the needs of society and how engineers have responded to those needs,” according to Diran Apelian, Ph.D., Director of the Metal Processing Institute in Worcester, Massachusetts, and chair of the Materials and Society program. “With 20 percent of the world population living in absolute poverty; 18 percent of the population lacking access to safe drinking water; 40 percent having no access to sanitation; energy consumption increasing at a higher rate than population growth; and healthcare needs and expectations increasing out of sync with the cost of health care delivery; there is no doubt that the engineer for the 21st century has to be a social scientist.”

One such challenge is finding clean, alternative sources to produce energy at economically, competitive rates given the world’s demand for energy, and global warming. Tomas Diaz De La Rubia of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, California, will discuss the efforts to date to develop new materials for energy applications in his presentation, “Energy Sources for the 21st Century – Implications and Challenges.” “Meeting the growth in energy demand while mitigating climate change will demand new energy sources beyond fossil fuels, such as solar, nuclear and, ultimately, fusion.” Dr. Diaz says these new materials must be highly efficient, safe and reliable in extreme environments.

Energy efficiency is also one of the problems with today’s housing. Stephen Lee, professor in the School of Agriculture at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, says American methods of homebuilding are not responding to global and regional changes. “Our houses of today are not meeting the needs of the users, nor are they performing as good global citizens.” Professor Lee believes applying industrial engineering principles to the housing delivery process could solve these problems. In his presentation, “Housing for the 21st Century – Design, Technology and Construction,” he will use the 2007 Carnegie Mellon Solar Decathlon house as a case study to illustrate process solutions.

New processes for recycling are also under development as will be evidenced in the session, “Recycling Technologies and Environmental Stewardship,” by David Spencer, Ph.D., chief executive officer of WTe Corp. in Bedford, Massachusetts. “Early methods of recycling were incapable of dismantling and recycling manufactured products whereby the inherent value of the processed materials going into the end-product was preserved.” Dr. Spencer will present new optoelectronic recycling processes being piloted to recycle end-of-life goods in an automated fashion. He says these advanced technologies can operate at high capacity and sort a variety of materials accurately, producing high-value, recycled raw materials. This results in major benefits to the environment while providing for the manufacture of new products with a greater quantity of recycled content.

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