August 23, 2007

Javad Tavakoli Will Engage Students in New Renewable Energy Sources Course

Chemical engineering professor invests portion of College’s Learn and Serve America Grant in the future of green energy

Javad Tavakoli, professor of chemical engineering, is ushering his students into a new era of green energy. He will institute a new chemical engineering elective course focusing on available alternative energy sources in the spring of 2008.

Tavakoli will do this through the help of Lafayette’s Learn and Serve America Grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service, installed for the purpose of bringing the needs and challenges of the greater community into the classroom.

“The grant has provided me with the opportunity to focus on a topic that I had in mind for the past few years,” says Tavakoli.

It will also cover the costs of supplies and logistics for the course.

“Engineers have been involved with production, refining, and distribution of petroleum, the main energy source we have used for decades,” he explains. “This traditional source of energy will soon be complemented, and in some cases replaced with, renewable energy sources. My main goal is to educate interested students on this exciting technical issue of our time.”

According to Tavakoli, the course will cover the physiochemical processes required to generate energy from the various sources on the market today, including biomass, wind, solar power, geothermal, and hydrogen. Students will also discuss energy conservation and life cycle analysis of each of these new energy sources. He will integrate sustainable development concepts to help students better understand the life-cycle of each renewable energy source.

Class structure will entail two one-hour lectures, one two-hour quiz session, and the lectures will be harmonized with field trips and speakers from different industries by invitation.

Tavakoli plans to introduce his students to existing obstacles to renewable energy facing the local community and work with local engineers in an attempt to overcome them.

“I would like students to apply what they learn in class to a real world situation,” Tavakoli explains. “I have contacted a local renewable energy company to assist with real design problems for the class. Students can choose a project of their own. For example, taking on an existing building in the community and suggesting improvement on energy consumption of the unit and/or complementing the existing energy source with a viable renewable one. Another project would be working on an energy intensive industrial/commercial process and finding ways of improving the energy efficiency of the process and/or converting the process to work with a renewable source. One more option could be that students prepare a presentation/demonstration on renewables for local middle school/high school students.

“This helps students to relate classroom learning with community needs and challenges, hence engaging them intellectually with the educational process,” he continues. “In addition, by working on community projects, students are exposed to real life experiences that are not usually offered in a classroom setting.”

A recipient of the United Nations TOKTEN Award and a Fulbright Summer Scholarship, Tavakoli has presented his research in numerous publications and at conferences such as the World Water & Environmental Resources Congress, the World Congress of Chemical Engineering, and the National Science Foundation International Symposium and Technology Expo on Small Drinking Water and Wastewater Systems. He has served as a consultant for the Department of Environmental Protection and companies based in the U.S. and abroad.

Tavakoli and Sharon Jones, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering and chair of A.B. engineering, led groundbreaking student research this summer called the “Sustainable Development Roadmap.” The roadmap is an adaptable template created to help companies map out the process from A to Z of developing new products and projects in the most sustainable, society-friendly way.

Tavakoli was also fundamental in securing a $267,000 National Science Foundation grant for state-of-the-art equipment in Lafayette’s chemical engineering labs.

He received his Professional Engineer’s license from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 1993. Prior to this he earned his D.E.Sc. in chemical engineering from the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark, his M.S. in chemical engineering from Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago and his B.S. in chemical engineering from Shiraz University in Shiraz, Iran.

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