Focus on Environmental Sustainability
The Earth’s natural cycles and the built environment impact and are impacted by mankind. As researchers in the College of Engineering study these environments … from the atomic to the planetary scale … they develop unique perspectives of these systems and how they work together. Researchers observe, measure, and analyze air, water, soil, and rock formations to make recommendations on how best to preserve the environment. They further use their knowledge to design and monitor waste disposal sites, safeguard water supplies, reclaim contaminated soil, and help develop building codes for stronger, safer structures. They also study the composition and structure of the physical aspects of the Earth in order to make predictions about its future.
Current Environmental Sustainability Research
Researchers at Notre Dame have been developing a way to “recycle” spent nuclear fuel without creating additional radioactive waste. The team has created a solvent-free approach that uses water and ultrafiltration to separate species of uranyl peroxide clusters from nuclear waste, an approach that recovers 85% of the uranium in aqueous solutions safely and economically.
Since 2001, professors Ahsan Kareem and Tracy Kijewski-Correa have been active in developing sensing and virtual data acquisition technologies and cyber infrastructure to enable full-scale, in-situ observations of structures in their natural environments.
Many people are asking if better materials can be designed for the safe, permanent disposal of nuclear waste? Perhaps the question that should be addressed is not “How can society safely store the dangerous radioactive waste generated by nuclear power plants?” but “Can much of the radioactive waste be recycled into useful fuel, so that storage is less of an issue?” This is one of the basic questions that faculty in the Center for Materials Science of Actinides, a national Energy Frontier Research Center, have been actively pursuing. More specifically, they are seeking ways to control the behavior of uranium and other actinides at the nano-scale to achieve greener and more efficient nuclear energy
Associate Professor Robert Nerenberg and his team of researchers have developed a process that reduces the energy requirements for a treatment plant by up to 50 percent while minimizing emissions of nitrous oxide (N2O), a potent greenhouse gas.