Engineering for Sustainability
In 1990, Tufts became the first university in the nation to create an
environmental policy known as the
Declaration. The policy reflected a mission to conduct university research,
education, and operations in a manner that safeguards the environment.
Since then, interdisciplinary research and programming rooted in the School
of Engineering have steadily gained momentum, strengthening and broadening
this university-wide commitment to setting the highest possible standard
for sustainability research and practice.
At the intersection of society, systems, and innovation, Tufts School
of Engineering is leading efforts to understand, rehabilitate, and sustain
natural and built systems and to develop new technologies, methods, and tools
for solving pressing environmental problems.
Engineering for sustainability research at Tufts School of Engineering
focuses on three main areas:
Tufts School of Engineering is actively building new knowledge about how
to harness renewable sources of energy to power a future with limited access
to fossil fuels. In the last year, the school has strengthened its sustainable
energy program in hiring three new professors and in providing faculty with
seed grants, via the Wittich Sustainable Energy Research Initiation Fund,
to jumpstart new alternative energy research.
The United States has set a goal of deriving 10 percent of our energy from
renewable sources by 2012, and 25 percent by 2025. While there is no
"silver bullet" to attain these goals, Tufts engineers are working
on a wide range of solutions. The Department of Mechanical Engineering is
expanding both basic and applied research aimed at finding innovative ways
to produce and transport electricity. Research in the Department of Electrical
and Computer Engineering aimed at improving photovoltaic technology is advancing
on two tracks, one focused on lowering the costs of large-scale installations,
and the other at increasing yield in approaches that concentrate the sun's
rays. Biomedical engineers are also interested in capturing sunlight with
biodegradable solar cells made from biocompatible materials. In the Department
of Chemical and Biological Engineering, engineers are working on processing
fuels and biofuels more efficiently and making fuel-cell technology more viable
for the mass market. And the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
has ongoing research programs on wind energy.
Water and the Environment
Water affects each of us, every day-our health, our livelihoods, our
environment, our world.
This vital resource faces major challenges in every corner of the planet.
Throughout the developing world, concerns about water scarcity and quality,
compounded by uncertain population growth, contribute to greater geopolitical
and economic instability. Closer to home, groundwater contaminants and
water-borne pollutants threaten the delicate balance between human and natural
systems maintained by watersheds, putting the health of our lakes and rivers
at risk. Globally, shifting weather patterns spark fears of drought, flooding,
and irreversible environmental change. Responding to these challenges requires
collaboration, ingenuity, and a profound scope of knowledge.
Tufts is in the vanguard of interdisciplinary education and scholarship;
changing thinking about issues; and creating sustainable, workable, and often
revolutionary solutions. We create new knowledge with our groundbreaking
Structural engineering research involves multidisciplinary approaches to the
planning, analysis, design, construction, and health monitoring of buildings,
bridges, industrial facilities, and other components of infrastructure.
Aging of the highway system infrastructure and the possibility of structurally
deficient bridges presents a serious problem in the United States today. The
proposed solution to this problem involves a shift in the bridge design protocol
to include baseline finite element modeling, continuous sensor-based monitoring
and testing, and the intellectual post-processing of collected data to determine
the structural health of bridges.
The 1956 Interstate Highway Program expanded the U.S. highway system to over
500,000 bridges, but there was no monitoring or condition assessment included
in the initial design and building effort.
Tufts research, in addition to work with external collaborators, will be
applicable to a significant fraction of the national infrastructure in the
United States and beyond. The benefits from a successful project would be
realized through improvements in safety, as well as improvements in the
economics of bridge design, fabrication, and maintenance.