Two sustainability-focused mechanical engineering research projects recently earned first place awards.
The project “Repurposing of Reverse Osmosis Concentrate for Thermal Energy Storage” earned first place at the 33rd Annual California State University Student Research Competition, which invites all students in the CSU system to compete and showcase their research.
Engineering students, advised by Mechanical Engineering Assistant Professor Reza Baghaei Lakeh explored a new application for reverse osmosis concentrate — an undesired byproduct of the water desalination process. The team aimed to repurpose the concentrate for a grid-scale energy storage system. If accomplished, this application could lead to low-cost solar-thermal power, a goal targeted by the U.S. Department of Energy.
The project competed in the undergraduate engineering and computer science research category.
Another project, “Decentralized Renewable Off-grid Water Treatment (DROWT)” won first place at the College of Engineering’s 2019 Project Showcase, where each CPP engineering department presented their best projects to alumni, industry, faculty, staff and students.
The DROWT team developed a solar-powered water reuse system that takes greywater (water drained from appliances like laundry) and treats it back into a state of non-potable water — water that is not drinkable but can be used in applications like toilet flushing. The system is capable of reclaiming 90 to 100 gallons daily.
“I feel thrilled about being able to create an environment for my students to grow and gain hands-on technical skills while contributing to major research challenges in the field of energy and water,” said Lakeh, who also advised the DRWOT team. Lakeh was recognized by the Office of Undergraduate Research last week as a Faculty Research Mentor Star.
“The students who spent hours on these two projects not only gained technical research experience but also practiced teamwork and collegiality,” Lakeh said. “Cal Poly Pomona’s learn-by-doing philosophy paves the road for cutting-edge research to be integrated with students’ learning experience, and this is a win-win for both students and faculty.”