Two UA chemical and environmental engineering students have designed a recirculating chilled water system for their lab that could potentially save the University of Arizona tens of thousands of gallons of water and thousands of kilowatt hours of energy each year.
The chilled water recirculation system, located in the Harshbarger building on the UA campus, is designed to reuse existing cooling water for experiments by chemical engineering undergraduates. It is estimated to save the University approximately 200,000 gallons of water per year.
In addition to the water savings, the proposed recirculation design could also save an estimated 400 kilowatt hours (kWh) of energy each year. The proposed system uses an existing 500 gallon storage tank and would require new transfer pumps, controls, supplemental heat exchanger and piping. There's just one minor setback: cost. The current estimate for installing the system is $16,000.
"This is a single engineering design example that could help the university reduce usage of these resources... it's a tremendous amount of energy and water," said UA chemical engineering alumnus Ryan Kanto, who mentored the students on the project as part of their senior Design Day 2011.
"It is a great example for students to see how their work can reduce waste and increase efficiency in their careers," he said.
Engineering students Russell Ackerman and Suel Ki Choi had proposed the water recirculation design as an alumni-supported senior design project that uses existing equipment and could give the UA's sustainability mission immediate results.
Kanto, who graduated in 2007 with a chemical engineering and engineering management degree, said support for projects such as this is just one way chemical engineering alumni can engage with their departments.
"From a faculty perspective, we would be very excited to see this design completed," said Greg Ogden, associate research professor of the UA department of chemical and environmental engineering. Ogden said the layout and design review for the recirculation system is complete and has been accepted by UA facilities management.
"We're looking forward to its installation by facilities management, so we can then install the cooling water distribution system which connects the storage tank to the laboratory equipment," Ogden said.
While the department has committed to supporting half of the cost of installation, Kanto plans a personal appeal to UA chemical engineering alumni to provide financial support for the remainder of the funding, with hopes that at the minimum they are inspired to become more active in their college by mentoring and speaking to students.
"I just have an appreciation of the skills given me by the department," Kanto said. "I usually try to pay it forward, and give those behind me a better opportunity."