Dipti Kamath (Civil and Environmental Engineering & ESPP)
Deep dish pizza, jazz music, and architecture! Yes, Chicago is the place I am talking about, as Chicago was where I went to the last week of June. The Windy City was hosting the 2017 joint conference of the International Society of Industrial Ecology and the International Symposium on Sustainable Science and Technology.
ISIE/ISSST 2017 was the first conference I attended and I should thank my supervisor, Dr. Annick Anctil and ESPP for supporting me. I presented a poster, “Second Life Potential and Environmental Benefits of EV batteries as Fast Charging Enablers”, which is just a science-y way of seeing if we can reuse electric vehicle batteries at electric vehicle fast charging stations, instead of discarding them. That is what my research is all about, seeing if we can reuse electric vehicle batteries that are at the end of their service life in these vehicles. I test them to see if they can be reused and then check the environmental and economic benefits of doing so. I adore the fact that I get to work in the lab with the white coats and safety glasses, AND get to tinker with life cycle assessments. Turns out reusing electric vehicle batteries at fast charging stations is pretty beneficial environmentally, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by ~30%. Now this result got a lot of people to take notice of my work. I got many people come up and discuss their ideas as well. One person from Ireland started talking about how much wind energy is there in his country and how they could use these batteries to store them. Interestingly, this is another area of my research: to see if that’s possible.
Oh yes, back to Chicago and the conference. You know how Ph.D. students are with talking about research, they can go on and on… So anyway, the conference was about industrial ecology and sustainable systems. I learned a lot about how the industry is focusing on reducing resource use by closing loops (another science-y way of saying producing new products by recycling older discarded products by usually the same company). Various methods such as Life Cycle Assessment, Material Flow Analysis, Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis were discussed and improvements were showcased. The participants included members from the industry, public sector, and academia. The topics included resilient communities, sustainable water and transportation systems, public policy and food-water-energy nexus. It was a 4-day long conference, with an extra day of workshops. On the whole, it was a great place to discuss my research and also hear about what my peers are working on. It also introduced me to a whole new world of industrial ecology, which is the concept of the industrial system analogous to an ecological system with the companies producing products in a market by consuming raw materials and producing waste. It shows that the industries have understood that they need to consider their relationship with the environment and society and thereby think more holistically.
As for Chicago, I did the touristy things: went on the Architectural Tour on the Chicago River, went on the Ferris Wheel at the Navy Pier, visited the Cloud Gate and took a selfie and ate a lot. I even saw a live Jazz performance at the Millennium Park. But I could not do it all, but I would be going back to Chicago in August for another event, to attend the Summer Institute on Sustainability and Energy where the theme is Transportation Next. Yes, that’s right: more electric vehicles for me! What’s life if it isn’t a bit electric!
Dipti Kamath is a doctoral student in Civil and Environmental Engineering and Environmental Science and Policy.