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Selected Media Coverage: May 4, 2006

Cleaner Air on the Fly?
05/01/2006 - Environmental Health Perspective (cir. )

BusinessWeek TV profiles Lehigh, Penn
04/30/2006 - Business Week: Weekend (cir. )

An America on the go also is on the grow
04/30/2006 - Star-Ledger, The (cir. 400,042)

Courtside
04/01/2006 - Phi Delta Kappan (cir. 90,293)


Cleaner Air on the Fly?
05/01/2006 - Environmental Health Perspective (cir. )

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The coal industry represents more than half of America's energy production, and DOE estimates place the recoverable reserve at more than 250 billion short tons. Coal is notorious for its drawbacks, however, including emissions of sulfur (which in the form of sulfur dioxide can react with atmospheric water to form sulfuric acid) and mercury (a known neurotoxicant). Now scientists from the Energy Research Center at Lehigh University, led by Carlos Romero, have shown that it may be possible to reduce mercury emissions by up to 70% without a lot of costly modifications, simply by optimizing boiler operation.

The USGS report Mercury in U.S. Coal: Abundance, Distribution, and Modes of Occurrence states, "The mercury emitted directly from power plants is not considered harmful; however, in the natural environment, mercury can go through a series of chemical transformations that convert elemental mercury to a highly toxic form [methylmercury] that is concentrated in fish and birds." In large doses, methylmercury can cause mental retardation, seizures, cerebral palsy, and death in humans. Though some mercury is removed by cleaning the coal before burning, and more is recaptured in the stack, the EPA estimates that coal-fired power plants release 40 to 52 tons of mercury each year.

Currently, according to Romero, the industry relies on techniques such as injecting activated carbon into the flue gas stream to adsorb the mercury. One costly problem with this approach is that a typical 250-megawatt power plant can use significant amounts of activated carbon, at a cost of about 50¢ per pound.

The goal of Romero's optimization technique is to leave more unburned carbon in the fly ash, the residue left after combustion of pulverized coal. The more carbon the fly ash contains, the better able it is to capture oxidized mercury (formed when mercury combines with chlorine, also found in coal). It's not clearly understood why fly ash captures mercury, Romero admits, and more research is being done to explain this interaction.

"Our testing has shown that if you lower the amount of excess air in the boiler [and thus lower the flue gas temperature], you increase the level of unburned carbon," he explains. "You can also increase the level of unburned carbon by grinding the coal more coarsely." Results vary depending on the type of coal used and the boiler configuration.

Further tweaking will address a couple of potential drawbacks to the approach. Fly ash is used in Canada and the United States in the manufacture of cement, but due to the physical qualities of the unburned carbon, fly ash can contain only a certain amount (about 4-6%). Plus, flue gas temperatures must not be lowered too dramatically, says Romero, lest acids form in the gas, creating corrosion in the smokestack.

Under the Clean Air Interstate Rule of March 2005, the EPA has mandated a 23% reduction of mercury by 2010 and a 69% reduction by 2018. Romero thinks some boilers could achieve the first reduction through boiler optimization. "The sixty-nine percent [reduction] will be tough to achieve with combustion optimization," he says, "but I believe this approach can be a valuable tool in industry's efforts to reduce mercury emissions."

George Offen, senior technical leader for air emissions and combustion product management at the Electric Power Research Institute, says that while this may be a low-cost approach to achieving moderate reductions in mercury emissions, larger plants will retrofit with other technologies to meet the requirements of the Clean Air Interstate Rule. "However," he adds, "many smaller plants, or those located far away from locations that use fly ash in concrete, could find this process very attractive."

Lance Frazer


BusinessWeek TV profiles Lehigh, Penn
04/30/2006 - Business Week: Weekend (cir. )

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BusinessWeek: Weekend features Lehigh's College of Business and Economics and talks with Todd Watkins, co-coordinator of Lehigh's Integrated Product Development program, Deputy Provost Carl Moses, and CBE students Marley McDermott '06 and Matthew Yarmey '06.

You can view a clip of the segment at http://media.vmsnews.com/MonitoringReports/050106/591112/G000610394/. Copy and paste the link to your INTERNET EXPLORER browser, then click on the Quickview box adjacent to the BusinessWeek segment. This will be accessible through May 8.


An America on the go also is on the grow
04/30/2006 - Star-Ledger, The (cir. 400,042)

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Even the crash test dummies are putting on weight.

As Americans get heavier, the people who build and regulate cars, boats and planes are trying to keep up, adjusting design standards and safety rules to account for newly recognized safety risks posed by those extra pounds per person.

The Coast Guard this week set a new standard for calculating how many passengers a vessel can bear. The Federal Aviation Administration is making similar changes for airplanes. Automakers are increasingly using plus-size dummies to test their seat belts and air bags.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a solid majority of Americans, 65 percent, are overweight. The average American man grew from 166 pounds in 1960 to 191 pounds in 2002, while the average woman's weight rose from 140 to 164 pounds.

"These overweight and obese people can affect other people," said Shin-Yi Chou, a professor at Lehigh University who studies the economics of obesity. "When you increase the weight aboard airplanes, for example, there is an increased risk. We probably need government intervention."

Last month, the National Transportation Safety Board concluded that an outdated passenger weight formula was partly to blame when a water shuttle in Baltimore Harbor capsized in March 2004, killing five people.

The Lady D set out with 25 people aboard, the maximum allowed by Coast Guard rules based on a 40-year-old estimate that the average person weighs 140 pounds. In fact, the people aboard averaged 168 pounds. The boat overturned when winds gusted suddenly.


TIPPING THE BALANCE

The NTSB also is looking at the Coast Guard weight formula as a factor in the capsizing of the tour boat Ethan Allen last October on New York's Lake George, which killed 20 of the 48 passengers aboard.

In its report on the Lady D acci dent, the NTSB recommended that the weight estimate be increased to 174 pounds. The Coast Guard said it would use 185 pounds as the standard, which will be voluntary while the new regulation works its way through the federal rule-making process.

The same issue arose in a 2003 commuter plane crash that killed 21 people at Charlotte-Douglas Airport. In its report on the crash of US Airways Express Flight 5481, the NTSB said inaccurate weight calculations for passengers and their baggage was one main factor that made the plane uncontrol lable.

The Federal Aviation Administration responded by conducting a survey to determine the weight of air passengers. It found the average passenger weight, including carry- on bags, was 195.6 pounds -- 20.6 pounds more than the estimate being used at the time -- and up dated its rules based on the new figures.

The FAA is still working on the NTSB's 2004 recommendation that it come up with a means of periodically updating its weight averages, including the possibility of asking airlines to actually weigh their passengers at the gate every so often.

"We do have concerns," said Alison Duquette, a spokeswoman for the FAA. "Weight and balance are very key to the safe flight of the airplane. Requirements on how you calculate that have to take into ac count the true average weight of passengers and bags."

The passenger weight calcula tion is most important in smaller aircraft. According to a Canadian study, passengers account for only 9 percent of the total weight of a Boeing 747, but 22 percent of a 10-passenger commuter plane.

The increasing girth of the average motorist has not been lost on Washington or Detroit. Fueling moves toward new designs for larger occupants are a number of studies that have shown car crashes can be more hazardous for the obese.

"Basically, our research shows that if you are involved in a crash, the more overweight you are, the more likely you are to die," said Charles Mock, director of the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center in Seattle.

Mock suggested that automobile safety features, like seat belts and air bags, might need to be re- evaluated to make sure they can accommodate larger-sized Americans.

A report from the Injury Research Center at the Medical College of Wisconsin published in this month's American Journal of Pub lic Health noted that "the current federal motor vehicle safety standards provide protection primarily for the mid-sized male, but this standard may apply to fewer people today."


A NEW STANDARD

Ellen Martin, a spokeswoman for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said increased body weight already has become part of the equation the agency uses in evaluating its safety standards.

"We are very concerned about it," Martin said. The agency, she added, is examining standards for safety belts and air bags and has expanded the use of larger-sized crash test dummies.

Eron Shosteck, a spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, said the industry is carefully tracking the size of its customers along with other characteristics of an aging American population.

"There is a general trend in the automobile manufacturing indus try to accommodate the needs of Baby Boomers as they get older, and that includes such things as wider seats, bigger control knobs, easier to read instruments," he said.

At the same time, he said, car manufacturers are working on next-generation safety devices with the help of multimillion dollar crash test dummies that are increasingly representative of larger- sized people.

"Each manufacturer has entire families of crash test dummies, and these can range from children and small-statured women all the way up to husky males and heavy-set dummies," he said.

The old standard adult dummy weighed 170 pounds. The newest addition to the family, introduced in 2001, weighs in at 223 pounds.


Courtside
04/01/2006 - Phi Delta Kappan (cir. 90,293)

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Perry Zirkel, professor, college of education, wrote an article for Phi Delta Kappan magazine. For a complete view of the article, please click on the paperclip above.

Posted on Thursday, May 04, 2006

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