8 months ago

Advancing the Strategic Plan 2020 - Spring 2018


GLOBAL ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT “UTA will address critical issues that affect our planet, including climate change, energy, water, disasters, and pollution. By analyzing global population dynamics, we will develop an understanding of our world—and solutions for its problems—through avenues ranging from environmental economics to history.” ENERGY CONVERSION When UTA opened its new Conrad Greer Lab late last year, it signaled an important step in the University’s commitment to addressing the critical issues that affect our planet. Working with Fort Worth-based Greenway Innovative Energy, researchers in the lab are developing economical, small-scale plants that will convert natural gas to high-grade diesel and jet fuel—about 125 to 2,000 barrels per day—and can be moved from one location to another as gas wells play out. This small-scale and semiportable approach would allow people to convert stranded gas resources—which are either far from conventional pipelines or too small to be otherwise developed—into easily transported high-grade diesel and jet fuels. Pat Six, Greenway’s president and CEO, believes the collaboration with UTA will pay huge dividends in the energy market in using a resource that would otherwise go unused. Fred MacDonnell, professor and chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and Brian Dennis, mechanical and aerospace engineering professor, have developed a two-step conversion process and created proprietary technology that allows them to produce liquid fuel from natural gas at a scale that has previously not been economical. The lab version at UTA can make about one liter of fuel each day. The field version of the front-end unit, tested in early 2018 in Fort Worth, is expected to create about 125 barrels per day. 6 THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT ARLINGTON

GLOBAL ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT RECENT PROGRESS ASSESSING THE EFFECTS OF ENVIRONMENTAL STRESSORS Biology Assistant Professor and 2017 NSF CAREER award winner Matthew Walsh received a $600,000 NSF grant for his work to “resurrect” Daphnia—or water flea—eggs from the 1990s and observe their genetic modifications when they encountered environmental stressors. He and his team are collecting layers of viable, unhatched eggs on the bottom of northern U.S. lakes, which they will then isotopically age to observe how Daphnia gene expression changed after the arrival of new invasive predators. The project is a novel approach toward answering a longstanding question in evolutionary biology—whether the ability of an organism to modify gene expression and phenotype based on its environment accelerates or slows genetic adaptation. ASTHMA IN NORTH CENTRAL TEXAS Andrew Hunt, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences, is analyzing the association between common air pollutants and respiratory heath— primarily the occurrence of asthma—in the North Central Texas region. Using asthma data obtained from Dallas-area hospitals’ emergency room discharge records and air pollution data from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality databases, he is using spatial analysis to identify asthma clusters and their relationship to pollution exposure. Pictured: Residences of adults who made ER visits and were discharged with a diagnosis of asthma for three summer seasons (June-July 2010, 2011, and 2012). KEEPING WATER SAFE UTA’s Collaborative Laboratories for Environmental Analysis and Remediation, or CLEAR, recently identified two types of bacteria—Pseudomonas stutzeri and Acinetobacter haemolyticus—that showed a capacity to degrade toluene and chloroform, which could be exploited for the bioremediation of groundwater contaminated with chemical solvents. Currently, CLEAR is developing a modular, multi-step filtration process that will enable waste from unconventional drilling practices to be converted into water that can be reused, reducing the reliance on freshwater sources. EARTH’S EVOLUTION Scientists from the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at UTA found evidence suggesting that hydrogen, oxygen, water, and carbon dioxide are being generated in the Earth’s mantle hundreds of kilometers below the surface. The team, led by Professor Asish Basu, believes that during the advective transport, or mantle upwelling into shallower mantle zones, the hydrocarbon fluids become oxidized and precipitate diamond. In addition, oxygenimpoverished fluids are oxidized, thus creating water and carbon dioxide, which are known to produce deep mantle melting. This means that many of the key compounds affecting evolution, like carbon dioxide and water, are generated within the mantle. BOLD SOLUTIONS GLOBAL IMPACT 7