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GSU engineering students win $105K in EPA grants

Team designed more efficient biodiesel engine

GSU engineering students win $105K in EPA grants

GSU engineering students win $105K in EPA grants


A team of mechanical engineering students from Georgia Southern University has received $105,000 in grants from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Peace, Prosperity and People Competition, held recently in Washington, D.C.

​The team, led by Valentin Soloiu, Ph.D., a professor of mechanical engineering and the Allen E. Paulson Chair of Renewable Energy, designed a biodiesel engine that reduces the nitrous oxide and particle matter in its emissions by 50 percent. The low temperature combustion engine uses biofuel made of n-Butanol and cottonseed.
Jimmy Blitch, a former cotton farmer who knew Soloiu, reached out to the team about the biodiesel engine and the cottonseed biofuel.
    “The goal was to reduce the emission of NOx (nitrous oxide) and the PM (particle matter) because it’s a trade off, with the cottonseed biodiesel,” said Henry Ochieng, a graduate of the Georgia Southern mechanical engineering program.
    After designing the prototype, the team won the first stage of the Peace, Prosperity and People, or P3, competition and was awarded $15,000 to build the low temperature combustion engine.
    The biofuel that the LTC engine uses is made from n-Butanol and cottonseed. Cottonseed is a byproduct in the cotton industry, and is used as feed for cattle. When a bale of cotton is produced, about twice as many cottonseeds are produced, Blitch said. By extracting the oil, what is left of the cottonseed is able to feed the cattle.
    The cottonseed biodiesel also helps Georgia farmers by reducing the dependence on foreign oil, and it could increase the total profit of cotton sales.
    “We need to be able to take it and process (the cottonseed oil). A lot of it is being sent overseas,” Blitch said. “If we could learn to use the oil commercially, we could reap a great benefit.”
    The team of students not only designed an engine that won the P3 and the $90,000 grant, but built something the world needs.

    “You don’t build something for the sake of building something; it has to fulfill a societal need,” Soloiu said.    ​The grant from the P3 competition will be used to further test and build the new engine, in order to meet the EPA standards agreed on when the team won the stage one grant.
    Winning both stages of the P3 competition raises the profile of Georgia Southern’s mechanical engineering program.
    ​“You don’t have students winning in Washington every day,” Soloiu said.

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