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Moving past Qatar’s carbon economy

6/26/12

Mechan­ical and indus­trial engi­neering researchers at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity have been awarded three, three-​​year grants totaling $785,000 from the Qatar Foun­da­tion for Edu­ca­tion, Sci­ence and Com­mu­nity Development.

According to its web­site, the non­profit orga­ni­za­tion aims to sup­port Qatar on its journey from a carbon economy to a modern knowledge-​​based economy.

Hamid Nayeb-​​Hashemi and Ashkan Vaziri, a pro­fessor and assis­tant pro­fessor of mechan­ical and indus­trial engi­neering, will col­lab­o­rate with researchers at Qatar Uni­ver­sity and Amer­ican Uni­ver­sity in Cairo on three dif­ferent projects, all of which align with Northeastern’s focus on use-​​inspired research that solves global chal­lenges in health, secu­rity and sustainability.

“These projects address the gen­eral areas of suit­ability and health and build upon our ongoing col­lab­o­ra­tion with Qatar Uni­ver­sity,” said Vaziri, the director and prin­cipal inves­ti­gator of Northeastern’s High Performance Mate­rials and Struc­tures Lab­o­ra­tory, whose researchers study the mechan­ical behavior and perfor­mance of mate­rials and struc­tures from nanowires and living cells to ships and build­ings. “They provide unique oppor­tu­ni­ties for our grad­uate stu­dents and post-​​doctoral fel­lows to get involved in multi­national and inter­dis­ci­pli­nary research,” he added.

For one project, the researchers will aim to develop a better under­standing of knee bio­me­chanics in order to aid physi­cians in pre­scribing indi­vid­u­al­ized exer­cise rou­tines for obese patients suf­fering from knee injuries and osteoarthritis. Obe­sity is a leading health con­cern in the Arab state, with as many at 88 per­cent of 30-​​to 60-​​year-​​olds suf­fering from the med­ical condition.

Vaziri and Nayeb-​​Hashemi will uti­lize MRI tech­nology and camera-​​based devices to acquire detailed images of joints and mon­itor the kine­matics of knee move­ment in a con­tin­gent of patients. Then the researchers will com­bine those images with com­plex com­pu­ta­tional models to assess the level of stress that day-​​to-​​day activ­i­ties place on knee cartilage.

“We’re trying to come up with patient-​​specific pro­grams for obese people to lose weight without developing arthritis or dam­aging knees and joints,” Vaziri said.

The goal of a second project is to create the next gen­er­a­tion of liq­ue­fied nat­ural gas storage tanks using light­weight and cost-​​effective com­posite mate­rials.  A pro­to­type will be com­pleted within the next three years.

The idea orig­i­nated in Vaziri’s lab while he was designing low-​​density com­posite lat­tices for a project supported by the United States Air Force and Northeastern’s Aware­ness and Local­iza­tion of Explosives-​​​​Related Threats (ALERT) Center.

Vaziri high­lighted the impor­tance of the project, noting that Qatar’s rev­enues from oil resources and nat­ural gas — the most envi­ron­men­tally friendly fossil fuel and the fastest growing pri­mary energy source — drive the country’s economy.

Devel­oping light­weight high-​​performance com­posite mate­rials is also the focus of a third project in which researchers will inves­ti­gate the mechan­ical prop­er­ties of date palms, a medium-​​size plant with a ubiq­ui­tous pres­ence in the Middle East.

Vaziri noted the plant’s poten­tial use in tennis rackets or even air­planes, saying, “Date palms have the mechan­ical prop­er­ties of glass fiber but with sig­nif­i­cantly less envi­ron­mental impact.”

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