Alexandra Davis, a graduate engineering student at West Virginia University, was selected as one of the Industrial Assessment Center’s Student Research Award recipients for 2019. The $25,000 award, presented by the U.S. Department of Energy, is intended for WVU’s Industrial Assessment Center, where Davis serves as student lead.
WVU’s IAC is one of 28 centers around the country funded by the DOE’s Office of Efficiency and Renewable Energy. The Center provides small- to mid-sized manufactures with energy assessments that help save energy, improve efficiency and competitiveness and decrease waste at no cost to the business.
The annual awards are intended to enhance traditional student-led research efforts and to recognize research proposals that stand out as being exceptional and particularly innovative. The awards are designed to create incentives for undergraduate and graduate students to pursue assessment-inspired research projects in the areas of manufacturing and industrial energy efficiency.
For Davis, her research project – Energy Efficiency Evaluation of Twin Tower Regenerative Desiccant Dryers – will aid in the completion of her master’s thesis. She is conducting the research alongside Ashish Nimbarte, assistant director of WVU IAC and associate professor in the Department of Industrial and Management Systems Engineering, and Bhaskaran Gopalakrishnan, director of the WVU-IAC and professor of industrial and management systems engineering.
The concept for Davis’ research was originally part of research conducted by Gopalakrishnan, who had obtained funding for the preliminary research from Hana Plant Co. Ltd., located in Seoul, South Korea.
“I worked with Drs. Gopalakrishnan and Nimbarte to develop a proposal to expand the scope of the concepts in the research,” explained Davis. “It included advancements in the methodology used for comparing the energy efficiency and operating characteristics of desiccant type compressed air dryers, including the blower heater non-purge type of dryer.”
As part of her research, Davis plans to travel to manufacturing facilities to gather data on closed loop regenerative desiccant compressed air dryers, which remove moisture from compressed air to enable the machines to function efficiently. These types of dryers and the need for very dry compressed air is not common in general manufacturing, according to Davis. However, these dryers are necessary in some instances, such as with the manufacturing of food products and sensitive electronics or in hospitals.
Preliminary data for Davis’s assessment has already been collected in seven different locations – five in West Virginia (Wheeling Nisshin, Simex, Simonton Windows, Mon General Hospital and WVU Ruby Memorial Hospital), one in Pennsylvania (JLG Industries Inc.) and one in South Korea (LG Electronics).
“Not much research has been done comparing the different types of desiccant dryers,” said Davis. “The hope is to lay the foundation to allow companies to make educated decisions regarding their compressed air systems, which will save energy and operating costs.”
Once compiled, her data will be analyzed and paired with DOE software tools. A simulation will then be formulated to estimate the annual energy consumption of the compressed air system.
“The ultimate goal is to use a systematic approach to compare the energy efficiency and operating characteristics of several different types of desiccant compressed air dryers,” said Davis.
Davis will present the results of her research at the next IAC Director’s Meeting, set for summer of 2019.