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Topic: Adaptive Management of Water Systems
By: Cory Ip ’10
Supervisor: Jan Adamowski
Description of the project: As climate change and growing populations put increasing stress on water resources, the need for new methods of management which respond well to uncertainty has become clear. The adaptive management framework of ecosystem management incorporates experimentation and recognition of uncertainty as its core principles. This project undertakes a theoretical evaluation of this emerging management approach, with a focus on how water management regimes can transition to an adaptive management approach. These theoretical findings will be applied to a case study of water management in Cyprus.
Topic: The Economic Viability and Environmental Impact of Electronic Waste Recycling
By:Boma Brown-West ’10
Supervisor: Randy Kirchain
Description of the project: The fate of electronic waste (i.e. computers, monitors, cellphones, appliances) has becoming a large problem, especially as the sales of consumer electronics continues to grow. My thesis asks under what conditions the recycling and reuse of e-waste can be economically viable. More specifically, I quantify how elements of the system architecture (e.g. collection system, products collected) and elements of the system context (e.g. legislation) can lead to a net zero cost recycling/reuse system. My thesis also investigates the role that uncertainty (in inflow composition, etc) plays in the e-waste recycling industry.
Topic: Product Attribute-to-Impact Algorithms (PAIAs)
By:Melissa Zgola ’11
Supervisor: Randy Kirchain
Description of the project: Life cycle analysis (LCA) is a tool to evaluate the impacts of a product or process over its entire life. For example, LCA can help inform the decision to make or buy one laptop over another based on global warming potential, energy demand, eco-toxicity or water use resulting from manufacturing, use and disposal. LCA would ideally inform the early design decisions of laptops and other electronics so that impacts are minimized from the start. However, a full LCA can be expensive and time-intensive, often requiring well-trained experts to perform and interpret. At the Materials Systems Lab, Melissa is helping to develop a consistent approach to identify the drivers of impacts, to inform a user-friendly tool for electronics design engineers that will link the main product attribute drivers to environmental impact. This tool will enable designers to experiment with different component types based on main attributes and see an estimate of environmental impact. The research questions include, what is the smallest amount of attribute information needed to get a first-order estimate of impact? Down the road, this research will help inform a standardized product labeling system for retail goods.
Topic: Sensitivity Analysis in the Life Cycle Assessment of Pavements
By: Alex Loijos
Supervisor: John Ochsendorf, Building Technology
Description: Under high traffic loads, asphalt pavement is less rigid than concrete, which reduces the fuel efficiency of cars and the environmental performance of asphalt. But this factor does not contribute heavily to the life cycle emissions in a pavement application such as a parking lot. The goal of the present LCA study is to provide a comparison between the two most common broad categories of pavements: concrete and asphalt, in a robust manner that considers scenarios of using recycled material inputs, varying traffic loads, and varying climatic conditions, and further, considers different common pavement subtypes appropriate for a variety of engineering design decisions. The study will provide a critical overview of the LCA methodology as applied to paving and the sensitivity of the results to the initial assumptions will be demonstrated for these varied scenarios. This study is likely to inform Department of Transportation policy, and hopefully result in a tool that designers can used to guide decisions.
Topic: Dynamics of Non-Renewable Resource Markets
By: Nathan Fleming ’11
Supervisor: Dr. Randolph Kirchain
Description of the project: TBD
Topic: Effects on REDD on Carbon Price Volatility
By: Jieun Kim, ’10
Supervisor: Mort Webster
Description of project: Deforestation is reported to contribute 15 to 20 percent of global greenhouse emissions and is expected to increase. The United Nations developed a program to put value for the carbon stored in forests and offering incentives for developing countries to reduce emissions from forested lands and invest in low-carbon paths to sustainable development, known as REDD: Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation. In general, this program generates REDD credits to be traded as carbon offsets. My main research question is whether these REDD credits (and offsets in general) is a cost containment mechanism and effectively reduces carbon price volatility. I use the MIT Emissions Prediction and Policy Analysis (EPPA) model as a tool to observe the effects of REDD under different trading and supply scenarios.
Topic: Water Scarcity
By: Anjuli Jain Figueroa, ’12
Supervisor: Dennis McLaughlin, Fatih Eltahir
Description of project:Many believe that the increasing water scarcity will be a catalyst for conflicts. More than 200 rivers cross political boundaries. In order to prevent any “water wars”, there must be careful consideration of the appropriate allocation and development of water resources. In this research project, we study the Nile as an example of transboundary river shared among 10 countries. We focus on 3 countries and look at the benefits of different development projects in each nation (ie irrigation, hydropower) to find an equitable strategy for sharing the water resources. The aim is to produce a “win-win” situation where, instead of only one nation, the entire region can benefit.