ISIE Conference 2023: EEE faculty and graduate students showcase industrial ecology expertise in the Netherlands

EEE faculty member Dr. Hua Cai and graduate students Miriam Stevens, Venkat Roy, Thomas Maani, Yiming Liu, and Kendrick Hardaway showcased their expertise and leadership at the International Society for Industrial Ecology (ISIE) Conference, held in Leiden, Netherlands from July 2-5, 2023.

Left to right:  Miriam Stevens, Kendrick Hardaway, Apoorva Bademi, Yiming Liu, Thomas Maani, Utkuhan Genc, Dr. Hua Cai, Venkat Roy, and Abhimanyu Raj Shekhar attend International Society for Industrial Ecology (ISIE) Conference in Leiden, Netherlands from July 2-5, 2023.

“The 2023 ISIE conference brought together researchers passionate about industrial sustainability from all over the world and provided me with valuable insights into the implementation of sustainability practices, both in Europe and on a global scale,” EEE PhD student Thomas Maani says.

Titled, “Transitions in a world in turmoil,” the conference celebrated the power of industrial ecology, which studies the flow of materials and energy in industrial and consumer activities, to promote sustainable solutions to global environmental challenges.

Dr. Hua Cai, associate professor of environmental and ecological engineering and industrial engineering, chaired a panel on life-cycle sustainability assessment and participated in presentations/discussions involving sustainable urban systems, solar-charging for shared electric bikes, and shared mobility for sustainable transportation systems. 

“When we look at the environmental impacts of a system, we have to use a life-cycle perspective,” Dr. Cai explains. “Without tailpipe emissions, an electric vehicle is not emissions free because it takes energy and materials to make them and create the batteries. The sources of the electricity also play a critical role, and we also need to build proper charging infrastructure to support charging electric vehicles using cleaner electricity.”

Dr. Cai’s research uses prospective modeling to promote urban sustainability, particularly in the transportation sector, which contributes 25-30% of the world’s total carbon emissions.

“How can we build models to identify what's going to happen in different scenarios? Then we can inform the system development and make better decisions now that avoid negative or unintended consequences later,” Dr. Cai says.

Dr. Hua Cai, associate professor of environmental and ecological Engineering and industrial engineering at Purdue University, presents at ISIE Conference 2023. 

Miriam Stevens, Institute of Sustainable Research (ISF) Fellow and EEE PhD candidate, delivered an oral presentation on bioenergy footprinting and presented a poster providing a material-flow analysis of end-of-life (EoL) electric vehicle batteries. Advised by Dr. Shweta Singh, Miriam models the expected availability and maps U.S. supply chains of reusable battery critical materials.

“The EEE program provided me with tremendous autonomy to define my research agenda on the demand for critical materials. A better understanding of when, how much, and where critical materials such as cobalt, lithium, and graphite will be available for recovery, recycling, and reuse can aid in designing low-carbon energy and transportation systems that achieve economic, ecological and societal sustainability goals,”  Miriam says.

As vice-president of the ISIE student chapter board, Miriam co-organized the 8th Symposium on Industrial Ecology for Young Professionals, which was held prior to the ISIE Conference on July 1. The day-long symposium offered hands-on workshops and networking opportunities for graduate students to contextualize and share their ongoing research.

Miriam Stevens, ISF Fellow and EEE PhD candidate, delivers a presentation on bioenergy footprinting at ISIE Conference 2023. 

Venkat Roy, EEE PhD student, showcased a poster delving into the local costs and global benefits of lithium extraction from Nevada clays, which could provide a new resource for the U.S. Conducted in collaboration with PhD student Sameer Kulkarni and advisor Dr. Fu Zhao, this research highlights the potential challenges of domestic lithium production by geographically mapping the impacts on local ecosystems. 

"The picturesque Dutch city of Leiden, home to Leiden University, the oldest university in the Netherlands, provided the perfect setting for this remarkable gathering of industrial ecologists,” Venkat says. “I eagerly await next year’s ISIE Conference in Singapore.”

The picturesque Dutch city of Leiden.

Thomas Maani, EEE PhD candidate, delivered an oral presentation on disassembly analysis to promote the recovery of rare-earth permanent magnets from end-of-life (EoL) electric vehicles. Advised by Dr. John W. Sutherland, Thomas aims to develop decision-support tools and identify technologies to facilitate resource-recovery from end-of-life electric vehicles, making their production more sustainable.

“If you cannot take a product apart, there is no way to recover the resources used to create it. Disassembly determines whether an end-of-life (EoL) product is repaired, remanufactured, or recycled to create new materials and products rather than becoming waste in a landfill, making it vital to creating a circular economy. This is particularly important for electric vehicles that rely on rare-earth materials, which are very energy- and resource-intensive to extract from the earth,” Thomas explains. 

EEE graduate students (left ro right) Kendrick Hardaway, Yiming Liu, Thomas Maani, and Venkat Roy enjoy a coffee break in Leiden during the ISIE Conference.

Yiming Liu, Ross Fellow and EEE PhD student, delivered an oral presentation as part of a life-cycle analysis (LCA) case studies session. Advised by Dr. Hua Cai, Yiming offered an LCA perspective for evaluating the environmental impacts of historical oil spills in North America, research that explores the volume, frequency, and direct impacts of oil spills by leveraging Yiming’s expertise in life-cycle and risk assessment.  

Yiming Liu, Ross Fellow and EEE PhD student, delivers a presentation on environmental impacts of historical oil spills in North America at ISIE Conference 2023. 

Kendrick Hardaway, Fulbright Scholar and EEE PhD candidate, delivered oral and poster presentations on the environmental impacts of autonomous vehicles in addition to presenting projects on energy transition and home-appliance sustainability. Kendrick is advised by Dr. Hua Cai.

“Thanks to support from EEE, I have had opportunities to attend numerous international conferences like ISIE, conduct research in other nations, and participate in the Fulbright Scholar program. Environmental challenges are deeply interconnected, making it critical that we pool expertise and share knowledge at the international level to achieve collaborative solutions that work in a variety of global contexts,” Kendrick says.

Kendrick Hardaway, Fulbright Scholar and EEE PhD candidate, shares his research on the environmental impacts of autonomous vehicles with the international community at ISIE Conference 2023. 

Writer:  Jessica MehrPurdue Environmental and Ecological Engineering

Sources:  Miriam Stevens, Venkat Roy, Thomas Maani, Yiming Lui, Kendrick Hardaway, and Hua Cai