Thomas Maani wins 2022 EREF Scholarship

EEE graduate student Thomas Maani recently received the 2022 Environmental Research & Education Foundation (EREF) Scholarship.

This award from EREF provides $15,000 for up to three years to exceptional students working to advance solid waste management science. Congratulations, Thomas!

Thomas received his B.S. in Civil Engineering from the University of Dar es Salaam (2016), M.S. in Civil and Environmental Engineering from the University of Toledo (2019), and is currently pursuing his Ph.D. in Environmental and Ecological Engineering at Purdue University under the supervision of Professor and Fehsenfeld Family Head of EEE John W. Sutherland

Thomas’s research focuses on understanding the material flows, environmental impacts, and economics associated with managing end-of-life (EoL) products used in clean technologies. The EoL management phase is seldom considered in life-cycle assessments. New decision tools and technologies could thus help to establish a circular economy that mitigates waste via reuse, remanufacturing and\or recycling.

“I am currently focused on the recovery of rare-earth permanent magnets (REPM), which are used in the motors that power electric vehicles (EVs). Since these magnets rely heavily on rare-earth materials and less than one percent of REPMS are currently recovered after their EoL, this could potentially limit a large-scale conversion to EV’s due to a lack of resources,” explains Thomas.

For his award-winning project, Maani and his team developed a dynamic model to estimate when some REPM applications will reach EoL and the amount of rare-earth materials that can be recovered for reuse or recycling. An article based on this research titled, "Estimating Potentially Recoverable Nd from End-of-Life (EoL) Products to Meet Future U.S. Demands" was published in Resources, Conversation, and Recycling (RCR). This article was co-authored by N. Mathur, C. Rong, and J. Sutherland (read online).

According to Thomas, Purdue EEE’s ideology is well suited to his research goals.

“While many environmental engineering programs focus on addressing problems when they appear, such as cleaning up or reducing the impact of waste, Purdue EEE combines this with preventing problems before they arise through strategies such as circular materials economy and sustainable manufacturing. This holistic approach allows me to collaborate with researchers from various backgrounds to address environmental challenges more comprehensively.”

Thomas is currently interning as a research aide at the U.S. Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory where he is involved in a project whose goal is to expand Argonne’s GREET model. During his M.S. degree, he interned with the City of Toledo on a project where his role was to characterize and assess the impact of mass education on the sorting of wastes generated in homes for recycling.