Skip navigation

Purdue-Mexico Workshop on Sustainability

The second workshop took place in Cuernavaca, Mexico, from May 20 to May 21, 2014. 

Full workshop brochure


Paradigms in Engineering University Programs: The Case of Mexico

Prof. Jaime Cervantes de Gortari

Facultad de Ingenieria, UNAM

A critical review of the relevant aspects of engineering educational programs in Mexico is presented, within the historical background and the near future tendencies of industrial activities. The traditional way of teaching and learning engineering at the Mexican universities, derived from the socioeconomic development during the second half of the twentieth century, is contrasted with the needed education for engineers at the beginning of the new century. The case of Mexico is examined: A country that rapidly changed from a rural and pre-industrial society prevailing up to the 1940 decade, to a modern industrialized nation consolidated in the 1950-1970 period. Several issues are considered, as: the educational programs based mainly on a generalist type of engineer suitable for the industrialization period, when the economic policy was based on the substitution of imports; the huge increase of the number of universities and educational programs during the 70´s and 80´s; the participation in the fully open market and the global economy characterizing the last two decades of the last century; etc. Within this context, the presentation considers the role of engineers at present, addressing the necessity for new educational programs with different contents and shorter duration, according to an era with new and deeper knowledge, rapid changing technology, and unforeseen possibilities for informatics.

Research, Education, and Other Collaborative Resources Available at Purdue University

Ms. Cristina Farmus
Managing Director

School of Chemical Engineering, Purdue University

This talk will describe several resources available at Purdue University to foster interdisciplinary research and education, innovation, entrepreneurship, and international collaboration. Details will be given about the Purdue Research Park (including the Bindley Bioscience Center, the Birck Nanotechnology Center, and the Burton D. Morgan Entrepreneurship Center), the Purdue Research Park, and online education. A special section will be dedicated to the various centers at Purdue who have a sustainability component.

No Carbon Left Behind: A New Paradigm in the Conversion of Biomass to Biofuels and High-Value Products

Prof. Nick Carpita
Professor of Botany and Plant Pathology

Center for Direct Catalytic Conversion of Biomass to Biofuels
Bindley Biosciences Center, Purdue University

Cellulose, xylan and lignin are the principal macromolecules of lignocellulosic biomass in bioenergy crops such as grasses and fast-growing trees. Optimization of biomass yield and quality is predicated on the ability to capture partially reduced carbon from these macromolecular structures into biofuels and high-value chemicals. Our interdisciplinary team has developed chemical catalytic technologies for the disassembly of these macromolecules to monomers for subsequent transformations in the case of lignin and xylan, and new understandings of the mechanisms of fast-pyrolysis to produce oligomeric glucosans in the fuel range from cellulose. Genetic redesign of the lignin network simplifies its architecture to enable facile catalytic disassembly and conversion of aromatics. Our successes also include non-enzymatic removal of xylan from intact biomass and conversion to tetrahydrofuran; a genetically engineered pathway to increase catalytic iron in cell walls; and a new mechanism for pyrolytic conversion of cellulose to levoglucosan. Our vision is to optimize carbon and energy efficiencies of biomass conversion to liquid hydrocarbon fuels by the rescue, chemical reduction, and value added to all biomass-derived carbon – no carbon left behind.

Anaerobic Digestion for Sustainable Water Management

Prof. Oscar Monroy
Professor Titular

Departmento de Biotecnologia
Universidad Autonoma Metropolitana-Iztapalapa

Water needs in Mexico City are supplied by the over exploited aquifer (60%) and from other watersheds (40%). After usage it is disposed of in the sewers, together with rain water, and sent for irrigation more than 100 km away. There is practically no treatment and recycling (only 8%). Water is unequally distributed through the water net where 38% is lost through water leaks. To change this situation, a sustainable water management requires to be implemented considering the use of rain water, domestic and industrial water saving practices, wastewater treatment and reclamation, energy and nutrients recovery and aquifer equilibrium. With anaerobic digestion at the core of a sustainable technology shift, the net recharge of the aquifer and the reduction of water imports can be possible due to the city capacity of transforming organic wastes into energy which is required to obtain high quality reclaimed water.

Design of Sustainable Products for Bioethanol Manufacture, CO2 Capture and Low-Temperature Energy Recovery Using Mathematical Optimization Techniques

Prof. Antonio Flores Tlacuahuac

Departamento de Ingenieria Quimica, Universidad Iberoamericana

In this talk we will address the problem of how to design new products for two main purposes: (a) The sustainable separation of the etanol/water azetropic mixture up to high-purity, (b) The capture of CO2 from combustion streams and for the efficient energy recovery from low-temperature processing streams. All these issues share a common factor: The design of a new kind of products for the sustainable and efficient use of new energy sources. We will show that the problem of how to design new products for achieving these aims can be cast as an Optimal Molecular Design Problem, where target design objectives, together with physical, thermodynamic and transport propertis of the designed compound, can be enforced such that performance requirements are met. Moreover, using optimization techniques, the design of the processing system, where the required separation or energy recovery operation takes places, can also be optimized leading to processes with better profit features. We will show some recent results obtained for the optimal molecular design of ionic liquids for high-purity ethanol recovery from cellulosic azeotropic ethanol-water mixtures, for the CO2 recovery from combustion streams and for the design of new organic compounds for energy capture from low temperature processing streams.

Optimization Models for Optimal Investment, Drilling and Water Management in Shale Gas Supply Chains

Prof. Ignacio Grossmann
R. Dean University Professor

Department of Chemical Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University

This presentation provides an overview of recent optimization models for shale gas production. We first describe a new mixed-integer optimization model for the design of shale gas infrastructures. The model is aimed at optimizing the selection of the number of wells to drill, size and location of new gas processing plants, location and length of pipelines, location and power of gas compressors, and planning of freshwater consumption from available reservoirs for well drilling and fracturing. The goal of this model is to maximize the net present value. We also describe a detailed operational model to optimize water use life cycle for well pads. The objective is to minimize transportation cost, treatment cost, freshwater cost, and additional infrastructure cost while also accounting for the credit of the production of shale gas within the specified time horizon. The goal is to determine an optimal fracturing schedule, recycling ratio, additional impoundment capacity, and treatment unit installation.

The Role of Sustainability in Technology Management for Pemex Downstream Projects

Enrique Aguilar Rodríguez
Coordinador de Proyectos en Ingenieria de Proceso

Instituto Mexicano del Petroleo

This talk will describe several resources available at Purdue University to foster interdisciplinary research and education, innovation, entrepreneurship, and international collaboration. Details will be given about the Purdue Research Park (including the Bindley Bioscience Center, the Birck Nanotechnology Center, and the Burton D. Morgan Entrepreneurship Center), the Purdue Research Park, and online education. A special section will be dedicated to the various centers at Purdue who have a sustainability component.

The Nanotech Revolution: From Foodstuff to Energy

Prof. Victor Castaño

Centro de Fisica Aplicada y Tecnologia Avanzada (CFATA), UNAM

Nanotechnology has become a very active area, not only in R&D, but in economics, as well. We will revise the fundamental technical aspects behind this important transdisciplinary specialty, with emphasis in the concepts which are producing new materials with improved performance. Then, a number of examples, ranging from batteries, electronics, advanced coatings and drugs, to automotive and aerospacial applications will be described.

Characterization of Complex Materials for Energy, Medical and Environmental Applications Using Advanced Dynamic Atomic Force Microscopy Methods

Prof. Arvind Raman
Robert V. Adams Professor of Mechanical Engineering

School of Mechanical Engineering, Purdue University

Multi-scale, multi-functional materials occur in a number of man-made and natural systems that are related to energy, environment and health. Such materials range from nano-composites for energy harvesting and storage to wood cells to nano-cellulose based composites and live cells to active biomaterials. The nanoscale structure and interfaces of such materials often control their material properties and bulk behavior. Thus there is a great need for high resolution nanoscale resolution imaging that goes much beyond topography characterization to mapping of multiple physical properties. The Atomic Force Microscope (AFM) is a cornerstone instrument for mapping such properties. In this talk I will provide an overview of advanced techniques using the AFM that provided unprecedented insight into research on live cells under action of drugs, nano-cellulose and enzymatic action on wood cells, and sub-surface characterization of carbon nanotube/graphene/fullerene based nanocomposites for photovoltaic, flexible electronics and energy storage applications.

Natural Disasters Risk Assessment

Prof. Eduardo Reinoso Angulo

Instituto de Ingenieria, UNAM

During the last 30 years, the methodologies for natural risk assessment have developed exponentially thanks to computers and geocoded building and infrastructure databases. The insurance and financial sectors have been pushing the limits of this risk assessment so they can have reasonably good estimations of expected losses of their portfolios for a given return period. National governments are following this trend so they can be financially prepared for infrequent and unexpected natural hazards such as hurricanes and earthquakes. In this work, such methodologies will be presented together with some recent examples. More applications such as early warning systems and alerts based not only on the hazard but also on risk assessment are already being used and will be briefly presented.

Towards Increased Productivity of Biofuels & Chemicals by Metabolic Engineering

Prof. Doraiswami Ramkrishna
H. C. Peffer Distinguished Professor

School of Chemical Engineering, Purdue University

A collaborative research program is envisaged between two research groups, one from Purdue University led by Professor D. Ramkrishna with an established record of contributions to modeling of biological systems, and the other from the University of Mexico led by Professor Guillermo Gosset of the University of Mexico with an established experimental program and record of contributions to metabolic engineering for various applications.

The novelty of the proposed research program lies in the development of a genome scale dynamic modeling framework built to meet the challenge of increasing productivities of metabolic products which is beyond the scope of currently available constraint-based methods to metabolic engineering. The Gosset lab is fully equipped with the facilities and research personnel for the extensive complementary experimental effort required to establish the new dynamic framework for applications. The potential for vastly improving the competitiveness of bio-based products from the foregoing collaboration fits well with the goals of the Purdue-Mexico workshop on Sustainability.

Metabolic Engineering of Escherichia Coli for Sustainable Production of Aromatic Compounds

Prof. Guillermo Gosset

Instituto de Biotecnologia, UNAM

Among chemical compounds, the aromatics play an important role in the chemical, pharmaceutical and food industries. Current manufacturing methods for this class of compounds are based mostly on chemical synthesis using precursors derived from petroleum. An alternative to the production schemes currently in use is the microbial synthesis using renewable resources as starting materials. A challenge in this effort is to develop strains displaying high productivity and yield in product formation. We have applied the tools of metabolic engineering for the generation and improvement of Escherichia coli as a host for the synthesis of several aromatic compounds. Our efforts have focused mostly on modifying the phosphotransferase transport system in order to increase availability of precursors for the aromatic pathways. These efforts have enabled the generation of E. coli strains for the high-yield production of phenylalanine, tyrosine, anthranilate. L-DOPA and melanin.