Engineering faculty co-leads research center for sustainability

AmetaPULLMAN, Wash. – Gaurav Ameta is co-leading an India-U.S. partnership to improve the design of sustainable products, services and manufacturing systems. He intends to develop tools applicable to industry and learning modules that effectively teach future engineers in this developing field.

The research group received a two-year award from the Indo-US Science and Technology Forum to develop a joint center between Washington State University, the University of California Berkley, Syracuse University, the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore and two other research centers in India. The forum promotes “Indo-US bilateral collaborations in science, technology, engineering and biomedical research through substantive interaction among government, academia and industry,” according to the website.

“We will visit industry and research centers in both countries to start identifying the issues surrounding sustainable design and manufacturing and find out what tools are most needed,” said Ameta, an assistant professor in WSU’s School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering. The award covers travel and housing expenses for faculty and graduate students, workshop organization and publication costs.

Sustainable design and manufacturing look at a product’s entire lifecycle, which includes everything from design through distribution, use and disposal. For instance, a water bottle made out of recycled plastics may not be truly sustainable if the recycling, distribution and manufacturing processes have more environmental impacts than traditional processes.

In his lab at WSU, Ameta and his students are developing tools that help designers and manufacturers assess the impacts of a product or process. One example is a computational tool that plugs into design programs to estimate energy use, disassembly time and other environmental impact factors while design is in the early stage. The tool allows designers to make relevant choices and changes before they’ve spent the time and energy to optimize design.

“The award is covering two main goals – conducting research that will lead to more sustainable design methods and practices and developing teaching modules that will arm the next generation of engineers with an understanding of sustainable design and manufacturing,” Ameta said.