Tulane scientists to use recycled glass ‘sand’ to prevent coastal erosion

Glass Half Full, a New Orleans-based glass recycling program, will work with scientists and engineers at Tulane on a coastal restoration program that uses sand made from glass. (Photo courtesy of Glass Half Full)

The “no glass on the beach” rule could be overturned a bit, now that a team of engineers and scientists from Tulane University has received funding to establish a recycling program that uses glass sand to clean it up. prevent the loss of coastal land.

With the help of over $ 700,000 in funding from the National Science Foundation’s Convergence Accelerator Program, the Tulane team will work with the New Orleans Glass Recycling Center Half full glass Develop a plan to divert glass from landfills and turn it into glass sand products to restore coastal communities and preserve historic sites.

Directed by Julie albert, Associate Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, the Tulane Group is one of 28 multidisciplinary teams that will share $ 21 million in NSF funding and compete for more funding to make their ideas a reality. The teams will spend the next nine months accelerating their research towards tangible solutions that make a difference.

“Protecting and restoring coastal environments, while continuing to support local economies, has never been more urgent. “

Julie Albert, Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering at Tulane

Albert’s project was inspired by a service learning collaboration between Katie Russell, lead professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering practice, and Franziska Trautmann, chemical engineering graduate from Tulane and co-founder of Glass Half Full.

“People depend on coastal resources for food, water and energy. However, the extraction of these natural resources over the past century has led to pollution and the loss of coastal land, ”said Albert. “Protecting and restoring coastal environments, while continuing to support local economies, has never been so urgent. In this networked blue economy approach, new products are also created to generate income for the operation of glass recycling facilities.

The project brings together university researchers from the fields of chemical engineering, civil and environmental engineering, river and coastal engineering, and evolutionary ecology and biology to identify new markets for recycled glass products, determine where the sand Recycled glass should be used to prevent loss of coastal land. and ensure that recycled glass sand can be used safely in coastal environments.

“The idea here is to collect, process and reuse glass where glass waste is generated,” Albert said. “In our long-term vision, we aim to build multiple locally operated facilities across the state. This structure would not only reduce transport costs, but also create jobs to support the local community.

“For the Phase 1 project, we are focusing on coastal communities struggling with erosion and land loss in the greater New Orleans area and adjacent parishes. At the same time, we are identifying additional markets for recycled glass sand that would generate revenue to support these facilities beyond the grant period. “

The project will also engage local Native American communities in the preservation of important cultural sites that are currently threatened by land loss. In addition, it will create service, research and training opportunities for local students of all ages to experience the complex interconnections between technology, economy, history and the coastal environment.

In addition to Trautmann and Russell, members of the Tulane team include Vijay John, professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering; Ehab Meselhe and Mead Allison, professors in the Department of River and Coastal Science and Engineering; and Assistant Professor Emily Farrer, Associate Professor Sunshine Van Bael, Professor Hank Bart and Professor of Practice Jelagat Cheruiyot from the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Assistant professor Kejun Wen of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Jackson State University is also part of the team.

Launched in 2019, the NSF Convergence Accelerator leverages fundamental research and discovery to accelerate solutions to national societal challenges.

“The program is designed to provide our funded teams with the tools to turn their pioneering ideas into a proof of concept, then a prototype and finally a solution,” said Douglas Maughan, NSF Convergence Accelerator Program Manager. “The teams will also need to develop partnerships to support the sustainability of the solution and the transition to practice.

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