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UW Student Winners Selected in ‘Decarbonization Prize’ Contest

May 6, 2022
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UW student teams won cash prizes in the recent Decarbonization Prize contest. Presenting awards to students, were, from left, Scott Quillinan, from UW’s School of Energy Resources, and Rob Klenner, of Baker Hughes; UW students Madison Brigham, of Star Valley Ranch; Drew Rone, from Casper; Moustafa Aly, from Suez, Egypt; Rami Alloush, of Damanhour, Egypt; Adam Bratland, from Cheyenne; Kim Sukle, of Parker, Colo.; and Vinh Do, from Baker Hughes. (UW Photo)

Winners of the Decarbonization Prize contest were selected from among diverse proposals submitted by University of Wyoming students.

Sponsored by the UW School of Energy Resources (SER), the Wyoming Energy Authority and Baker Hughes, the goal of the competition is to advance energy solutions through innovative applications for existing products and services, or to introduce new concepts that will drive decarbonization.

This year’s competition focused on accelerating the pace of technological development within the domain of hydrogen.

UW Ph.D. candidates Rami Alloush, of Damanhour, Egypt, and Moustafa Aly, from Suez, Egypt, were selected as the first prize recipients for their proposal titled “A Self-Sustained Municipal Water Treatment Plant Utilizing the Baker Hughes NovaLTTM Hybrid Turbine and Semi-Artificial Photosynthesis.”

The proposal outlined a self-sustained system to obtain clean water while relying not only on hydrogen as a clean energy source, but also reducing CO2 emissions through the photosynthesis process.

“I want to thank Baker Hughes and SER for this opportunity that allowed us to think outside the box and use existing products and services to help decarbonize the world,” Alloush says. “As Steve Jobs said, ‘Creativity is just connecting things.’ I believe that we have a lot of existing tools and products that can be used in creative ways to solve many problems the world is facing.”

Aly adds that competitions such as the Decarbonization Contest are beneficial to both industry and academia.

“Real-life problems being solved by future industry leaders is the preparation students need,” Aly says.

Both Alloush and Aly hold bachelor’s and master’s degrees in petroleum engineering. The duo brought complementary expertise to the project with skills in the information technology field and its applications in the oil and gas industry, as well as lab experience with core flood studies, fluid and material properties.

Second-place honors went to the interdisciplinary team of Drew Rone, from Casper, and Madison Brigham, of Star Valley Ranch. Their proposal titled “Synthesis and characterization of rGO-NiMo as a corrosion-resistant non-noble cathode in PEM water electrolysis” aims to replace expensive catalysts with cheap non-noble materials, addressing one of the largest issues with hydrogen production: the cost.

Rone will graduate this semester with a degree in chemical engineering and will pursue a master’s degree in chemical engineering at UW this fall. Brigham also will graduate this semester with degrees in chemistry and business management. She will attend UW’s College of Law this fall to pursue a career as a patent attorney.

Cheyenne junior Adam Bratland and junior Kimberlee Sukle, of Parker, Colo, received third place in the competition for their proposal titled “Separating Hydrogen through Polymers with Intrinsic Microporosity.” UW chemistry Assistant Professor Laura Oliveira mentored the students. The team proposed taking measured and calculated properties of polymers of intrinsic microporosity and applying them to known machine learning techniques.

Both students are working toward chemistry degrees, while Sukle is on a pre-med track.

Student teams presented their proposals to representatives of Baker Hughes and SER for a chance at $5,000 in cash prizes.

“The ideas and creativity by the students were beyond our expectations,” says Rob Klenner, senior energy transition and strategy leader for Baker Hughes. “Hydrogen is a fuel we see in our future, and to get students thinking about it today is what this competition was all about. Overall, we see this competition as a kick-start to further collaboration with the University of Wyoming on new energy technology.”

With the success of the inaugural competition, organizers look forward to continued innovation from UW students in the future.

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