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UW Professor Receives NSF Grant for Research Equipment to Study Underground Civil Infrastructure, Energy Resources

September 10, 2020
man sitting at a computer
Kam Ng, a UW associate professor of civil and architectural engineering, recently received a $794,593 NSF grant. The grant will be used to purchase research equipment to study underground civil infrastructure and energy resources. (UW Photo)

One of the most pressing challenges currently facing the state of Wyoming is energy transition, according to Kam Ng, an associate professor in the University of Wyoming Department of Civil and Architectural Engineering. However, he says his current equipment cannot fully simulate subsurface conditions and meet current research demands.

The demand for better underground civil infrastructure and energy resources requires an improved basic understanding of the complex behaviors of manmade or natural materials, such as bedrocks. To accomplish this end, Ng applied for and received a $794,593 National Science Foundation (NSF) grant.

The title of the grant is “MRI: Acquisition of a High Pressure and Temperature True Triaxial Testing Equipment with a Multiphase Fluid System.” The grant is jointly funded by the Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental and Transport Systems-Major Research Instrumentation Program (CBET-MRI) and the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR). The UW match amount to the NSF grant is $340,544, bringing the total award amount to more than $1.1 million.

The grant commenced Sept. 1 and runs through Aug. 31, 2023.

“This grant will support the acquisition of a true triaxial testing equipment with the capability to simulate high pressure and temperature, three-dimensional stresses, test specimens and fluid at the same target temperature, and multiphase fluid flow conditions,” Ng says. “With this grant, researchers will be able to advance fundamental research on rock mechanics, materials science, geophysics, biological engineering, environmental engineering and sustainability, hydrologic science, transport phenomena and thermo-hydro-mechanical-chemical-biological (THMCB) processes.”

Data provided by the state-of-art research equipment will reveal the physics behind the complex failure mechanism of materials; quantify three-dimensional material strengths; determine the impact of chemical and biological processes on permeability; develop new numerical techniques to study groundwater flows; improve interpretation of geophysical data; and advance multiphysics computational models for simulating coupled THMCB processes of porous materials, according to Ng.

The three-year grant will have a broad research impact on the improvement of civil infrastructure and build environments; wellbore stability; safety of nuclear storage; reservoir prediction; carbon capture and storage; and improved extraction of groundwater, hydrocarbon and other resources from rock reservoirs.

Ng will serve as the grant’s principal investigator (PI) for UW. His co-PIs at UW are Vladimir Alvarado, a professor and head of the Department of Chemical Engineering; Dario Grana, an associate professor in the Department of Geology and Geophysics; and Pejman Tahmasebi, an assistant professor in the Department of Petroleum Engineering.

The scope of the grant also will include training future scientists and engineers as well as broadening the participation of women, underrepresented minorities and persons with disabilities in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields.

Additional educational activities will be pursued as part of the grant, including the incorporation of equipment testing into existing undergraduate and graduate courses, Wyoming State Science Fair exhibits and Engineering Summer Program classes. Other activities include establishing an educational website, an outreach program for Wyoming school districts and annual workshops.

For more information about the NSF grant, research equipment and future training workshops, email Ng at kng1@uwyo.edu.

Contact Us

Institutional Communications

Bureau of Mines Building, Room 137

Laramie

Laramie, WY 82071

Phone: (307) 766-2929

Email: cbaldwin@uwyo.edu

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