REU Program

Qualifying Greenhouse Gas Emissions Impact for the Automotive Industry

Automobile sector is one of the world's most significant industries. Every vehicle produced entails use of a varied number of materials. The extraction and processing of these materials puts out a considerable carbon footprint on the environment. Consumers of these vehicles and services across the world, face a major economic challenge every day, that is whether, and how, to repair their vehicle or get a new component replacement. It is typically an economic decision whether to get a new part or use a refurbished one from a used vehicle. The financial metrics associated with these choices are clear to consumer. But this choice also entails major environmental decisions. These decisions have a significant impact on greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. Though consumers are consciously aware of the economic factors, but environmental metrics of that decision, however, are vague at best, and typically unknown.

This REU project sponsored by NSF and WPI’s Materials Science and Manufacturing Engineering Department will study the savings in greenhouse gas emissions when specific automotive parts are reclaimed and reused for vehicle repairs, compared to using a newly manufactured part for the same purpose. This study should ultimately be able to support and educate consumers and public policy makers on environmental impacts of their decisions.

The research aims at developing greenhouse gas emissions information and related carbon footprint reduction for three specific parts of two vehicles: a sedan, and a pick-up truck because parts from these two vehicles represent very good examples of automotive parts now reclaimed and made available for automotive repair. Our vehicles for study are a Toyota Camry with a 4-cylinder gasoline engine and a Ford F150 with an 8-cylinder gasoline engine and the parts under evaluation will be the engine, door, and wheel. Environmental management, pollution control and value-recovery towards sustainability in vehicle recycling shall be explored.

Participants receive a $6,000 stipend, free housing, and funds for travel to and from Worcester. The program will run from Tuesday, May 30th to Sunday, August 4th. Please email Maureen Plunkett at with all questions and the application.


PreviewStudent working with professor in the computer lab