Sustainable Materials, Manufacturing & Mobility

WPI's multidisciplinary research in materials science and engineering is motivated by the recognition that the future will depend on the development of new materials (including materials inspired by nature), the innovative use of traditional materials, and the recovery and reuse of materials we now discard. Researchers collaborate across disciplines and with industry partners through such forward-looking enterprises as the Metal Processing Institute, the Integrative Materials Design Center, and the Surface Metrology Laboratory.

Beyond materials, WPI's broad-based research efforts address sustainability issues in energy generation and alternative energy (fuel cells, grid storage, power generation using undersea kites); manufacturing (lean manufacturing, sustainable supply chains, advanced industrial drying); and mobility (the production of liquid transportation fuels from lignocellulosic biomass, advanced batteries for vehicles and battery recycling, sustainable highway infrastructure).

Extracting Alloys for Good

While recycling rates for motor vehicle aluminum stands at an impressive 90 percent, more needs to be done says Professor Diran Apelian. With more efficient technology, recycling aluminum cuts down on the energy and the carbon dioxide used to make new aluminum and reduces hazardous materials. Separating the materials even more yields valuable "leftover" alloys that can be used in other ways.  

 

Read About Extracting and Recycling

 

From E-Waste to Gold Dust

Did you know there might be gold in your old cell phone? WPI researchers are finding ways to capture the fine materials particles, or flue dust, given off during the recycling process that includes such valuable metals as gold and silver. To keep these precious metals out of landfills, WPI's Center for Resource Recovery and Recycling (CR3) is working to separate these materials with industry support.  

Recovering and Recycling Rare Earth

Recovering and recycling metals and materials from electronic devices in vehicles is both a pressing environmental and industrial issue. Saving landfill space and giving industry more access to rare earth materials commonly used in things like solar panels is good practice. Professor Marion Emmert researches recycling and reusing materials from automotive motors for sustainability.

WPI Adds Voice and Insight to U.S. Council on Competitiveness

When the Council on Competitiveness released its October 2016 report  on the link between advanced materials and America’s future economic vitality, WPI’s President  Laurie Leshin co-chaired the panel and several WPI faculty participated.

 

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From Red Mud to Resource

Within the caustic red mud that results from aluminum production typically ends up in a landfill is valuable rare earth materials. In the Center for Resource Recovery and Recycling (CR3), Marion Emmert, PhD, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry, is finding ways to keep these rare earths out of landfills and producing saleable products from it.

Closing the Loop on Battery Recycling

Professor Yan Wang received funding to continue and expand his research into recycling lithium-ion batteries to save materials and reduce costs. Included in everything from cell phones to electric cars, lithium-ion batteries are a valuable source of cathode materials to make new batteries. Capturing these materials is a potential boon for the recovery market.

WPI's Metal Processing Institute: A Premiere Industry-University Collaborative

Established 30 years ago, WPI's Metal Processing Institute (MPI) is a leading collaborative effort between nearly 100 industries and WPI. With annual research expenditures approaching $6 million, MPI is home to four centers led by innovative and award-winning faculty and in partnership with industry leaders.