Story Ideas from the Johns Hopkins School of Engineering
In a Dec. 12 speech at the White House Conference on Technology for a Sustainable Future, Vice President Al Gore praised the collaborative effort of a chemical firm and a Johns Hopkins University professor in developing an environmentally- friendly industrial spray painting process.
Marc Donohue, chairman of the Department of Chemical Engineering at Hopkins, has worked for a decade with scientists at Union Carbide on his spray paint and coating technology that replaces toxic paint thinners with supercritical carbon dioxide. The result, via a process called UNICARB, is a reduction of solvent emissions of up to 80 percent in spray applications. It is estimated that each of the 500 million gallons of paint sprayed each year using conventional methods produces over 4 pounds of pollutants.
Gore hailed UNICARB, which is gaining widespread use in the automobile and furniture manufacturing industries, because it also offers such benefits as lower labor costs and improved quality of the final product.
Dr. Donohue has received the National Society of Professional Engineers Outstanding Engineering Achievement Award and the Kirkpatrick Chemical Engineering Achievement Award for his work on UNICARB.
Mixing Music and Technology
Only a handful of Hopkins students pursue dual majors in the School of Engineering and the Peabody Conservatory. But senior Charles Kim proves that beautiful music can be made by combining the two disciplines.
Kim, with majors in composition and computer science, has written a 15-minute contemporary classical piece titled "Does Spring Come to a Lost Land?" Using lyrics from an early 20th century Korean poem of the same name, the piece effectively blends Kim's electronic, computer-generated orchestra of sounds with the lilting soprano of fellow Peabody student Hyunnah Yu.
He has made significant computer science inroads by using a pitch-recognition device and digital signal processing software to harmonize Yu's voice in real time during live concerts. But he is equally proud of his own cultural awakening in composing the piece.
"This project brought me closer to my roots. Hopefully, this melding of Korean and western musical styles will help to bring about an enlightenment of sorts to other Korean-Americans who are, like me, strangers to our motherland," said Kim, 22, a resident of Houston, Texas.
He wrote the piece to honor his parents, who grew up in Korea during the Japanese occupation. The poem "Does Spring Come to a Lost Land?" was written during and about that tumultuous era.
Kim's composition has been performed three times in Baltimore to critical acclaim. He hopes future performances will be before Korean audiences. NOTE: Cassettes of the work are available upon request.
Wave of the Future
Life on remote ocean isles isn't all palm trees and coconuts. Too often, island inhabitants must pay exorbitant fees for hard-to-come-by necessities that mainlanders take for granted, especially potable water.
Soon, however, the millions of people who live on the world's 100,000 islands may find that drinking water can be plentiful and affordable, thanks to the work of a Hopkins civil engineering professor and an Irish inventor.
The McCabe Wave Pump, an innovative energy conversion system, exploits the power of ocean waves in solving the potable water problems of islanders. The system, invented by Peter McCabe of Ireland, has been extensively tested and refined since 1980 by Michael McCormick of Hopkins.
According to Dr. McCormick, "Most wave energy conversion systems are complicated. But the McCabe pump provides a steady supply of water to people who now must rely on rainfall, and it does it in a simple and cost-effective way." The system, now under construction, will be tested in the Shannon estuary in Ireland, beginning in late December.
Dr. McCormick is applying for a grant from the World Bank to sponsor an advanced engineering study of the system, and plans to pursue studies of other wave energy conversion systems with engineers from a Navy laboratory.
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