Virginia Tech Magazine
Winter 2008

Hok-E-News, Virginia Tech Magazine's online-only feature, is updated quarterly.

digital library
Green500 List

Center for Advanced Separation Technologies helps provide cleaner energy to India
by Susan Trulove

In support of the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate, the U.S. Department of State has awarded more than $1 million to a university-industry team led by the Center for Advanced Separation Technologies at Virginia Tech to help India increase energy production and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by developing and testing advanced technologies for cleaning coal.

"It has been shown that use of beneficiated (cleaned) coals can increase thermal efficiencies and can thereby reduce CO2 emissions by up to 15 percent," said Roe-Hoan Yoon, director of the Center for Advanced Separation Technology and Nicholas T. Camicia Professor of mining and minerals engineering at Virginia Tech. "By using state-of-the art technologies relating to coal quality, boiler and generator design, instrumentation and control, and high-voltage distribution systems, India could reduce CO2 emissions to 45 percent of its present level," he said, citing an International Energy Agency (IEA) report.


In 2005-2006, India produced 380 million tons of coal, but only 17 million tons were beneficiated coals delivered to 12 power stations, according to Professor Sumantra Bhattacharya of Indian School of Mines University.

Ash-forming minerals are finely disseminated in Indian coals, making them difficult to remove from the carbonaceous matrix using conventional physical separation methods. Because water is a scarce resource in India, the researchers will develop low-cost dry beneficiation technologies that can remove well-liberated, easy-to-reject rocks or shales that are inadvertently added during the process of mining Indian coals.

"Ground-breaking research like this makes important contributions to the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate. It illustrates how the public and private sector are working together to promote innovative solutions that achieve our mutual goals on energy security, poverty reduction, clean economic growth, and environmental conservation," said Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky.

The project team consists of researchers from three leading mining schools, Virginia Tech, Indian School of Mines, and the University of Kentucky; the process equipment manufacturer, Eriez Manufacturing; Taggart Global, an architecture and engineering firm specializing in coal-plant design and construction; Indian coal producer Auroma Coke Limited (ACL); Sharpe International, which has expertise in building and operating coal plants in India; and Leonardo Technologies, which is experienced in assessing the impacts of various coal technologies on controlling greenhouse gas emissions.

One of the processes has already been tested successfully in the United States at pilot scale under the sponsorship of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). While the process is highly efficient in cleaning relatively coarse coals whose particle size is in the range of 80 to 6 mm, its efficiency deteriorates below the lower size limit. Therefore, a new method of dry cleaning finer coal will be explored in the India project. An earlier work also funded by the DOE will be the basis for developing this new process.

The project will promote rapid deployment of the dry beneficiation processes in India. In phase 1, a pilot-scale deshaling unit with a maximum capacity of five tons per hour will be constructed and installed at different mine sites and/or power plants. In phase 2, a detailed flow sheet and engineering diagrams will be developed to construct a full-scale proof-of-concept plant in India. "The successful completion of phase 2 will constitute a fully operational and commercially viable installation of the proposed technology in India," said Yoon. "This large-scale test work in phase 2 eliminates risks associated with scale-up and allows a proof-of-concept plant to serve as a model for future installations in India and abroad."

Upon completion of the plant, a detailed test program will be developed and carried out to fully define the operational capabilities of this technology and to establish design protocols for future installations in India.

Yoon, an internationally recognized expert in coal processing, is principal investigator for the project. He will be assisted by co-principal investigators at each of the three participating universities: S. Bhattacharya, associate professor of electronics and instrumentation engineering at Indian School of Mines University; Rick Honaker, chair of the mining engineering department at the University of Kentucky; and G.H. Luttrell, the Massey Professor of mining and minerals engineering at Virginia Tech.

About the Center for Advanced Separations (CAST)
The Center for Advanced Separation Technology at Virginia Tech was established in 2001 under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Energy. This interdisciplinary center conducts fundamental and applied research in technologies that can be used to produce coal and mineral concentrates in an efficient and environmentally acceptable manner, including more than 60 sponsored projects at seven universities with cumulative funding in excess of $13 million. The center also provides technical support to coal preparation operators and a wide range of governmental agencies and institutions.

About the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate (APP)
The Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate brings together the governments and private sectors of Australia, Canada, China, India, Japan, the Republic of Korea, and the United States in an innovative effort to facilitate investment in and deployment of clean energy technologies, goods, and services; accelerate the sharing of energy-efficient best practices; and identify policy barriers to the diffusion of clean energy technologies.

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Beyond books: Virginia Tech libraries in the digital age
by Albert Raboteau

A fisherman catches something he can't identify. He photographs it with his cell phone, sends the image to a database, and is able to identify what's in his boat--all before going ashore, where he can use a tablet PC to show the results to his friends and family.

The technology to make such identifications is being developed in a project on archiving digital images led by Virginia Tech computer science professor Edward A. Fox, working with fisheries and wildlife science department head Eric M. Hallerman and Professor Ricardo da Silva Torres of the Institute of Computing at the University of Campinas, Brazil.

Fox, who is director of both the Digital Library Research Laboratory and the Networked Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations, is using a variety of digital technologies to allow people to store and retrieve information in new, ever more accessible ways.

digital library
His work has drawn the attention, and financial support, of Google, Microsoft, IBM, and Sun Microsystems, among others. Both Microsoft and Google have donated money to Virginia Tech this year specifically to support research overseen by Fox.

Microsoft is funding the project described above, which in the short term could benefit anglers or scientists who study fish, and down the road could lead to a whole new way of searching for information based on visual clues. Fish were chosen as a test subject because their telltale fins can convey identifiable information even if the entire animal is not visible, Fox said.

A separate, Google-funded project in which Fox is involved has grown out of the dissertation work of Ryan Richardson, who remains at Virginia Tech as a postdoctoral associate. Their project has the potential to make it easier for scholars to sift though the hundreds of thousands of pages of dissertations in their fields to find the particular information they need for their own work.

Online dissertation archives have made it easier for academics to find information, but the process is not perfect. Dissertations are discovered and selected based on the information in their abstracts, but those are mere summaries of lengthier works.

It's quite possible that a researcher might overlook a chapter that had relevant information inside it but which is not discussed in the abstract, Richardson explained.

To address that problem, Richardson has developed a program that creates graphical concept maps of the information inside theses, dissertations, or other books. Along with giving a more accurate representation of the information inside the manuscript, Richardson said, organizing dissertation information into concept maps makes it easier to use translation programs to search through papers in other languages.

Fox describes his research as helping to reduce barriers to sharing information--a way of realizing the ancient mission of the library in new ways--through technology. "Books came about to help person to person communication span space and time," Fox said. "We're still doing the same thing. We're getting people to communicate. It's a fundamental thing. I don't think it will ever go away."

At higher education institutions, research like that done by Fox is often advanced with private support from corporations like Microsoft and Google. Increasing the amount of such support at Virginia Tech is one of the major goals of a $1 billion fundraising campaign that was launched Oct. 20.

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Inaugural Green500 List: Encouraging sustainable supercomputing
y Christina Daniilidi

Virginia Tech released the inaugural Green500 List in mid-November at the Supercomputing 2007 (SC|07) conference in Reno, Nev.

"The Green500 List is intended to serve as a ranking of the most energy-efficient supercomputers in the world and as a complementary view to the Top500 List," said Wu Feng, associate professor in the Departments of Computer Science and Electrical and Computer Engineering at Virginia Tech.

All systems on the Green500 List are ranked by MFLOPS/Watt (million floating-point operations per second per watt). The MFLOPS numerator is the reported LINPACK sustained (Rmax) value recorded by the Top500 List. (LINPACK is a linear algebra software package used to create equations to challenge computers.) The watts denominator is either a direct measurement of the system running the LINPACK benchmark at Rmax load or a peak power estimate based upon machine specifications.

For now, systems must first place in the current Top500 List in order to be considered for the Green500. Of the Top500 machines, more than 200 machines directly reported their measured power for the Green500 List. In cases where measured power was not provided, the Green500 List used peak power, as estimated by the Green500 team, based on the best available specifications for the systems in the Top500 List.


The November 2007 Green500 List is a combined ranking of all 500 machines based on the best (highest) MFLOPS/Watt rating available from either direct measurements or peak power estimations. Because peak power numbers do not necessarily reflect power consumption under load, the Green500 team specifically discourages direct comparisons of measured and peak values in the current Green500.

"As this list is the first attempt of its kind, the rankings are open to interpretation by the media, associated vendors, and the general community," said Kirk Cameron, associate professor of computer science at Virginia Tech. "The Green500 team encourages fair use of the list rankings to promote energy efficiency in high-performance systems. We discourage use of the list to disparage a particular vendor, system, or user," he concluded.

The list itself and the methodology used to rank the systems are works-in-progress, Feng said, adding that this will evolve over time to ensure accuracy and more closely reflect energy efficiency in the fast-paced, ever-changing, high-performance community.

For more information, see the "Virginia Tech's Green500 List to put supercomputing on a diet" news story.

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Apparel student wins international design award
y Jean Elliott


Mariah Clarke of Greenwood, Va., a senior majoring in apparel, housing, and resource management in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences at Virginia Tech, is the recipient of the International Textile and Apparel Association's (ITAA) Paris American Academy 2007 Scholarship.

Clarke, who is focusing her studies in the apparel design program, received the prestigious award for her gown design, "Victorian Rose."

Clarke's "Victorian Rose" design was inspired by the late-Victorian bustle period. Her goal was to recreate the elegance and essence of this period, but in a modern silhouette.

After the essence of the design was envisioned, the construction process began, which included draping construction techniques, extensive hand-sewing, and couture tailoring. The finished gown consists of more than 50 yards of material.

Jihyun Kim, assistant professor of apparel, housing, and resource management and Clarke's advisor, said, "Mariah's design is absolutely a one-of-a-kind gown, and she did a stunning job obtaining design inspiration from historic costumes of the Victorian era. Her construction skills and techniques leave no room for error, and academic professionals and industry members at the conference highly commended her visual design and the quality of the construction process."

The Paris American Academy Scholarship is a top design award offered by ITAA to an undergraduate student for excellence in design creativity and innovation. The 2007 Design Competition is an important segment of the ITAA Annual Conference, which took place in Los Angeles in November.

Peter Carman, president of the Paris American Academy, was on hand to present the award, which included four weeks of study at the Paris American Academy with free tuition and housing. While in Paris, Clarke will work with professionals from the French haute couture and ready-to-wear industries. She plans to pursue career interests in design and merchandising, working toward a couture business focused on high-end formal wear.

"The ITAA juried design exhibit is an international competition, which attracts the best in student design submissions from the ITAA membership," said LuAnn Gaskill, professor and head of the Department of Apparel, Housing, and Resource Management. "It's a very competitive design show, and we're delighted to see Mariah taking top honors."

ITAA is the primary academic association of the textile and apparel field with membership from more than 240 colleges and universities in 12 countries. Clarke's participation at ITAA was funded, in part, by the Department of Apparel, Housing, and Resource Management and a grant from the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences Undergraduate Research Institute.

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