Features - February 2012

NETL's ORISE Scholars Step into the Spotlight

NETL has been privileged to claim many hard-working scientists over its hundred-and-two-year history. And many of these scientists first connected with NETL through Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) internships. First established in 1946, these internships provide a valuable experience for scholars to work in a national lab and to make connections with peers in the energy arena. For NETL, the relationship brings fresh ideas into the lab and allows scientists to impart their experience to newcomers in the field.

Recently, ORISE featured 4 of NETL’s 44 current ORISE research associates—4 undergraduate, 10 graduate, 22 post graduate, and 8 faculty members—in the “ORISE 2011 Participant Spotlight” section of their website. Dr. Clinton Bedick, Dr. Sivaram Harendra, Dr. Angela Hartsock, and Dr. Joseph Ranalli—all post-doctoral interns—were nominated by NETL to showcase their outstanding research skills and contributions to NETL’s mission to advance the national economic and energy security of the United States. ORISE’s article can be found on their website.

Congratulations to these outstanding flourishing scientists!


Dr. Clinton Bedick

Dr. Clinton Bedick measures and evaluates the heat transfer properties of oxy-fuel flames during oxy-combustion, a technique for simplifying capture of carbon dioxide emissions from fossil-fueled power plants.
Dr. Clinton Bedick measures and evaluates the heat transfer properties of oxy-fuel flames during oxy-combustion, a technique for simplifying capture of carbon dioxide emissions from fossil-fueled power plants.

Mechanical engineer and NETL research fellow Clinton Bedick, a recent doctoral graduate from West Virginia University, is helping advance oxy-combustion technology to allow for cleaner emissions from fossil-fueled plants. This energy technology could be used to safely capture and store carbon dioxide emissions from these power plants. Bedick measures the radiative heat transfer properties of oxy-fuel flames and compares them to model results and scientific literature to develop more accurate modeling tools that will make oxy-combustion feasible.

In addition to hands-on research experience, the NETL fellowship has given Bedick a variety of professional development opportunities, such as training with a simulation software package and opportunities to communicate his work at conferences. Recently, he presented “Radiative Property Measurements of Oxy-Fuel Flames” at the American Society of Mechanical Engineers conference where highlights included a peer-review process as well as meeting with other presenters.
Bedick’s passion for internal combustion engines and high-performance vehicles could lead him toward a future in automotive science. Noting similarities between the sciences of combustion research in the energy field and automotive application, Bedick can correlate some of his graduate research in diesel engine emissions with his current work at NETL.

During his stent at West Virginia University, Bedick also participated in one of ORISE’s many internship opportunities for undergraduate students. Recently, he started a permanent position with West Virginia University Research Corporation working at the Pittsburgh NETL site.


Dr. Sivaram Harendra

For his postdoctoral research appointment, Dr. Sivaram Harendra is part of an NETL team focused on removing carbon dioxide from fossil-fueled power plant emissions using integrated pollutant removal.
For his postdoctoral research appointment, Dr. Sivaram Harendra is part of an NETL team focused on removing carbon dioxide from fossil-fueled power plant emissions using integrated pollutant removal.

NETL research associate Dr. Sivaram Harendra participates in ORISE’s Postdoctoral Associate’s Program and recently earned his Ph.D. in chemical and environmental engineering at the University of Houston. Harendra gained experience in solving industrial problems through the ORISE program.
“My experience at NETL has been awesome,” said Harendra, noting that he has gained more knowledge than expected within a short period of time. “My research topics are useful for future generations—both nationally and globally.”

At NETL, Harendra is part of a team focused on removing carbon dioxide from fossil-fueled power plant emissions. Because coal accounts for half of our nation’s energy and because the United States has an abundance of coal resources, developing ways to mitigate the release of carbon dioxide is vital.
Harendra’s team works with integrated pollutant removal (IPR), which uses oxy-fuel combustion. Harendra’s project focuses on building zero liquid discharge systems for the wastewater derived from the process, hoping to eliminate the waste streams and produce high-purity water for reuse. A power plant using a zero liquid discharge system could reduce its water consumption by as much as 80 percent—saving money and conserving water.

The IPR is patented by NETL and will be available commercially soon. NETL’s unique IPR process uses heat exchange followed by several stages of compression, with cooling between each compression stage. The system’s flexibility allows the technology to be applied to existing power plants or incorporated into new designs.


Dr. Angela Hartsock

Dr. Angela Hartsock is researching ways to use microbes in wastewater from natural gas drilling to help treat the contaminated water.
Dr. Angela Hartsock is researching ways to use microbes in wastewater from natural gas drilling to help treat the contaminated water.

Environmental microbiologist Dr. Angela Hartsock, a post-doctoral research associate at NETL’s Pittsburgh site is researching ways to treat and reuse wastewater associated with oil and gas drilling. Hartsock focuses her efforts on natural gas drilling in the Marcellus shale, a hot topic in Pennsylvania, where shale drilling is poised to expand across the state, resulting in millions of gallons of wastewater possibly contaminated with chemicals.

Drilling in the Marcellus shale—one of the nation’s top-producing natural gas sites in recent years—uses hydraulic fracturing, which requires a large amount of water. After the shale is fractured to release the gas, this wastewater must be treated and recycled before being reused or released to the environment.
In the water treatment process, drilling companies currently manage microbes using biocides—chemical agents that destroy living organisms—but Hartsock envisions a more productive process. By studying the ability of wastewater microbes to degrade some of the toxic chemicals present, she hopes to eventually exploit the microbes to help in the treatment process.

With her microbiology background, Hartsock knew little about the day-to-day workings of the oil and gas industry but applied to the program because she was interested in working in a government research environment focused on energy issues. “The sheer scale and complexity of drilling operations gave me perspective on how my research could address environmental concerns,” she said.

Hartsock still has a year remaining in her fellowship and is enjoying the collaboration with scientists in other fields and exploring the complexities of the energy industry and the nation’s energy policy. Hartsock’s program is offered by NETL and managed by ORISE. Each year, NETL grants opportunities for post-graduate students to participant in three highly-competitive energy-related internships and research fellowship programs.


Dr. Joseph Ranalli

Postdoctoral researcher Dr. Joseph Ranalli is looking for ways to reduce the environmental impact of combustion-based power generation systems.
Postdoctoral researcher Dr. Joseph Ranalli is looking for ways to reduce the environmental impact of combustion-based power generation systems.

As a child, Dr. Joseph Ranalli was fascinated with the hard work it took to successfully send the space shuttle into orbit. The contagious enthusiasm of a college thermodynamics teacher fueled his curiosity and desire to learn, leading him to become a scientific researcher. 

Ranalli, a postdoctoral researcher from Virginia Tech, is participating in a 3-year research fellowship program at NETL administered by ORISE and managed by Oak Ridge Associated Universities that helps scientists and engineers begin their careers with research experience and colleague connections.
Most of the world’s energy is derived from the combustion of fossil fuels, which can emit potentially harmful products, such as nitric oxides and soot, and releases carbon dioxide. “At NETL, we investigate advanced combustion concepts that can reduce the impact of these emissions and provide methods for greener energy generation,” Ranalli said. One of the most important aspects to this research is overcoming thermoacoustic instabilities that are caused when the flame couples with the acoustic field of the power system, like blowing into a musical instrument. This can cause the system to shake apart. Ranalli develops models to help understand what leads to these oscillations to prevent them in advanced combustion designs.

Ranalli’s research finds him acquiring data in the laboratory and also processing and analyzing the data to understand the significance of the measurements. This provides a variety to the work, which he loves. Besides the “intrinsic coolness” that he said comes with researching fire, the science requires a high level of inquisitiveness. “I consider myself lucky to be able to say that my ‘job’ is to be curious,” he said.

Now in his third and final year with the program, Ranalli agrees that his NETL research experience has been a positive one. After the program, Ranalli hopes to continue his passion for understanding by becoming a university professor. “I had some very talented and passionate teachers throughout my education, and the impact they had on me is immeasurable,” he said. “I would love to be able to say that I had that kind of impact on my students one day.”

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