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Arash Khabazipur sits before a computer screen displaying a simulationArash Khabazipur, a doctoral candidate in UWindsor’s Faculty of Engineering, is using a computer algorithm to research reducing soot by diluting fuel with gases such as nitrogen and hydrogen. He is one of 107 students at UWindsor who recently received internship grants for their research.

Doctoral student researching soot to find cleaner-burning fuel

Finding ways to make fossil fuels burn cleaner is the focus of a new research project by a doctoral candidate in UWindsor’s Faculty of Engineering.

Arash Khabazipur is looking at ways to interfere with soot formation by diluting fuel with gases such as nitrogen and hydrogen. Using an algorithm that replaces lab experiments with numerical code, he runs computer simulations to find permutations that result in reduced soot emissions.

“This research project directly addresses the environmental issues arising from hydrocarbon fossil fuel combustion,” Khabazipur said. “Canada and the U.S. are among the top fossil fuel consuming countries in the world, so this area of research is in intense demand.”

Khabazipur is among 107 UWindsor students who have received $6,000 research training grants in a recent funding call. His project is being funded by the University of Windsor and Mitacs, a national not-for-profit organization that creates partnerships among Canadian academia, private industry, and government to provide research and training opportunities.

In all, the University of Windsor is contributing $471,000 of the $642,000 being spent on research internships. The internships are across all faculties and help ensure students still get training opportunities despite the current pandemic, said K.W. Michael Siu, UWindsor vice-president, research and innovation.

Khabazipur is working under the supervision of mechanical engineering professor Nickolas Eaves.

Dr. Eaves leads the Nano Aerosol Computational Engineering group, which uses an algorithm called CoFlame to study soot. The NanoACE group also models the formation of other particle pollutants such as microplastics, and the synthesis of useful nanoparticles and nanomaterials such as graphene.

Khabazipur’s research will dovetail with that of other graduate students in the group who research soot formation in common devices such as internal combustion engines and gas turbines, said Eaves.

Soot is a collection of microscopic particles formed while burning fossil fuels.

“Reducing soot emissions is important as soot is the second largest contributor to climate change and is cancerous,” Eaves said. “Gaseous dilution is a relatively cheap approach for controlling soot which makes it a highly attractive solution in real-life applications.

“Once we have a better understanding of how solid particles are formed during combustion, we can apply new techniques and constantly update the process of controlling soot to reduce pollutant emissions.”

Khabazipur, 27, did his undergraduate and Master’s degrees in his homeland of Iran. With relatives in Toronto and Montreal, he chose to pursue his PhD in mechanical engineering in Canada.

He said it was the prospect of working with Eaves that convinced him to come to Windsor: “I was able to find an outstanding advisor.”

Khabazipur said he hopes to start sharing his research findings by the end of the year.

—Sarah Sacheli