State and federal leaders applauded the Texas Transportation Institute’s (TTI’s) new Environmental and Emissions Research Facility (EERF) during its grand opening at Texas A&M University’s Riverside Campus.
The EERF is the largest drive-in environmentally controlled test chamber in the country, enabling researchers to manipulate temperature, humidity, solar impact and wind speeds. Full sized 18-wheelers and buses are easily accommodated in the 75 by 22 by 22-foot chamber.
“This is a one of a kind facility. No other university in the country has anything quite like it,” said TTI Agency Director Dennis Christiansen during the ceremony. “It provides additional opportunities for testing vehicles, equipment, products and technologies for their durability under severe conditions.” Researchers can adjust the temperature of the chamber from -13°F to +131°F.
The EERF significantly expands the Institute’s current environmental research, which includes work with recyclable pavements, vegetation management, erosion control and portable emissions equipment.
“To have a facility like this where you can do real-world testing under controlled environments is a researcher’s dream,” Joe Zietsman, director of TTI’s Center for Air Quality Studies, told the crowd.
Current and potential research includes emissions and fuel consumption of idling cars, trucks, buses and construction equipment; infiltration of pollutants into vehicles; the ability of plant life to absorb emissions and depletion rates of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles under various temperature conditions.
“I think the type of research one can do here is only limited by your imagination,” Zietsman said.
“It’s nice to see something new and innovative taking shape and getting off the ground,” said Al Armendariz of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). “Congratulations to TTI for all your success over the years. The facility is an asset to the state of Texas.”
The EERF was made possible by a competitive grant award from the EPA.
“EPA is really proud to partner with Texas A&M to contribute to facilities like this because as we set more and more aggressive air quality standards, we need solutions,” Armendariz said. “We need to turn to experts.”
Other speakers at the event included Chairman Bryan Shaw of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Director Rick Collins of the Texas Department of Transportation’s Research and Technology Implementation Office, and Chancellor Mike McKinney of The Texas A&M University System.
“[The Environmental and Emissions Research Facility will provide] cutting-edge research,” McKinney said. “The discoveries that come out of here, like the other things from TTI, will protect human beings and increase safety on the highways.”