The Texas Transportation Institute’s (TTI‘s) new Environmental and Emissions Research Facility (EERF) is officially open for research. Joe Zietsman, director of the Center for Air Quality Studies, describes this facility as a “researcher’s dream come true.”
The EERF was made possible by a competitive grant award from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Houston Advanced Research Center as well as supporting funds from TTI and The Texas A&M University System. Located on Texas A&M University’s Riverside Campus, the EERF is one of the few drive-in environmentally controlled test chambers based at a university and is, to our knowledge, the largest in the nation. Researchers can control temperature (from -13°F to +131°F), humidity, solar impact and wind speeds. Full-sized 18-wheelers and buses are easily accommodated in the 75-by-22-by-22-foot chamber.
Semi-trucks that idle produce a broad range of pollutant emissions. For the first EERF project, Zietsman’s team at TTI‘s Center for Air Quality Studies is measuring idling emissions and fuel consumption of semi-trucks as well as idling and fuel consumption of auxiliary power units (APUs). APUs are small engines that power auxiliary air-conditioning or heating units on a semi-truck so that the driver does not have to idle the truck’s main engine when stopped for the night. The TTI team is developing a verification protocol for EPA for APUs. This protocol will require the measurement of emissions, fuel consumption and energy usage of these devices. The protocols and data will be available on a center website. These tests and protocols could only be developed in a humidity- and temperature-controlled chamber, such as the EERF, to ensure consistency between tests and accuracy of results.
On Sept. 17, TTI hosted a grand opening and luncheon. Guests were treated to a tour of the facility and happily soaked in the much cooler temperature of the chamber. “The type of research one can do in the EERF is only limited by your imagination,” Zietsman said. “It’s an exciting new horizon of environmental research for TTI.”
Speakers at the grand opening ceremony included Chairman Bryan Shaw of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality; Region 6 Administrator Al Armendariz of EPA; Chancellor Mike McKinney of The Texas A&M University System; Rick Collins, director of the Research and Technology Implementation Office of the Texas Department of Transportation; and TTI Agency Director Dennis Christiansen. Each speaker praised TTI‘s state-of-the-art facility and TTI‘s initiative in pursuing new opportunities in environmental research.
“We have to continue to foster and develop new and better understandings of emissions sources, control strategies, new fuel sources and new energy sources,” explained Shaw. “Part of doing that is making sure you have state-of-the-art facilities, state-of-the-art equipment and technical personnel who are properly trained to be able to assess and evaluate new, innovative approaches. I’m excited to see this facility online, to see the good data coming out of it.”