Integrated Framework to Measure Sustainability of Desalination

Team Develops First Index to Account for the Sustainability Performance of Desalination Technologies

In water-scarce urban environments like those of the UAE, desalination technologies play a central role in transforming plentiful saline and brackish water to create freshwater that meets the population’s needs. In the UAE, natural gas-powered thermal desalination is estimated to produce around 80% of the country’s domestic water.

However, desalination is not an entirely benign process, with associated economic, environmental and social impacts. This makes ensuring that desalination does not harm the very environments and populations that they are meant to help support an ongoing challenges. In response to this need, a Khalifa University research team has collaborated with both international and regional experts to develop the first universal integrated framework to assess the sustainability of desalination technologies.

“As far as we could find out, there was no unified sustainability metric to measure the sustainability of a desalination plant in the UAE. That is why we decided to formulate a comprehensive framework for the UAE, to generate a sustainability index that takes into account the four factors of sustainability, which are environmental, social, technical, and economical,” explained Dr. Faisal AlMarzooqi, Assistant Professor of Chemical and Environmental Engineering at Khalifa University.

A paper on the framework titled “An integrated framework for sustainability assessment of seawater desalination” was recently published in journal Desalination, co-authored by research associate Yazan Ibrahim, Dr. AlMarzooqi, Professor of Chemical and Environmental Engineering Dr. Hassan A. Arafat, and Professor of Engineering Systems and Management Dr. Toufic Mezher, all from Khalifa University.

“What makes desalination a different and more urgent challenge than ever before, is the rapid evolution of this region in its social, environmental, and economic contexts. This led to a significant dependence on desalination as a reliable freshwater alternative due to the geographical and geological structure of the UAE that limit the number of natural water resources,” Ibrahim shared.

The framework developed by the team combines different desalination-related sub-factors and covers the four sustainability factors. It took a unique methodological approach to integrate the different framework components to be able to assess the sustainability of any desalination technology worldwide. The framework consists of three levels, the first being the goal sought to be reached, the
second level being the main sustainability factors and the third being the sub-factors assigned to each factor.  The framework was then demonstrated by assessing the sustainability of the three main desalination technologies in the UAE, which are multi-stage flash distillation (MSF), multiple-effect distillation (MED), and seawater reverse osmosis (SWRO).

“SWRO, which is a membranes-based process, is the most widely adopted technology worldwide, with a global share of around 68% in 2018. It is characterized with low environmental impacts, low cost, reduced land use, and ease of operation. On the other hand, MED and MSF, which are thermally-based technologies, are known for their reliability and robustness as well as their high environmental footprint. Therefore, the challenge for sustainable desalination today lies in the ability to find a tradeoff between the economic, social, and environmental aspects of these technologies,” Yazan explained.

Overall, the three main sustainability factors were environmental, techno-economic and social, each of which had 5-6 desalination-related sub-factors, which were selected from published literature and expert opinion on the topics. The technical factor demonstrated the technically feasible of the technology. This is closely related to the economic factor. Therefore, the team decided to combine those two factors into one representative factor namely techno-economic. Some of the sub-factors included water extraction and discharged brine impacts in the environmental factor, quality of produced water and scaling and fouling propensity in the techno-economic factor, and technology safety and level of noise in the social factor.

When the framework was applied to the three major types of desalination technologies used in the UAE, SWRO was found to be the most sustainable technology followed by MED and MSF.

“This was due to the unique local conditions and parameters of the UAE – like the relatively low price of natural gas and the relatively higher weightage of environmental impact. That is why it is important to calculate the sustainability of a technology in a way that is specific to its local application. In the future if new technologies emerge, these too can be added to the index and framework,” Dr. Al Marzooqi explained.

The team is now working on the technological aspects of sustainable desalination and hope that opportunities are generated in the near future to further develop sustainability indices.

“Till date, the economics and efficiency of sustainable desalination technologies are not able to fully replace traditional desalination technologies. Sustainable desalination technologies are still awaiting a technological breakthrough to give it a competitive advantage against traditional desalination technologies. This research will serve as a performance metric for sustainable desalination. This will benefit the UAE and the world by enabling the government and regulatory bodies in measuring the
current sustainability of desalination plants and setting future targets which will help in achieving other sustainability related targets such as climate change and other,” Dr. Arafat added.

And though the team’s framework was developed to test the sustainability of desalination technologies in the UAE, it can be universally applied to other desalination technologies and/or other countries.

Their research has also been presented through two conference presentations – one at the International Desalination Workshop that was held in Busan, South Korea in November 2017, and another at the Desalination for the Environment Conference of the European Desalination Society that was held in September 2018 in Athens, Greece.

Zarina Khan
Senior Editor
17 December 2018

HE Hussain Al Hammadi Inaugurates MENA Region’s First IEEE Globecom 2018 in Abu Dhabi

Khalifa University Presents Eight ICT Research Innovations at 37th IEEE Global Communications Conference

His Excellency Hussain bin Ibrahim Al Hammadi, UAE Minister of Education and Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Khalifa University of Science and Technology, inaugurated the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region’s first-ever IEEE Global Communications (Globecom) Conference in Abu Dhabi.

The 37th IEEE Global Communications Conference (Globecom 2018), one of the IEEE Communications Society’s two flagship conferences dedicated to driving innovation in nearly every aspect of communications, was held on 9-13 December at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Center (ADNEC). Themed ‘Gateway to a Connected World’, the conference offers five full days of original paper presentations, tutorials, workshops, keynotes, demonstrations, industry sessions and social events designed to further career opportunities and in-depth understanding of the latest communications advancements worldwide.

Khalifa University’s faculty and students presented eight research innovations in the ICT sector at this international telecommunications-focused conference, alongside nearly 1,000 technical and research papers. Experts from industry leaders including Intel Corporation, Nokia Bell Labs, Huawei Wireless, and Canadian telecommunications company TELUS, addressed the event.
The UAE’s telecom operator Etisalat is the ‘star diamond’ sponsor for Globecom 2018, while =Khalifa University is one of the ‘diamond’ sponsors.

Dr. Arif Sultan Al Hammadi, General Chair of Globecom 2018 Conference, and Executive Vice-President, Khalifa University of Science and Technology, said: “With our partners, we are delighted to bring this major global conference for the first time to the Middle East and North Africa region, gathering distinguished speakers from industry, academia and government sectors. These professionals will share their expertise and exchange novel ideas that will shape future generations of communication technologies. We believe the Globecom 2018 conference will showcase the innovation strength of the UAE and the region in various telecommunications

Some of the innovations Khalifa University is presenting include the development of key enabling techniques for the next generation wireless networks, mobile agents integrated with web services for use in personalized healthcare, smart homes, big data analytics and e-commerce, and a novel approach to trace unknown tweets to their actual authors.

This five-day event included six keynote speakers highlighting the state-of-the art advancements in wireless communications, 5G, and the Internet-of-Things, among other emerging topics in telecommunications systems. In addition to the main symposia, IEEE
Globecom 2018 featured workshops on emerging and important topics in the field, which will be held on the first and last day of the conference.

Keynote speakers included Bell Labs President and Nokia Corporate Chief Technology Officer, Marcus Weldon; Huawei Fellow and Huawei Wireless Chief Technology Officer Dr. Wen Tong; Vodafone Chair and Technical University Dresden Professor Gerhard P. Fettweis; and Intel Fellow in Network Platforms Group and Chief Technologist for Network Infrastructure at Intel Corporation Udayan Mukherjee.
The conference received a total of 2,562 paper submissions from 76 countries, out of which 999 papers have been accepted – corresponding to an acceptance rate of 38.9%.

Clarence Michael
News Writer
12 December 2018

UAE Space Agency and Khalifa University to train Bahrain Space Team

Agreement Signed at fifth Bahrain International Airshow

The UAE Space Agency has signed a Declaration of Principles with Bahrain’s National Space Science Agency (NSSA) and Khalifa University for the training of the Bahrain Space Team.

The signing took place on the sidelines of the fifth Bahrain International Airshow, held at the Sakhir Air Base in Bahrain on 14-16 November, under the patronage of His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, King of Bahrain.

The agreement was signed by His Excellency Dr. Ahmad Belhoul Al Falasi, Chairman of the UAE Space Agency and His Excellency Kamal Bin Ahmed Mohammed, Minister of Transportation and Telecommunications, who is also responsible for supervising Bahrain’s NSSA.

The parties will collaborate in training the Bahrain Space Team in satellite technology, design, construction, testing, launching, operations, and control, in addition to cooperating to build a CubeSat to be used for scientific research and carrying out a number of environmental studies.Students from the Kingdom of Bahrain will study in Khalifa University’s Master’s concentration in space systems and technology, where they will participate in a small satellite development project funded by the UAE Space Agency. The students will also work on their individual thesis topics related to space technology under the direct supervision of various expert faculty at KU.

Speaking about the agreement, Dr. Al Falasi said: “The signing of this declaration is a tangible result of the close relationship between the UAE and Bahrain in the arena of advanced sciences and will see us working together as strategic partners in the region’s nascent but rapidly developing space sector. The ties between our two nations already extend across the political, economic, social, and cultural domains and we have now added the exciting field of space to that inventory. Our growing collaboration in space science and exploration is a testament to our desire and commitment to bolster meaningful partnerships between our two great nations.

“The UAE space sector has reached an advanced stage that now sees it able to transfer knowledge to valued partners in the region. Our growing expertise in the field of space science, research, exploration and telecommunications is exemplified by the number of ambitious space programs and initiatives launched by the UAE. These include the UAE Astronaut Program, the Emirates Mars Mission’s Hope Probe project, Mars Scientific City and last month’s placing in orbit of KhalifaSat — an advanced piece of sophisticated technology that was designed and built entirely by Emirati engineers,” added Dr. Al Falasi.

“We are delighted to have signed this Declaration of Principles between the NSSA, the UAESA, and Khalifa University,” said H.E. Mohammed.

“First of all, I would like to thank the executive management of the UAE Space Agency for their efforts and constructive cooperation which has resulted in the signing of this declaration. This represents a significant step towards fulfilling the goals of the NSSA, in line with our strategic plans. We are looking forward to creating a skilled Bahraini team, familiar with the latest satellite technologies, and continuing to train them to expand their knowledge in this field. Such expertise will ensure the sustainability of NSSA projects and will provide a solid base of skilled technicians in this field.”

Dr. Mohamed Nasser Al Ahbabi, Director General of the UAE Space Agency added: “Cooperation between the UAE Space Agency and the Bahrain’s NSSA dates back several years, at a time when the space sector in both our countries witnessed unprecedented growth, prompted by significant government support. With the signing of this declaration, cooperation between our two countries will expand further. We will work to exchange expertise, experience, and information related to the space sector to realize our mutual objectives and interests.”

The strong UAE participation in the Airshow, alongside Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, is indicative of the long-standing relationships between the neighboring nations. Fourteen UAE companies specializing in aviation, space and defense are taking part in the Bahrain International Airshow.

Dr. Arif Sultan Al Hammadi, Executive Vice-President of Khalifa University, said: “The fact that the NSSA in Bahrain has selected the UAE and Khalifa University to embrace and prepare their students is a testament to the reputation that both the UAE and Khalifa University enjoy in the region and the world. This is due to what has been achieved in terms of space infrastructure and pioneering in government, academia and research. Khalifa University has a record of achievements as a pioneer in the field of space research in the UAE, especially since it offers academic programs such as bachelor’s and graduate programs related to space. We would like to thank both the Emirates Space Agency and the NSSA of Bahrain for having the confidence in us as a strategic partner and we look forward to what the students with come up with in terms of research and innovation that will contribute to the advancement of the space sectors in both the UAE and the Kingdom of Bahrain.”

18 November 2018

Cooling Amine Solvent Using Vortex Tubes

Team Demonstrates Energy and Cost Savings Potential for Acid Gas Enrichment Units

A collaborative project at the Khalifa University Center for Catalysis and Separation has explored how to improve the sustainability of the acid gas enrichment (AGE) process in natural gas processing plants operating in hot countries, to reduce their carbon footprint and improve energy efficiency.

When natural gas contains containing significant amounts of hydrogen sulfide and carbon dioxide, it is considered ‘sour gas’ and has to undergo processes that remove the acidic components through a process called ‘gas sweetening’.

Gas sweetening units produce a by-product known as ‘acid gas’ besides the main product named ‘sweet gas’. Acid gas, which is a mixture of H2S and CO2 predominately, is processed further in sulfur recovery units to prevent the emission of sulfur species and recover the elemental sulfur. If the acid gas contains low concentrations of H2S, an AGE unit is employed to enrich the H2S content of the acid gas. AGE units also produce a CO2-rich stream besides the enriched acid gas. In hot climates like in the UAE, high ambient temperature leads to AGE operation with hotter solvents, which results in higher energy consumption in the regeneration section of the plant. In order to reduce this inefficiency, the team considered the use of a scheme for cooling the solvent within an AGE unit, to reduce the operational energy.

The team was composed of Khalifa University Associate Professor Dr. Abdallah S. Berrouk, Assistant Professor Dr. Yasser F. AlWahedi, Research Engineer Satyadileep Dara, and Chemical Engineering alumna Aisha A. AlHammadi, along with Abdulla Al Shaiba from Al Yasat Petroleum Operations Company Ltd and Fadi Al Khasawneh from the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company.  

“We looked to integrate a Ranque-Hilsch vortex tube (RHVT) within the acid gas enrichment unit to decrease its energy consumption while enhancing the purity of the resulting gas product,” Dara explained. He was the lead author on a recently published paper in the Journal of Cleaner Production titled ‘Carbon footprint reduction of acid gas enrichment units in hot climates: A techno-economic simulation study’.

A RHVT is a mechanical device that separates a compressed gas into hot and cold streams. Requiring no moving parts, electricity, or Freon, it instead leverages principles of physics to separate the gases into a hot end that can reach temperatures of 200 °C and a cold end that can reach −50 °C, making it an energy-efficient cooling tool. RHVTs are often used in to cool cutting tools that heat up during use.

This potential solution to reduce the energy waste of AGE was inspired by the team’s knowledge of the UAE’s Mirfa plant.

“We were aware that the Mirfa plant produced high pressured nitrogen as a by-product of the air separation unit in the same plant complex, and realized that integrating a nitrogen-fed RHVT was the best option to reduce energy wastage, given the available resources and resulting economics,” Dara shared.

In the team’s proposed solution, the high-pressure nitrogen enters the RHVT and is separated into hotter and colder streams. The latter is then mixed with ambient air in an air-nitrogen mixer to provide a coolant stream at sufficiently lower temperatures, such that it cools down the lean solvent to the desired levels. Lower lean solvent temperature in turn results in significant reduction in energy consumption and higher product purities.

The solution they proposed was tested and validated in process simulator ProMax, which found that at the optimal temperature, their proposed RHVT solution can achieve 13 kg/s in steam savings (equivalent to 40% reduction in total steam rate). This reduced energy consumption leads to an annual carbon dioxide footprint reduction of 83.7 million kg, which is equal to a 40% reduction in the plant’s total carbon dioxide footprint. Economically, the evaluated annual energy savings translate to USD11.2 million.

The team believes that the solution they have hit upon can be utilized in sour gas processing plants in hot climates, all of which struggle with reducing energy wastage due to the high temperatures of the solvents.

“Hot climate regions like that of the Gulf would benefit significantly from the proposed scheme, since it results in a coolant stream that is not readily available in hot regions due to the high ambient temperature. And while our project used pressurized nitrogen from a specific facility, in fact any high pressure stream can be used as the working fluid for the RHVT, like compressed ambient air. Regardless what gas is used, we have demonstrated that the integration of RHVT can help a natural gas processing plant operating in hot climate achieve increased operational efficiency in terms of product quality and energy consumption,” Dr. AlWahedi added.

Following their simulation based work, the team are now doing laboratory-scale tests to assess the performance of RHVT to provide a quantitative prediction of levels of cooling achieved using the RHVT.

Zarina Khan

Senior Editor

26 November 2018

New Wave Modes from Black Holes Discovered

Faculty Asserts Frequencies Can Be Tested Experimentally to Advance Unifying Physics Theory

New types of wave oscillations in black holes have been discovered that can be probed experimentally by gravitational-wave detectors, which in turn could advance scientific understanding of the key elements of a grand unifying theory for physics.

A black hole is formed through the collapse of a star, which causes a massive gravitational force to pull in all objects around it, including light, dust, and gas, thus causing the black hole to grow. These massive and incredibly dense objects have in general three ‘layers’– the singularity at the center, then the inner event horizon, and finally the outer event horizon, where phenomenon take place that challenge the laws of General Relativity. Our galaxy – the Milky Way – is estimated to have several black holes. Moreover, recent research in astrophysics indicates that a supermassive black hole should sit at the center of every galaxy. The mass of such astrophysical objects should be typically of the order of several million solar masses.

Black holes pull objects towards them and they can also attract each other. Like two whirlpools in the ocean, the black holes orbit around each other, radiating gravitational waves as they draw nearer. Eventually they lose energy in the gravitational radiation as their revolutions speed up and get closer, allowing their event horizons to merge. The last phase, before they merge, is called the ‘ringdown’, where the unified black hole system is still ringing and radiating, but progressively less so.

This ringdown phenomenon was first detected in 2016, when the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) operated by Caltech and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology detected gravitational wave signals from a pair of inspiralled black holes as they merged and underwent the ringdown – discoveries that led to the Nobel Prize in 2017.

“In the ringdown phase, the black hole starts vibrating after interacting with matter.  These vibrations get translated into gravitational waves, in the same way a guitar string translates being plucked into sound waves. It also happens that independently on how you ‘pluck’ the black hole, for example if it is fed by a scalar particle, a photon, or an electron, the resulting gravitational wave will have the same frequency, much like the string,” explained KU Assistant Professor in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Statistics Dr. Davide Batic.

The waves are sent out during the ringdown phase and are composed by many frequencies, called quasinormal modes. Their oscillations become smaller and smaller as time goes by.

“Despite all the knowledge we have on the quasinormal spectrum of black holes, there has been no actual explicit formula to compute them. All computations have been done using numerical methods,” Dr.  Batic added.

Dr. Batic has co-published a paper on the new black hole oscillations he believes he has discovered. The paper titled ‘Some exact quasinormal frequencies of a massless scalar field in Schwarzschild spacetime’, was published in the journal Physical Review D with co-authors Dr. Marek Nowakowski from the Universidad de los Andes, Columbia, and the master student Karlus Redway, from the University of the West Indies.

The team’s research results may also advance the development of a grand unified physical theory, which has a been an ongoing challenge in physics for decades. Such a grand unified theory should merge two of the main pillars of modern physics – General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics. Furthermore, when General Relativity is pushed to the limits, like inside the event horizon of a black hole, it makes an ‘unphysical prediction’ that the core of a black hole would have infinite curvature.  

In Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, gravity is caused by the curvature of space-time. However, the theory cannot account for ‘unphysical predictions’ — calculations not in accordance with the laws or principles of physics — when applied to what happens inside the event horizon of a black hole.

“Apart from trying to describe how quantum fields interact with black holes – this is what we call quantum field theory in curved space-times – results in this area are of paramount importance in the development of a unified physical theory such as Quantum Gravity because every candidate theory of topics such as String Theory and Loop Quantum Gravity will need to pass a fundamental test, namely it must be able to reproduce on a certain scale all predictions arising from quantum field theory in curved space-times,” Dr. Batic explained.

He is now working to derive a formula to compute the numerical values of the quasinormal wave modes from black holes. This, combined with the experimental data collected by LIGO and the European Virgo interferometer experiment, may be able to show the existence or absence of black holes inspired by noncommutative geometry, thus helping us to better understand the key ingredients of Quantum Gravity.

“We already know that General Relativity is not able to reliably explain what happens inside the event horizon of a black hole. This suggests that we need a better theory unifying General Relativity with Quantum Mechanics, and at the same time black holes may contain the deepest secrets of the universe and its beginnings. Many things can be benefited by further study into black holes, as they provide a unique opportunity to test all of the physical extremes – very large distances, very small distances, very high energies, etc.,” Dr. Batic explained.

KU’s MYSAT-1 Launched to International Space Station

Student Developed Nanosatellite UAE’s First-Ever Earth Observation and Technology Demonstration CubeSat

The MYSAT-1 CubeSat, designed and built by students of Khalifa University’s Master’s concentration in Space Systems and Technology in collaboration Al Yah Satellite Communications Company (Yahsat), and American aerospace manufacturer and defense industry company Northrop Grumman, has been successfully launched to the International Space Station (ISS) on board the Cygnus spacecraft.

The satellite was onboard an Antares rocket that was successfully launched from Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, USA, at 4:01am on Saturday, 17 November. Present at the launch were a group of Khalifa University students and faculty who helped build and design the nanosatellite.

Developed at the Yahsat Space Lab at Khalifa University, the nanosatellite (also known as a CubeSat) will be used for educational and research purposes once it makes its final ascent to its orbital position in the beginning of 2019. It carries two payloads, including a camera to take images of the UAE from space, demonstrating the process of remote sensing, as well as an innovative lithium-ion battery developed at Khalifa University, making it the UAE’s first CubeSat with an earth observation mission and technology demonstration mission.

Dr. Arif Sultan Al Hammadi, Executive Vice-President, Khalifa University of Science and Technology, said: “The successful launch of MYSAT-1, developed and built by students of Khalifa University’s Master’s Concentration in Space Systems and Technology, demonstrates that our university possesses the academic and scientific rigor required to transform the UAE’s promising students into tomorrow’s space engineers and scientists. Through our Small Satellite Program and the Master’s concentration, Khalifa University is proud to play a critical role in the UAE’s broader space ambitions. We will continue to develop local talent that will be part of the Emirati space engineers and scientists who will contribute to the UAE’s Hope Mars Mission and the vibrancy of the country’s overall space sector.”

Muna AlMheiri, Chief Human Capital Officer at Yahsat, said: “MYSAT-1’s expedition into space marks an exciting accomplishment by the students of Khalifa University. It is also a testimony to the UAE’s growing talent pool in STEM education. Yahsat is proud to have collaborated with Khalifa University and Northrop Grumman to create the first multi-disciplinary academic space program in the UAE which has resulted in the creation and successful launch of MYSAT-1, we are committed to developing the national talent pool through providing talent with unique opportunities to enhance their capabilities and drive innovation.”

The launch of MYSAT-1 to ISS took place after rigorous testing of the nanosatellite’s engineering model for space environment conditions and integration of the final launch satellite to NanoRacks’ external Cygnus Cubesat deployer. The deployer is an automated cargo resupply spacecraft destined for the International Space Station.

MYSAT-1 is the first CubeSat built at the Yahsat Space Lab at Khalifa University. The laboratory was launched in 2017 at Masdar Institute in collaboration with Yahsat and Orbital ATK – now called Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems – to develop and advance technologies within the space sector in line with the UAE’s space ambitions. It is the first space systems lab in the UAE to be equipped with Assembly Integration and Verification (AIV) facilities that cater to CubeSats of up to 6U in size (12kg 12x24x36cm) and a mass up to 10 kg. The lab also has a VHF/UHF/S-Band ground station capable of autonomous operations.

The Yahsat Space Lab is one of the key players in the UAE space program initiatives. The Lab is helping to develop a national space sector characterized by high-standards so that UAE achieves competitive ranking in the world in the field of industry, technology and space research. It is also paying a defining role in STEM education as well as providing career advancement opportunities in the satellite industry of the Middle East.

The lab offers students of Khalifa University’s Master’s concentration in Space Systems and Technology the facilities required to construct, test and launch of CubeSats, as part of the university’s Small Satellite Program. The high-tech and specialized facilities serve as a platform for future research in space technologies, allowing entities like the UAE Space Agency to work with the faculty on collaborative projects.

18 November 2018

Students and Faculty Drive Knowledge Exchange at ADIPEC 2018

Research Shared at Technical Sessions While Students Lead Hands-On Activities and Demonstrations in STEM Areas

Khalifa University faculty members are leading several technical sessions and presenting papers at the Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition and Conference (ADIPEC) 2018 while a dozen student volunteers lead hands-on activities and demonstrations for visitors from different schools at Young ADIPEC.

Khalifa University is the ‘Academic Partner’ for ADIPEC 2018, which is being held on 12-15 November at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Center (ADNEC). The sixth annual Young ADIPEC is being held at ADIPEC 2018 with the support of the Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge (ADEK).

Dr. Arif Sultan Al Hammadi, Executive Vice-President, Khalifa University of Science and Technology, said: “Our participation in ADIPEC 2018 illustrates the faculty expertise and the scientific innovation we continue to achieve in petroleum engineering, especially in exploration and pipeline technologies. The oil and gas sector plays a critical role in the overall development of the UAE and seeking new engineering innovations in this sector through research will surely facilitate efficient production and enhanced oil recovery. We believe through this participation, industry partners and other stakeholders will gain more awareness about our strength as an institution that drives research towards achieving new techniques in this sector.”

KU has its own Khalifa University Zone at ADIPEC, where students are showcasing hands-on science-based activities at the Chemistry, Earth Science, Physics, Mathematics, and Computing stations. More than 600 students from 25 schools are visiting the event this year. The Chemistry Station features three hands-on activities, the Engineering Zone features an education kit and, the Earth Science Station has two demonstrations. The Physics Station offers three demonstrations, while the Mathematics and Computer stations feature two each.

Faculty from the Petroleum Engineering Department are co-chairing several special sessions focusing on Drilling and Completion Technology, while Chemical Engineering faculty are delivering four oral and one e-poster presentations. Four papers co-authored by Petroleum Engineering faculty are also being presented, while a Petroleum Engineering staff member is serving as a Young Professional Mentor for one of the selected teams as part of the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) ADIPEC University Program judging Committee Member. There is also a special session on ‘Is Creativity Beneficial for Engineers?’ where two faculty will be sharing their perspectives.

Clarence Michael

News Writer

13 November 2018

Students Develop Patient Care Apps with Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation

Apps developed during Eight-Week Internship at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington DC

Two of Bachelors of Computer Engineering students have successfully developed prototype apps for patient care as part of their internships at the Sheikh Zayed Institute (SZI) for Pediatric Surgical Innovation at the Children’s National Medical Center in the US.

The two apps – Online Treatment Recovery Assistant for Concussion in Kids (OnTRACK) and BearGenes – were developed by students Hazza Daiban and Mohammad Al Mansoori during their eight-week internship in Washington, DC. The students worked under the guidance of Kevin Cleary, PhD, Professor of Radiology, Surgery, and Pediatrics at George Washington University and leader of the Bioengineering Initiative at the Sheikh Zayed Institute. OnTRACK was developed with Gerry Gioia, PhD, Director, Safe Concussion Program, while BearGenes was developed with Natasha Shur, MD, and Marshall Summar, MD, from the Children’s National Rare Disease Institute.

Dr. Arif Sultan Al Hammadi, Executive Vice-President, Khalifa University of Science and Technology, said: “Our students are offered various channels including internships to demonstrate their creativity and make use of their knowledge for the benefit of the community. The patient care apps developed by the two Khalifa University students illustrate the learning and expertise they have gained in Abu Dhabi and the guidance they received while interning at the Sheikh Zayed Institute in Washington DC. We believe institutions such as the SZI offer our students the right platform to not only widen their knowledge horizon but also serve as an instrument to sharpen their skills in areas including healthcare.”

The OnTRACK mobile app prototype that Daiban worked on is intended to help in concussion management by using ecological momentary assessment (EMA) of symptoms and to prompt patient treatment strategies. It is designed to provide support for patients five years and older who are identified with concussion. The developers are keen to incorporate the feedback currently being received from end users.

The BearGenes mobile app prototype that Al Mansoori worked on is designed to provide a trusted educational and informative platform for the patients and the public about genetic counseling and genetic conditions. It also provides information on where to access genetic expertise, such as the Children’s National Rare Disease Institute. The team is planning to create a web version of the platform that will be linked with the mobile app. Videos and information are being created by Children’s National Rare Disease Institute and will be added to the mobile app prototype database. Once uploaded to Play Store and App Store, mobile devices with the app will be offered to interested patient families.

Research professor and engineer Dr. Kevin Cleary said: “It was a great pleasure to have Hazza and Mohammad as interns. They made a positive contribution to our institute and hospital and did an excellent job developing the prototype apps.”

Dr. Cleary leads SZI’s interdisciplinary bioengineering team and focuses on technology development for pediatric medicine, working with the clinical team and other colleagues at Children’s National.

In addition to creating the Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation, the Children’s National Medical Center has also named its primary campus in downtown Washington DC, the Sheikh Zayed Campus for Advanced Pediatric Medicine.

Clarence Michael

News Writer

5 November 2018

Improved Switching Algorithm Helps Balance High-Voltage Power Converter

Modular Multi-Level Converter Can Provide Greater Efficiency in Wind, Solar, Oil and Gas, and EV Applications

A Khalifa University research team has developed a new switching algorithm for modular multi-level converters (MMC) — a promising electrical power system that has the potential to benefit the clean energy and oil and gas sectors.

The team, led by Associate Professor Dr. Abdul Rahman Balanthi Beig with graduate students Safia Babikir Bashir and Yan Yan, have developed a new switching algorithm to improve the performance of MMC. They recently published a paper in the international journal ‘Electrical Power and Energy Systems’ on their research. The MMC is expected to facilitate major changes in the way next-generation power systems are connected and operated.

“With the emergence of multi-level converters, the whole concept of the way electricity is generated, transmitted and consumed is changing. Today efficiency is the key objective in the electrical energy sector. The more energy mankind requires, the more scientists and engineers have been tasked with the challenge of transferring power over long distances and connecting various types of power systems and grids in the most effective and efficient manner possible, to reduce losses and cost. The MMC has potential to solve some of these challenges, but itself had some unresolved issues that we have attempted to address to increase its voltage balancing and overall reliability,” Dr. Beig explained.

An MMC is a type of multi-level voltage-source converter that can convert electric power from high voltage direct current (HVDC) to high voltage alternating current (HVAC), and vice versa. The modularity of the MMC makes them relevant to many functions and industries that can benefit from their ability to control a voltage source without an isolated direct current (DC) bus voltage, which eliminates the need of an additional isolation transformer, making the system more compact, economical and efficient. MMCs are now the most rapidly growing type of voltage source converters and are used in medium voltage applications, like integrating wind generators or large solar plants to electrical grids.

Dispatching electrical energy in direct current (DC) form is economical and efficient when large amounts of power, approximately a few megawatts, is transferred over a long distance at very high voltages of about 600kV to 1600kV. This technology is known as High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) transmission. HVDC was not sufficiently reliable, efficient and simple to operate until the multi-level voltage source converter (ML-VSC) system was invented in the early 21st century. With this enabling technology, the electric power generated from sources such as large photovoltaic farms and wind farms can be integrated easily into HVDC networks.

In comparison, the AC form of power is economical when a few hundred kilowatts of power is distributed to several consumers in an industrial or residential area, and when that power is distributed at different voltage levels. So with MMC, the existing vast AC network is still useful, as ML-VSC links the electrical energy from HVDC to AC networks. The ML-VSC can also transfer power from an AC network to a DC network and vice versa.

Multi-level converters based on the MMC configuration also offer modularity, which makes them the very attractive from the manufacturing and operational point of view. An MMC is a stack of several identical single phase converter units. The manufacturing industry has the advantage of repeatability where one type of small converter (known as a cell) is manufactured in a large number, allowing parallel production line.

In spite of the many MMC advantages, technicians have found some limitations due to differences in voltage across the cells and large circulation current in the converter power circuit due to this imbalance. This degrades the converter efficiency. Therefore, the Power Electronics and Sustainable Energy (PEASE) lab research team at KU has developed a new switching algorithm for MMC, which results in less cell voltage variation, thus reduced circulation current.

“We are working on developing a new switching algorithm that will eventually improve the performance of MMC and also working on optimizing the size of capacitor and arm inductors that are essential components of MMC. Another area of research is developing new control algorithms to connect these inverters between HVDC and AC networks,” Dr. Beig explained.

The team demonstrated the successful use of their algorithm to a MMC-based DC-to-AC converter connected to different types of AC grids. This work is published as a paper in the international journal ‘Electrical Power and Energy Systems’. The team is currently in the process of demonstrating the successful use of their algorithm for a MMC-based AC-to-DC converter and published their initial work in the IEEE Industry Applications Annual meeting and Conference (IEEE-IAS 2018) at Portland USA, which took place Sept 21-27, 2018.

Electrical engineering graduate students contributed to the project with the support from PEASE Lab engineer Saikrishna Kanukollu. Currently the team headed by Dr. Beig and electrical engineering graduate student Yan Yan has developed an experimental prototype of MMC. The next step is to develop another similar prototype and demonstrate the power transfer between two AC networks through and HVDC link.

Now Dr. Beig and other researchers at the PEASE lab are working on further developing the findings from the project and other related applications at Khalifa University’s newly launched Advanced Power and Energy Center.

“New MMC applications being developed include compact substations using power electronic transformers. One of the challenges is to keep these converters in operation without going out of control when large changes in the AC network takes place,” Dr. Beig explained.

Dr. Beig is also working with Professor Dr. Igor Boiko to develop self-tuning algorithms for these converters so that the converters continue to have stable operation under such conditions.

“This project has great promise for industry applications and further development. If the identified problems with MMC are addressed, then MMC based regenerative drives will become very popular and find applications in heavy industries like oil and gas, all electric ships and all electric aircraft, in addition to the renewable energy systems,” Dr. Beig concluded.

Zarina Khan

Senior Editor

29 October 2018

Enhancing 2D Face Recognition Systems Associate Professor of Computer Engineering

Dr. Naoufel Werghi how his Research Leverages Deep Learning to Develop Robust 2D Face Recognition Systems

Face recognition systems are ubiquitous. We use them for security in places like airports, at borders and in venues that manage large volumes of people, like stadiums and theaters. They are also integrated into smartphones as biometric locks, are used to track lost children across areas, and are part of the next generation of targeted marketing, where they scan your face to determine your age and gender to select the appropriate digital ads to show you. The more reliable, accurate and speedy facial recognition systems become, the more ways they can be integrated into sectors to provide enhanced security and convenience.

One of the common face recognition systems is two dimensional (2D) face recognition systems, which is the type we often see in airports. 2D face recognition systems can use computer vision and photometric methods to scan through available photographs of a person’s face, to ‘learn’ how to identify them when they appear before the system’s cameras. But the cutting-edge of this technology has been struggling to meet our growing needs and expectations, particularly facial identification when the face is only seen incompletely, or at a different angle, or under different lighting, or with different facial expressions, or even disguising makeup.

While engineers have been able to develop algorithms that can identify faces in these scenarios in constrained situations, when it comes to real-world use, they have often failed to manage the range of changeable parameters. They particularly struggle to recognize faces when they are not front facing and centered, and the more extreme the angle and pose, the more challenging it is for the system.

That is why I have been working with students and faculty in halifa University and abroad to develop an unconstrained face identification template that can handle all of the challenges of 2D facial recognition in real-life scenarios. We developed a first prototype to recognize faces using 3D facial images. This
modality relies on the facial shape as a main information and therefore is less sensitive to variations in pose and light conditions. Our system has been validated on two public datasets containing more six thousand images, and reached an accuracy above 95% even in the presence of facial expressions.

Building on advances in deep learning we have developed another system that is able to automatically learn facial image registration, which transform a face pose in the image from a lateral view to a frontal view. It is also able to learn a face signature as part of an end-to-end trainable Convolutional Neural Network.

The first part of network is the registration module, which learns from 2.6 million images of 2,622 faces of YouTube celebrities, to ‘understand’ how they can look different from different angles, in different lighting, with different types of makeup, and when wearing different expressions. That provides the system with a baseline understanding that is then enhanced by the second part, the representation module, which is able to learn meaningful feature encoding of input face images. Images of a targeted
face can be uploaded, which it then ‘learns’ and can seek out using the lessons applied from the registration module.

The system we developed performed better than the existing state of the art methods. We ran it through three different types of face image datasets – the IJB-A dataset that contains 5,712 images and
2,085 videos of 500 subjects captured in real life scenarios around the world; the COX dataset that contains 4,000 uncontrolled low resolution video sequences of 1,000 subjects walking in a gymnasium without enforcing any constraints on their facial expressions, lighting conditions and head poses; and the YouTube Celebrities dataset of 1,910 low-resolution face videos of 47 celebrities downloaded from YouTube. We reached a recognition accuracy of 96%, 90% and 97%.

But the part of which I am proudest of is having involved undergraduate student in face recognition research. From 2009 till today, seven face identification projects have been proposed and undertaken by student groups in the Senior Design Project and the Artificial Intelligence course in which I participate.

My most recent group of students – Mohamed Khalid Almansoori, Ali Alshkeili, Abdullah Alenezi, and Eissa Alromaithi – are currently working on a face identification system using a simple 2D camera that can authenticate an individual or detect a suspect. In the first mode the user identifies himself by entering a pin code or swiping an ID card. The system captures the face image of the user, compares the input image with the reference image stored in the system and decides whether or not the user corresponds to the identity that they claim to be. This is the kind of authentication system currently used in Abu Dhabi Airports at the passport check gates.

In the second mode, the system detects faces in a scene and tries to find the face that correspond to a targeted face. If the targeted individual is found, an alarm will be then triggered, signaling the presence of that suspect. The second mode is the most challenging, as the camera has to scan faces from various
angles and in different light conditions. We recently featured this project at Dubai’s annual Water, Energy, Technology, and Environment Exhibition 2018 (WETEX).

My research and the project led by my students, both aim to enhance the UAE’s expertise in the growing field of face recognition systems. The global facial recognition technology market is expected to exceed $9.6 billion by 2023, making it a valuable market in which to develop intellectual and human

Dr. Naoufel Werghi is Associate Professor of Computer Engineering at the Khalifa University of Science
and Technology