- Associated Press - Saturday, December 26, 2015

JONESBORO, Ark. (AP) - It wasn’t the kind words that caught the attention of Arkansas State University associate professor Kwangkook “David” Jeong.

Jeong, presenting at a technology symposium sponsored by the U.S. and South Korean governments earlier this year, said well-wishers aren’t all that uncommon after presentations of his mechanical engineering research. So it struck him as fairly routine to hear that representatives from South Korea-based Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction Co. wanted to speak with him after this 40-minute presentation.

The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (https://bit.ly/1myA2Ds ) reports that Doosan Heavy Industries had more than fleeting affirmation to offer Jeong. They wanted him to help lead a research team that would study how power-plant efficiency is affected by the varying degrees of ash produced when burning high-, medium- and poor-quality coal individually or in combination.

Jeong was soon awarded a $1.2 million research grant to fund a pair of projects related to Doosan’s coal-burning plants. It is the largest research grant ever awarded to the university’s college of engineering and the largest privately-funded award in school history.

“They have a really serious problem,” Jeong said. “They are, in some cases, using low-quality coal or a mix of quality in new plants. They found my research related to issues they are currently facing with design and operation. After the conference they approached me to talk about further collaboration. We started from there.”

Research done by Jeong and his team will focus on developing a software system that will help the company reduce the pollution generated by Doosan’s fossil-fuel plants. Jeong’s work is centered on predicting how the quality of coal used affects the ash generated by the plant.

Doosan Heavy Industries is a division of Doosan Group with annual revenue of about $27 billion. The company operates power plants of all types around the world, including thermal power plants in South Korea, India, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam.

A company representative could not be reached for this article, but a 2014 annual report and other materials available on Doosan Heavy Industries’ website sheds some light on its research and development efforts. For 2014, the company had earmarked about $26.1 million for research and development. A portion of the company’s central research division is devoted to what it describes as “system engineering research.”

“Our recent research focuses on the development and consolidation of main equipment design tools in order to enhance technical competitiveness and synergy of the company’s EPC projects and main facility projects,” according to Doosanheavy.com. “These tools can be used to forecast plant performance and analyze and optimize dynamic characteristics by checking plant performance and operational reliability.”

While Doosan Heavy Industries is commissioning the research, Jeong said he hopes the tool he develops could be applied industrywide. Coal-powered plants in South Korea and elsewhere have a use for tools that can predict efficiency.

“This is applicable to many power plants with similar problems,” Jeong said. “We are studying to see how the ash causes problems with plant efficiency. Those changes can cause maintenance and operations costs to increase. There is a need for predictive tools.”

Helping Jeong develop those tools is a team that includes two postdoctoral researchers and eight graduate students. Jeong is still working to complete the team.

Since joining the ASU faculty in 2010, Jeong has worked on research projects for the U.S. Department of Energy and National Science Foundation.

Jeong’s areas of emphasis have included advanced fluid mechanics; advanced heat and mass transfer; fluid thermal energy systems; heating, ventilating and air conditioning; and engineering thermodynamics. He is working to incorporate his research for Doosan Heavy Industries into classroom curriculum and, according to College of Engineering Dean Paul Mixon, Jeong has quickly established himself as a one of the department’s top faculty members.

Mixon said Jeong’s success is part of a larger story of growth within the College of Engineering. Enrollment is at its highest point ever, topping 500 in the fall semester. Donations and research grants are up, which Mixon hopes will allow ASU to attract additional professors of the caliber of Jeong, who was able to shave a year off the time it ordinarily takes to be named an associate professor.

“When you have faculty like Dr. Jeong getting these awards, it’s the rising water that lifts all ships,” Mixon said. “We’re hoping to really strengthen our research team, and Dr. Jeong is a key player in that. He’s leading the way with what we’re trying to do with student growth and research funding. He’s just an outstanding young faculty member.”

Researching and developing a predictive tool that can help the operational efficiency of Doosan Heavy Industries’ plants represents another potential reputation-builder for Jeong. He said the tool he and his team want to develop has never previously been attempted.

“Maybe it is impossible,” Jeong said. “But we try because it is one of the very significant and troubling issues for the industry. I think we can make a contribution in this field. We want to do something that benefits the power plant industry for the next generation.”


Information from: Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, https://www.nwaonline.com

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