U of M strengthens transportation expertise with new hire

Adam Boies

Adam Boies

The U of M’s Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geo- Engineering (CEGE) has strengthened its transportation expertise with the addition of Adam Boies. He returns to Minnesota after serving as a lecturer in the Division of Energy, Fluids and Turbomachinery at Cambridge University.

Boies received his doctorate in 2010 from the U of M’s Department of Mechanical Engineering and was the lead author of Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Minnesota Transportation Sources in Minnesota, a report published in 2008 by CTS and funded through the Minnesota legislature.

At Cambridge, Boies led the Transport Analysis in Energy Efficient Cities Initiative and was the co-investigator for the Centre for Sustainable Freight.

Read more from Boies below.

Tell us about your plans for research and teaching at the U of M.
My research seeks to assess the impacts of transportation and develop more efficient means for providing mobility for humans and goods. Using experimental and analytical approaches, I investigate the impact of advanced technologies and new mobility constructs to improve mobility while reducing energy use and emissions.

My work has examined the impacts of human mobility and goods transport in terms of environmental emissions and energy use, accounting for the full life cycle of goods and energy resources. I have been fortunate to lead a number of projects spanning from macro-level analyses of transportation systems to detailed measurements of emissions of light-duty vehicles, heavy-goods delivery, diesel trains and gas turbine exhaust.

Research opportunities exist in linking top-down transportation models with bottom-up engineering and mobility studies. The proliferation of “big data” is a unique resource for today’s transportation researchers, but must be utilized with caution. Our own study of vehicle technology data has led to unique findings on the evolution of technologies that appear to contradict what we would expect from thermodynamic-based bottom-up models. Only by understanding the core principles of mobility patterns and vehicle technologies have we been able to resolve and learn from these results to better understand the trajectory of mobility energy use.

I view analysis of such datasets as central to the new front of engineering, where our insights will be distinct from statisticians, as we are able to place data within the context of physically-bounding principles. Therefore, my research group will continue to cultivate data gathering and couple the findings with our own physical models for a greater understanding of transportation system dynamics and emissions. The core set of data and models that we have developed within the UK are unique in the world and will continue to be used to better understand transportation energy and emissions. This work will be leveraged for analysis on U.S. studies of transportation systems and technologies that are distinct from European transport patterns and technologies.

What excites you most about your work?
This is a unique time for researchers, with an unprecedented ability to access “big data” that just a few years ago would not have existed. Data from smart phones, GPS devices, emissions monitors, etc., can provide true insights into both the operation of transportation technologies as well as the potential for those technologies to bring about meaningful reductions in energy use and emissions.

The availability of new transportation fuels, drivetrains, and automation will also transform the mobility of humans and goods. We are moving toward a future where the transportation fleet is diversifying with technologies that fill specific niches in the market. We have a unique time window in which to demonstrate the efficacy of technologies and deploy them in the most appropriate applications.

I look forward to working with private industry, government, and fellow academics to determine the best use of transportation technologies for efficient and cost-effective implementation.

What are the implications of your work for Minnesota, and beyond?
The impacts of my group’s research will lead to greater deployment of technologies that can bring about meaningful reductions in energy use and emissions. Ongoing efforts into the development of catalysts that facilitate the oxidation of methane exhausted from compressed natural gas and liquefied natural gas vehicles will be an important enabler of the widespread deployment of these vehicles. The improvement of methane catalysts would have wide-reaching implications for the transportation sector in the U.S. and internationally.

Ongoing work in biofuel process modeling promises to give insights not only into current refining best practices, but allow for an ability to predict the ultimate potential for lower energy use and emissions of new transportation fuels. A recent study of Minnesota ethanol refineries has found that leaving a portion of water within the fuel both lowers refining costs and produces fuel that can be used in combination within diesel engines.

Posted in Environment, Technology, Transportation research

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