Joelis Velez Diaz

About Me:  My homeland is Puerto Rico, I was born and raised there in Cidra which is in the center of the island. Due to Hurricane Maria, I moved to Massachusetts in 2018, I started my college career in 2020 at WPI. Where I am working towards my chemical engineering degree, environmental concentration, and materials minor, as well as the WPI teacher preparation program to teach high school chemistry by 2024.

About the Lab:  The Timko lab is a chemical engineering lab, focusing on the conversion of waste to energy. The lab specializes in Hydrothermal processing, including Hydrothermal Liquefaction (HTL) and Carbonization. The goal of the lab is to optimize the yield of valuable products in the form of fuels and chemicals, through chemistry and processes engineering techniques.

Project:  The research domain is chemical engineering, mechanical, and materials engineering, accompanying the focus of guaranteeing everyone inexpensive, trustworthy tenable, and modernized electricity with the use of green waste by converting it to energy creating no contamination. The substantial motivation for this research is the planet earth and all organisms that coexist in it, climate change is a threat to all and now more than ever we must combat using knowledge, research, and STEM to acquire a better future. Therefore, the purpose of this research is to achieve green waste characterization to obtain an affordable and sustainable form of energy promoting environmental justice. Through hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL), bio-oil can be produced from energy-dense green waste feeds such as yard clippings and agricultural waste. This research aims to convert lignocellulosic wastes for energy production into usable energy by auto-thermal HTL. An aqueous phase with a sizable amount of useable carbon is a byproduct of HTL. Existing studies only quantify total carbon, leaving the chemical identity of the carbon unknown, and a significant gap in our understanding of aqueous analysis. After separation with vacuum filtration and solvent extraction, the resulting oil and aqueous products will be analyzed using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS), identifying the mechanism at the molecular level. By evaluating various reaction times and percentages of imputed solid waste, a feasible system that maximizes oil production and quality will be created, hence producing clean energy.

Weekly Updates:

  • Week 1:
    • Introduction to the lab, team, and research in more detail. 
    • Analyzed scholarly works on HTL, and GC-MS. 
    • Completed training in the procedure for HTL, TOC (Total Organic Carbon), and GC-MS. 
  • Week 2: 
    • Performed six experiments of HTL using a reactor varying the run time, such as one hour and 20 minutes reactions. 
    • Collected the samples of the aqueous phase, char, and oil, of the reactions. 
    • Exported and analyzed data of the experiments completed into Excel.
  • Week 3: 
    • Completed characterization of the aqueous phase by the GC-MS method (of the previously mentioned six reactions that were done). 
    • Measured the carbon in our aqueous phase by performing a TOC test. 
    • Sent char and oil to Midwest Microlab (an outside company lab) for characterization (CHN analysis).
  • Week 4:
    • Evaluated additional scholarly works on the subject of HTL, with the purpose of gathering information to start developing the poster. 
    • Finalized two reactions at a different temperature (the first six were performed at 300°C) and collected the samples. 
    • Examined the data obtained from Midwest Microlab, to perform the carbon balance in our reactions and determine the quality of our oil.
  • Week 5:
    • Performed four reactions (two at a temperature of 275°C and two at 350°C), the temperature of 275°C produced a higher oil yield. 
    • Analyzed various scholarly works for the continuous elaboration and improvement of the poster, presentation/elevator pitch, and lesson plan. 
    • Attended the REU/EREE poster presentations showcase and supported fellow students. 
  • Week 6:
    • Finalized the poster and lesson plan and presented it to RET coworkers and staff to receive feedback. 
    • Enhanced the poster and corrected a graph before submitting it for printing. 
    • Reviewed elevator speech and continued improving the lesson plan. 
    • Practiced presentation for final RET Poster Session on Monday, August 15, 2022. 
    • Completed an additional week and a half in the lab after the Poster Session, to finalize more experiments and gather data, performing a total of eighteen HTL reactions. 

Poster and Lesson Plan:

RET Lesson Plan Handout

RET Poster