This project supports a cooperative research project by Dr. James Martin, Dr. Guney Olgun both at Virginia Tech. and Dr. Amr Darrag, Cairo University, Egypt. They plan to conduct research on Geothermal Energy Piles as a new sustainable green Energy solution for buildings, especially in the Middle East. There is a strong interest around the world in exploring alternative energy sources. Among the driving forces are growing energy demand, depleting natural resources and the adverse effects of greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel consumption. Energy Piles are a relatively new deep foundation engineering technology designed to access and exploit the relatively constant temperature of the ground (i.e., they extract heat energy from the ground) for efficient heating and cooling of structures. In ideal conditions, they can reduce heating and cooling costs of buildings by as much as 80%, and simultaneously help reduce the problem of greenhouse gas emissions. Although the use of Energy Piles has seen steady increasing usage in Europe and Japan over the past decade, more research is needed before they can enjoy common usage worldwide.
Intellectual merits: There is a need to investigate the long term thermo-mechanical behavior of energy piles. The collaboration with researchers in Egypt would advance research that the US PIs are currently conducting. The PIs plan to conduct a full scale field test which will improve understanding of the behavior energy piles, and to develop laboratory test equipment which will improve testing capabilities for energy pile, including continuing to conduct FEM analysis of energy piles. A workshop organized by the PIs has identified certain barriers to the wide use of these piles, such as the lack of long-term Energy Pile performance data, a lack of refined design and testing standards, a lack of region specific field case histories, a lack of awareness among owners and engineers, and widely varying regulations for installation of geothermal wells. This proposal will help addressing these issues. The project will expand the PIs' ongoing work, currently involving Europe and the US, by developing region specific field performance data needed to optimize Energy Pile design and promote usage in Egypt.
Broader impacts: Currently there is reluctance by engineers, contractors and owners to incorporate energy piles in foundations because of concerns of the thermal effects on the load carrying capacities of the foundations. This research could help to reduce some of their concerns. The US PIs are working with the deep foundations industry for this purpose. The use of energy piles in building foundations will enhance green construction efforts directed towards increasing energy efficiency and reducing energy demands. The work will promote wider usage of energy piles in the Middle East and in the US. Energy Pile may be an important part to the development of net-zero energy buildings. The project involves a significant international collaboration, including unique educational opportunities for a PhD student at VirginiaTech and students at Cairo University, and will likely continue partnering with Deep Foundation Institute (DFI). The project will promote wider usage of this new technology in the Middle East where more efficient solutions for cooling are increasingly needed. Also, because this work involves an innovative energy technology, it has great potential to create Egyptian jobs in the field of green energy. The project would also help lay the groundwork for a joint degree program in civil engineering between Cairo University and Virginia Tech. The findings will be disseminated via journals, the Internet, and incorporated into academic courses and the PIs? professional short courses for ASCE, FERC, USACE, etc. Key partners in this effort will be DFI and the US Green Building Council (USGBC).