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C larkson professor’s focus turning to wood stove emissions


POTSDAM - While the scent of wood smoke wafting through crisp air evokes a cozy feeling from most people, it signals a bad situation to Philip K. Hopke of Clarkson University.

“If you can see wood smoke and smell it, that means there is energy that is not heating your house,” warns Hopke, who is Clarkson’s Bayard D. Clarkson Distinguished Professor, director of Clarkson’s Institute for a Sustainable Environment and director of Clarkson’s Center for Air Resources Engineering & Science (CARES).

“We must make full use of every type of energy we harvest,” he emphasizes.

Toward that end, the professor and his post-doctoral associate, Devraj Thimmaiah, will be judges at the Wood Stove Decathlon that takes place from Nov. 15-19 in Washington, D.C. Hosted by the Alliance for Green Heat, the competition’s many partners and sponsors include Clarkson’s Institute for a Sustainable Environment, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, Brookhaven National Laboratory and Popular Mechanics.

The event showcases 12 finalists from around the world so the public, policy makers and those from the renewable energy community can take note. Judges will evaluate the entries according to innovation, market appeal and ease of use, affordability, emissions, and efficiency. They also will consider how these new designs can improve real-world use.

Hopke is right at home in the discussion on energy. He is the past chair of EPA’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, and has served on the EPA Science Advisory Board. He also is a past president of the American Association for Aerosol Research and was a member of the more than a dozen National Research Council committees. Hopke is a member of the NRC’s Board of Environmental Studies and Toxicology as well.

In 2010, he became director of the Institute for a Sustainable Environment, home to Clarkson’s undergraduate and graduate environmental science degree programs. For the past five years, he has been actively studying solid fuel combustion systems with an emphasis on emissions and efficiency.

While wood stoves are a familiar heating option for the public, there are “a number of poor-quality designs on the market,” he warns.

The inefficient models not only waste energy and money, but also harm air quality. How much so is under scrutiny. Hopke is about to begin a study with the University of Rochester to examine the effects of wood stove emissions on cardiac patients.

“The EPA has not set adequately rigid standards for emissions,” he says. “I’d like to see a push toward substantially lower emissions.”

There is good news regarding energy, though, he mentions. Innovative, highly efficient boilers are manufactured right in New York state, in Schenectady and Troy. Clarkson itself is a leader in energy, both for research and its own practice.

The mission of the Clarkson Institute for a Sustainable Environment is to facilitate the development, promotion and operation of environmental activities within the University and among its partners. Toward that goal, the ISE sponsors workshops, seminars, and a small grants program. For more information about Clarkson and the Institute for a Sustainable Environment, go to .

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