Research and Training for Pakistan’s Energy Sector by Forging International Alliances

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Islamabad (PR):Development in Pakistan remains constrained by an ongoing energy crisis thatis deeply connected with the country’s security challengesand ever growing demand for power. Over the past few years, chronicenergy shortageshavecost Pakistan up to 4% of GDP downfall. The closure of hundreds of factories, paralyzed production, and increased unemployment are the worst outcomes of the energy crisisfor a developing economy.
The country also lacks askilledworkforce in this important sector; both in the industry as well as academia.
The launch of U.S.-Pakistan Center for Advanced Studies in Energy at National University of Sciences and Technology (USPCAS-E) by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in collaboration with the Higher Education Commission (HEC) and Arizona State University (ASU) is an effort tofulfill this pressing national need. This partnershipbuilds on existing talent in Pakistan by providing university faculty with exposure tonew technology and an opportunity to collaborate with other experts in their fields.
Mr. Akif Zia Khan, faculty member at USPCAS-E, NUST, who specializes in Smart Grids technology, visited Arizona State University (ASU) from January through Marchof this yeartoattend a series of meetings on curriculum, lab equipment, and applied research projects with peer faculty and fellow researchers at the Power Systems Research Center (PSERC). Hiscollaborative work with Dr. George Karaday of PSERC during his stay at ASUis now playingan instrumental role in developing new curriculum and availability of modern power hardware in the loop smart grids laboratory for Electrical Energy Engineering Program at USPCAS-E at NUST. The facilities available in smart grids laboratory will help the researchers to model, simulate and validate the different domains of electric power grid.
Power quality analysis and energy auditing can also be performed with the equipment available with this laboratory. Various entities under the umbrella of Pakistan Electric Power Company (PEPCO) as well as industries can utilize the available facilities in the laboratory for development and validation of their prototypes.The opportunity for him to participate in different technical workshops and events hosted by the IEEE Power and Engineering Societychapter at ASU resulted in an extraordinary capacity building of the faculty under this exchange program and Khan is committed to replicatethe sameteaching and experimental facilities at the NUST campus that he observed at ASU.
Dr. Naseem Iqbal, Assistant Professor at USPCAS-E, NUST, who specializes in fuel cells technology, visited ASU under the same exchange program. Dr. Iqbal worked with a research group at the Polytechnic School, ASU, led by Professor A. M. Kannan, a renowned expert in fuel cell technology. During his visit, Dr. Iqbal utilized the resources around him to catapult his research forward.
“The main bottle neck in the fuel cell development is the Platinum metal loading on catalyst which increases the overall cost for this technology. I developed a process to lower the Pt loading on electrocatalyst for Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells (PEMFC). This contribution will help the industry in lowering the cost of fuel cell and improve portable fuel cells application, and improve energy production” says Dr. Naseem Iqbal. On his return, he has initiated a feasibility analysis in collaboration with Hyundai Motors Group for the development of novel electrocatalyst with ultra-low Platinum metal loading for fuel cell vehicles to mainly lower down the cost of Fuel Cell technology by developing cheap catalyst
Thisexchange program has forged an importantresearch collaboration between ASU and NUST that will cultivate a strongerresearch cultureamong Pakistan’s academics and assist university faculty to execute appliedresearch projects. These research projects will address some of the most pressing energy concerns facing Pakistan today.
Faculty and students at NUST are geared to undertakeprojects for efficient energy storage andelectro-chemical reduction of CO2 for converting CO2 into useful chemicals for improved environment.
The U.S.-Pakistan Center for Advanced Studies in Energy initiative is part of USAID’s larger US $127 million investment in collaboration with Higher Education Commission (HEC) that will harness applied research to find innovative and practical solution for Pakistan’s energy, water, agriculture, and food security challenges. USPCAS-E is designed to support Pakistan’s economic development by strengthening the relevance and responsiveness of universities products, including applied and policy research and skilled graduates, to the needs of the public and private sector. In conjunction with academic research, USPCAS-E lays emphasis on practical, solution-based, industry-specific research and development, both for the training and development of students, and for providing support to thePakistaniuniversity. Currently offering graduate and post graduate program in Energy Systems Engineering and graduate program in Electrical Energy and Thermal Energy Engineering, USPCAS-E is training graduates that will work towards resolving many of the country’s energy related challenges and innovate to find efficient, clean, and sustainable energy options.