John Ries 2019-20 Scholarship Awarded

The Expanded Shale, Clay and Slate Institute (ESCSI) awarded the first John Ries Scholarship to Annesh Borthakur, a doctoral student from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of California, Los Angeles. The annual award celebrates the work of John Ries, retired Technical Director of ESCSI, who was named as one the 2018 Most Influential People in the Concrete Industry for spending more than 20 years promoting internal curing using ESCS.

The award announcement in 2019 attracted 26 highly qualified undergraduate and graduate students in civil engineering and closely related majors across the nation. The Education Committee was impressed by the quality and quantity of applicants and their planned projects involved ESCS materials, reported Steven Rowe, the Committee Chair, during the award ceremony, which took place in the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering. Jeff Speck, the ESCSI Board Chairperson awarded the certificate and the $5,000 scholarship to Annesh Borthakur on February 7, 2020 in the presence of Dr. Sanjay Mohanty, Annesh’s advisor, Charles Kerzik from the Arcosa Lightweight, an ESCSI member in California, and Dr. Fariborz Tehrani, the ESCSI Director. Then, the team visited Dr. Muhanty’s lab and discussed collaboration opportunities and planned projects.

Annesh has set out to reinvent the design of the filter media that would be resilient under climate and physical stressors. Additionally, his research aims to develop an accurate and cost-effective monitoring system based on particle-tracking technology to assess the long-term performance of biofilters, which is not otherwise possible by existing monitoring methods. Urban areas, where 70% of the world’s population is projected to live in by 2050, are water-stressed, because of an increase in impervious surfaces that prevent groundwater recharge and pollution of water resources by contaminants in stormwater runoff. To treat stormwater and increase groundwater recharge, infiltration-based green infrastructures are increasingly used, where stormwater passes through a filter media with high infiltration and pollutant removal capacity. To make the system economically feasible, the filter media must be durable and functional for several years without deterioration under extreme weather conditions expected in nature or external stressors such as compaction by foot traffic. Traditional filter media in green infrastructure uses bulking agents such as sand to increase infiltration, but sand has limited contaminant capacity.

Expanded shale, clay and slate exhibits high permeability due to its aggregate size and high porosity due to internal pores. Both of these features are expected to aid stormwater treatment by adsorbing pollutants and aiding the growth of biofilm for the continued degradation of captured pollutants. Using the support from Expanded Shale, Clay and Slate Institute via the 2019-20 John Ries Scholarship award, Annesh will compare the performance of ESCS with other traditional media amendments in stormwater treatment systems. The study has the potential to transform the way stormwater treatment systems are designed.