Researching Data for Life-Cycle Assessments and Chemical Sustainability

CEE Associate Professor Matthew Eckelman and Abhijeet Parvatker, PhD’21, chemical engineering, collaborated on research about how the health care industry contributes to national and global emissions. This research later led Parvatker to pursue a consultant managing role at Sphera Solutions.

This article originally appeared on Northeastern Global News. It was published by Alena Kuzub. Main photo: Abhijeet Parvatker, PhD’21, researched the contribution of the health care industry to national and global emissions while at Northeastern. Photo by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University

When it comes to sustainability and environmental impact, this Northeastern Ph.D. grad is at the ‘forefront of innovation’

Before arriving at Northeastern University to pursue a doctoral degree, Abhijeet Parvatker worked as a research engineer at one of the world’s largest petrochemicals manufacturers.

He was a part of a team that measured sustainability of the company’s products, primarily produced from natural gas.

“There is generally a lot of pressure from stakeholders to understand the environmental impacts that the products have,” Parvatker says.

He used one of the most common methodologies — life-cycle assessment — that evaluates how a product or service impacts the environment over the course of its life cycle, from the moment raw materials are extracted to manufacture the product, to when it is discarded.

Although the life-cycle assessment methodology was standardized, Parvatker says, it was challenging to find the data needed to determine consumed energy, carbon dioxide emissions or toxicity.

“I soon realized that there are a lot of gaps in this,” he says. “The methods to get to the data are not as evolved, and I wanted to do a Ph.D. with that focus.”

Abhijeet Parvatker, PhD’21, now manages a team of five sustainability consultants at Sphera Solutions, helping companies with large product portfolios address their sustainability challenges and automate calculations and reports with software. Photo by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University

Looking at doctorate programs, Parvatker found Northeastern and Matthew Eckelman, a professor of civil, environmental and chemical engineering, who was doing research in the exact area he was interested in.

From then on, his life’s work started to take on a larger meaning.

“It was a really good fit for a research project that I had just gotten funded from the National Science Foundation,” Eckelman says. “I felt like he had the experience to carry out this project.”

Parvatker’s research looks at developing new methods and models for generating data for life-cycle assessments and evaluating the sustainability of different chemicals and chemical manufacturing processes.

“There’s something like tens of thousands of chemicals in commerce,” Eckelman says. “We have inventory information on maybe a couple thousands.”

It was a big and ambitious project, he says, but Parvatker has made a lot of progress. And it’s been extremely useful, Eckelman says, to the global community.

“I am always getting questions about papers that Abhijeet and I wrote together,” Eckelman says. “People wanting to use the data, wanting to adapt the techniques that we use to generate the data.”

Another project Parvatker worked on was analyzing the environmental impact of intravenous anesthetic drugs used by medical institutions. The health care sector makes a considerable contribution to America’s GDP, Eckelman says, which means that to reduce the country’s carbon dioxide output into the atmosphere, health care must become more sustainable.

However, pharmaceutical companies don’t share much data about the inputs of chemicals they use in a drug, Parvatker says, for proprietary or other reasons.

Read full story at Northeastern Global News

Related Faculty: Matthew J. Eckelman

Related Departments:Chemical Engineering, Civil & Environmental Engineering