MSE M.Eng Spotlight: Mumtaziah Faaz

Mumtaziah Faaz

Mumtaziah Faaz (M.Eng | Materials Science & Engineering, Cornell class of 2022)

When speaking about maintaining joy amid a busy life of academia, Mumtaziah Faaz explains, “It’s usually hard for me to find something that provokes my sense of curiosity  - which is not the case at all when I talk about sustainability or clean energy. Thus: Curiosity makes me happy!”

Mumtaziah Faaz comes to Cornell University from the College of Engineering in Institut Teknologi Bandung, Indonesia, and has been collaborating with SEA Lab (Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering) on an environmentally critical project related to the extraction of lithium and cobalt from the earth’s sea water. 

Due to better awareness about climate change, the production of electric vehicles is steadily rising. Electric vehicles depend upon lithium-ion batteries, which in turn depend upon access to lithium and cobalt. These chemical elements can be difficult to extract from the earth’s crust, and the battery recycling process is not estimated to provide for such high demand as is estimated by the year 2050.  However, lithium and cobalt can be found naturally occurring within sea water in extractable quantities. Additionally, the existence of heavy metals within sea water is a significant health risk to human beings and the environment, as lithium and cobalt can easily cross the blood-brain barrier in harvested fish and shellfish, causing adverse health effects upon both the fish and their human consumers. Sustainable extraction of these heavy metals from sea water will result in the immediate reduction of harmful toxins within the environment, while simultaneously enabling humankind to develop additional environmentally beneficial and impactful technology. 

Mumtaziah has collaborated with SEA Lab to test a process for mineral extraction using specially-designed absorbent rollers composed of polyethylene fiber. If the rollers are kept in continuous movement, the minerals may be collected successfully, but if allowed to rest and become static, the minerals risk biofouling, rendering them useless. This process has been patented and was previously successful at extracting uranium from seawater, but that design required modification before becoming able to attract lithium and cobalt. 

Mumtaziah’s position within SEA Lab’s research and development team has been to examine three aspects of this extraction process; to study anti-fouling parameters, to test and gather data regarding life-cycle performance of the device, and to research cost-effectiveness of device production. Mumtaziah has been testing her device on Cayuga Lake to simulate ocean environments. 

“My forte is relating complex problems with those more common puzzles that we often find - and quickly solve - within our daily lives.” explains Mumtaziah.
“For example, in my sustainability project, I came up with an idea to place UV irradiation into the adsorbent material because I know that UV lamps work wonderfully for reducing bacteria, algae, and parasites within household aquarium tanks! This is such a simple solution to the problem of reducing detrimental debris while extracting elements from seawater, but sometimes the answer to our problems is already around us in another form. It is our call to understand nature and decrypt it’s offerings into solutions.”

Mumtaziah has immensely enjoyed her opportunity to collaborate with SEA Lab, and is looking forward to pursuing a career in the field of sustainability advisement. Although this may require an additional degree in Science / Engineering, she considers her time in the MSE MEng program at Cornell priceless;

“I chose MSE MEng because I wanted the unconventional Master’s degree experience: I wanted both professional and academic experience at the same time. So far, I am impressed with how much I’ve been able to tailor my academic plan in a personal and flexible way while also obtaining career preparation. And I have enjoyed becoming a part of the Cornell network!”

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