Spotlight on Recent Journal Articles

    Running through the Cloud, 20 times faster (February 2016)

    Although cloud computing has boasted attractive benefits for businesses around the world using a service business model
    for added income, the current solutions still face many challenges.

    A team of researchers and scientist at AUB’s Faculty of Engineering and Architecture has worked endlessly to create
    “Speedy Cloud,” a cloud computing system that aims to enhance the performance of internet-based datacenters,
    providing hardware acceleration as a service. A “cloud” in a technological sense refers to the concept of storing and
    accessing data and programs over the Internet, instead of a computer hard-drive.

    “Speedy Cloud” came to life after a team of FEA researchers and scientists realized that cloud-computing services could be
    sped up and their energy consumption could also be reduced. “With our model, we can speed up the process by a factor
    of up to 20,” said Dr. Hassan Artail, a leading figure in the development of Speedy Cloud, “Also, the model can significantly
    save on utility power. Our prototype showed reduced power consumption by at least 11 times”

    The team, which includes Profs. Hassan Artail, Mazen Saghir, Hazem Hajj, and Haitham Akkary dedicated six years of research, experiments and testing to build and perfect the prototype. They began by modifying the Hadoop Framework, one of the most
    popular middlewares for cloud computing systems in order to integrate energy-efficient programmable hardware accelerators,
    called Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs). Despite perceived difficulties in programming FPGAs, the latter provide
    a number of advantages, including reduced execution times and energy consumption, when used as hardware accelerators
    to offload computationally intensive workloads from traditional multi-core processors.

    In addition to developing a custom Hadoop system, the team provided tangible results by testing the locally-developed
    prototype on four different applications. According to Dr. Artail, the applications provide a “realistic picture of average performance,
    as they differ in their computational, memory, and networking requirements.”

    As a result, the experimental outcomes met the theoretical propositions, and an extension to present cloud computing models has been developed with FPGAs, thus helping speed up the computational process as experienced by end users.

    AUB Research uncovers hidden danger in e-cigarette flavors (November 2016)

    A recent laboratory study at the American University of Beirut (AUB) has shown some additives used to flavor the liquids for electronic cigarette becomeblished in the peer review journal Tobacco Control authored by members of the Center for the Study of Tobaccblished in the peer review journal Tobacco Control authored by members of the Center for the Study of Tobacco Products (CSTP) at AUB, including masters' student Sarah Soussy who wrote her thesis on the subject, under supervision of
    Dr. Najat Saliba, associate professor in analytical chemistry.


    Sou ssy explained that manufacturers often claim the flavor-enhancing additives in e-cigarette liquids are safe because they are commonly used in food production. "However, this argument is misleading because food additives are meant for ingestion, not inhalation, and because they can be transformed chemically in the heated element of the electronic cigarette," she said.  

    For example, saccharides, used to impart a sweet flavor, decompose into furan compounds-which are toxic-in e-cigarettes. 

    The use of such additives has been widely banned in conventional cigarettes, but their presence is a characteristic of the countless different flavors of e-cigarette liquids. Just as with the inclusion of fruit and candy flavors in water-pipe tobacco, the flavors are controversial as it is feared they encourage non-smokers to use them, especially children. 

    The AUB study found that furan compounds were positively correlated with the concentration of the sweeteners in the liquid and the electrical power of the electronic cigarette. 

    Per-puff levels of furan compounds in electronic cigarettes were found to be comparable to those in conventional cigarettes. 

    CSTP's work is part of an ongoing series of studies at AUB funded by the US Food and Drug Administration and National Institutes of Health and conducted under the leadership of the Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Architecture Professor Alan Shihadeh and Professor Najat Saliba. 

    The use of Membrane Biotechnology to treat leachate in landfills (September 2016)

    Landfills remain an important element of most solid waste management schemes around the world, even in areas with good recycling, reuse, and reduction practices. A byproduct of landfills is a toxic liquid known as leachate that often penetrates into the underground water sources. This problem is particularly acute when the landfill waste contains a high percentage of food waste as is the case in Lebanon. 

    In his September 2016 published article entitled “Membrane bioreactor technology for leachate treatment at solid waste landfills” Professor Mutasem El-Fadel and his team are studying the use of membrane bioreactors to treat leachate at solid waste landfills. Their approach consists of putting solid waste into a box known as a reactor that allows leachate generation in a short amount of time which later moved into a membrane that traps harmful materials.

    El Fadel said that “MBR technology offers several advantages over conventional systems such as reduced foot print, high effluent quality, replacement of post-digestion settlement and clarification, less sludge production, and ease of retrofitting to existing works” El Fadel and his team performed a bench top lab experiment using a comparative assessment of MBRs equipped with the most common membranes in the market today “Hollow Fiber” vs “Flat Sheet” which demonstrated that MBR technology can treat leachate effectively.

    MBR technology has shown promising results in treating landfill leachate and the scale up of this approach can reduce the environmental footprint in Lebanon and beyond.

    3D Concrete Printing: A New building method for more affordable homes (June 2015)

    As construction costs have been on the rise, housing has become unaffordable for many families. 3D concrete printing is a promising new technique that could revolutionize the construction industries, and make housing more affordable. This possibility has kept a team of AUB researchers in the CEE department busy for the past months as they developed a home-built 3D concrete printing. A 3D concrete printer builds a structure by extruding and depositing concrete layer by layer.

    In a recent study published in the International Journal of Civil Engineering & Technology, the team led by Prof Farook Hamzeh, investigated optimal materials for use with this technique, looking at such variables as the structural integrity of the printed products. Hamzeh said that “Such a technique can easily be used in developing countries, which are in need of a suitable, low-cost and fast building construction method.”

    He explained that further research will focus on optimizing machine operation, adjusting the concrete mix for different products, and developing several methods to reinforce the printed products for structural integrity. He also pointed out, scaling up the 3D printing operation may play an important role in post-disaster reconstruction, and may even be used to recycle concrete from destroyed dwellings in war torn areas​