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Using the other guy's toolkit: Similarities of pumping blood, oil examined

HOUSTON, Dec. 2, 2008 Scientists and engineers from two of the nation's largest industries medicine and energy will come together Dec. 8, along with academicians from the University of Houston, to explore synergies in moving oil and pumping blood.

Much like moving oil through a pipeline, the heart must pump blood through the body. Both systems need clean, well-functioning pipes (or blood vessels), free of blockages or corrosion, to function with incredible efficiency. Both industries also are crucial to our nation's economy and future. Sponsored by ExxonMobil, the Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center and UH, the Pumps & Pipes II conference will stimulate discussion, spark ideas and share new technologies among experts in the petroleum, medical and imaging industries that face similar challenges, even if on a very different scale.

The conference will be held at UH's Texas Learning and Computation Center from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday, Dec. 8 in Philip G. Hoffman Hall, Room 232.

"I strongly believe the solutions to many of our problems already exist in 'someone else's toolbox,' but a forum is required to bring together this expertise," said Dr. Alan Lumsden, chair of cardiovascular surgery at The Methodist Hospital. "This, therefore, is a uniquely 'Houston' opportunity to engage engineers from the energy industry with cardiovascular physicians who share common goals: using imaging to identify targets, navigate catheters and drills into those targets, maintain flow in pipelines and blood vessels, prevent these tubes from clogging, repair them when they break down and improve the pumps when the pressure fails."

The presentations are designed to offer common language and terminology to all parties, as well as provide a platform to discuss the hurdles facing each discipline. Talks will focus on the use of robots in pipelines and in medicine, taking a look inside well imaging compared to intravascular imaging, membranes and filters, and the use of nanotechnology across both industries, as well as other topics with potential crossover. Attendees will include imaging specialists, computer scientists, physicists, engineers, geologists, vascular biologists, researchers from medical device manufacturers, and clinicians and researchers specializing in cardiovascular disease.

"All our fields rely on constant innovation, which requires diversity of thought," said William E. Kline, manager of the Wells and Materials Division at ExxonMobil Upstream Research Co. "That's why the opportunity to rummage around in 'the other guy's toolkit' is so exciting."

Program directors from the co-hosting organizations are Lumsden, Kline and Ioannis Kakadiaris, Eckhard Pfeiffer Professor of Computer Science at UH. Among the 18 presenters, these three will kick off the conference with lectures titled "My Medical Toolkit," "My Oilfield Toolkit" and "My Engineering Toolkit," respectively. UH System Chancellor and UH President Renu Khator will provide the welcoming remarks.

"Last year, our first Pumps & Pipes conference was designed to provide a high-level overview of similar technologies that exist in the energy industry and medicine, revealing fertile areas for synergy that include materials science, innovative mechanical systems, imaging, robotics, flow assurance, chemical technologies and various monitoring and modeling techniques," Kakadiaris said. "Ultimately, we would like this forum to identify and promote better technologies that may have never been considered if not for the ideas sparked by our discussions and interactions. We're seeking tools from each sector that could have complementary applications, ranging from modifications of existing equipment or practices to visionary, out-of-the-box paradigm shifts."


Contact: Lisa Merkl
University of Houston

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