Wecharatana, of Parsippany, is the first recipient of the award, bestowed by the King of Thailand on behalf of the Foundation for the Promotion of Science and Technology in Thailand. The foundation honored Wecharatana for introducing to Thailand an environmental technology developed at NJIT.
“It is my great pleasure that a research project conducted at NJIT has helped solve environmental problems in Thailand,” Wecharatana said upon receiving the award. “It is also a great honor,” he added, “for NJIT to be the first foreign university formally recognized by Thailand.”
Fly ash - the natural by-product that occurs when power plants burn coal to generate electricity - can be used as a supplement to, and a partial replacement for, cement in concrete. The ash is widely used in concrete cement in the United States. Fly ash contains silicon dioxide, which is also the main ingredient of cement. Wecharatana, along with a fellow NJIT professor, is co-inventor on four patents to improve fly ash concrete.
Wecharatana introduced this use of fly ash to Thailand. And thanks to his efforts, Thailand’s concrete industry used more than 1.8 million tons of fly ash in concrete this year, a market value of $50 million. The productive use of fly ash has also improved the quality of Thailand’s environment.
Fly ash concrete has been used in many of Thailand’s major building projects, including Tha Dan Dam in Nakhon Nayok and the Rama Vlll Bridge. The use of fly ash concrete has helped the country use 1.8 million tons of fly ash from the 3 million tons produced annually.
Wecharatana’s ties with Thailand grew out of a relationship with a former NJIT doctoral student, a Thai, who returned to Thailand to teach at King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology. The former student worked on the fly ash project while at NJIT.
Wecharatana began visiting his former student in Thailand ten years ago, mostly during summers. He has since lectured at several universities there and done research for the Electricity Generating Authority, Thailand’s major utility company.
Wecharatana received a $5,000 grant and a certificate from the Foundation for his work in Thailand. He has also received an honorary doctoral degree from Khon Kaen University, Thailand, for helping the university establish a hazardous waste management program and a research lab.
He is working with the National Science Foundation to establish better research links between America and Thailand.
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