Piya Kerdlap

Piya Kerdlap

“What is Carolina trying to teach me?” This is the question senior Piya Kerdlap thinks about every day.

The environmental sciences major says he recently found the answer. Carolina, he says, is teaching him how to solve problems from many different angles.

The answer came to Kerdlap after his capstone research project, while successful, didn’t produce the results he had expected. Kerdlap was studying in Thailand in 2011 as part of a program through UNC’s Institute for the Environment.

Kerdlap and other students working on the project wanted to determine if solar thermal water heating technology could be a better option, both economically and for the environment, than standard water heaters used by many Thai families. The students ran a life cycle assessment of a solar thermal water heating system for a home.

The work was engaging, Kerdlap says, but the research concluded that standard water heaters were the better choice for homes. Though his adviser commended the work, Kerdlap was disappointed with the research results.

“There was an empty gap in my research,” Kerdlap says. He believed there was potential for solar thermal technology beyond industrial and commercial uses, and after months of studying the issue on his own time, he thinks he may have an answer.

Last summer, Kerdlap returned to Thailand through a UNC Class of 1938 Study Aborad Fellowship. He assessed the use of solar water pasteurizers as an alternative method of disinfecting drinking water. He found that solar water pasteurizers, which use solar radiation, could be a good solution for schools or clinics because the pasteurizers can meet the water demand without using electricity or other resources.

Kerdlap is back at UNC and plans to finish his research so he can present it at the Celebration of Undergraduate Research in spring 2013.

Kerdlap says when he returned from his first trip to Thailand, his perspective had changed. He was eager to learn and use the skills he is learning, rather than just take classes.

“I realized this is what Carolina has been teaching me and I can apply all these skills to solve problems,” Kerdlap says.

Published October 12, 2012.

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