Water research projects get NSF funding

MILWAUKEE, WI, May 17, 2010 -- Industry members of the National Science Foundation's Industry/University Cooperative Research Center on water technology have announced the funding of seven projects they have chosen to pursue with researchers from the University of Wisconsin -- Milwaukee (UWM) and Marquette University...

MILWAUKEE, WI, May 17, 2010 -- Industry members of the National Science Foundation's Industry/University Cooperative Research Center (I/UCRC) on water technology today announced the funding of seven projects they have chosen to pursue with researchers from the University of Wisconsin -- Milwaukee (UWM) and Marquette University.

The goal of the new center is to spur local economic growth by combining the engineering research expertise at UWM and Marquette with industry needs involving water equipment, policy and technology.

In March, the National Science Foundation awarded the two universities a total of $675,000 over five years to form the I/UCRC in Milwaukee. It is one of about 55 such NSF centers in the country and one of only two that focus on freshwater issues. Directors are UWM Engineering Professor Erik Christensen and Marquette College of Engineering Executive Associate Dean Michael Switzenbaum.

The Milwaukee Water Council helped to recruit six local companies: A.O. Smith Corporation, Badger Meter Inc., Pentair Inc., Baker Manufacturing Company LLC, Wisconsin Water Research Corp., and the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District. Each contributes $50,000 annually for membership.

"Working together with our industry partners, Marquette and UWM are expanding and redefining ways by which our universities can improve water quality," said UWM Chancellor Carlos E. Santiago. "Our research -- concisely coordinated with the capabilities of participating Milwaukee Water Council companies -- will benefit those here in Wisconsin and also well beyond our borders."

"This is yet another example of the collaboration between higher education and industry partners in the Milwaukee region," said Marquette President Robert A. Wild, S.J. "With the support of the National Science Foundation, Marquette is proud to partner with our fine colleagues at UWM as together we move forward on the vision of making our region a worldwide leader in freshwater research and technology."

"We know with certainty that Milwaukee's continued growth as a world water technology leader will primarily come from our own academic and business visionaries," said Dean Amhaus, executive director of the Milwaukee Water Council. "The I/UCRC is an excellent vehicle to create powerful collaborations that will solve tomorrow's water challenges."

Research projects include:

"Chemical Sensors for Monitoring Contaminants in Aqueous Environments." These devices will use chemically modified surfaces, which show stability in water, to achieve low detection limits with class specificity. They can be configured and optimized for the analyte of interest. (Fabien Josse, Marquette)

"Grey-water assessment" This project will involve an assessment of the current state of grey-water management including: characterization of grey-water, current regulations, current technologies used as well as technology gaps. (Dan Zitomer, Vladimir Novotny, Michael Switzenbaum, Marquette)

"Hybrid Nanomatrials for Low-Cost Detection of Chemicals and Bacteria in Water." The pilot project will employ hybrid nanomaterials to bring down the cost of water sensors. The goal is to integrate the nanosensors into existing water equipment, such as water meters, to monitor the water quality. (Junhong Chen and Ganhau Lu, UWM)

"Lead Removal Using Foam Polymers Impregnated with Nano ZrP/TiP." Polymer foams can easily be synthesized with nanoparticles and manufactured into different forms that can be used for lead removal. (Nidal Abu-Zahra, UWM)

"Micro-Calorimeter Array for Real-Time Water Quality Monitoring." Thermal properties of bio/chemical molecules are unique. This project will examine the use of nanoscale engineering to measure the effect of heat on bio/chemical molecules. Using signal processors to detect hazardous molecular species is a key to real-time water quality monitoring. (Chung Hoon Lee, Marquette)

"Microbial Fuel Cell Technology for Simultaneous Bioenergy Production and Wastewater Treatment." Microbial fuel cells (MFCs) are a novel technology that can extract electric energy from organic compounds via microbial metabolism. The success of this project will realize the first pilot MFC reactor in the U.S. and move this technology towards commercialization. (Zhen (Jason) He, UWM)

"Self-Cleaning Materials for Water Industry." Nature has created its own surface-cleaning system in plants like the lotus leaf: Water beads up and rolls off, carrying debris with it. This cleaning ability in materials would be able to delay or prevent surfaces becoming dysfunctional due to deposits. (Pradeep Rohatgi, UWM)

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