Opportunities and Challenges for Advanced Materials in Water Treatment and Reuse

Prof. Pedro Alvarez (a TISED Scholar-in-Residence) brings together experts from academia, government and industry to share opportunities and sustainable approaches on the application of engineered nanomaterials for water treatment and reuse!

Overview & Background

On August 28th and 29th, 2017, TISED will host a two-day Research Workshop Program convening various stakeholders to on the topic of water treatment. We will also host a public event on August 28th: "Opportunities and Challenges for Advanced Materials in Water Treatment and Reuse: Targeting Contaminants of Emerging Concern" 

Public and environmental health are threatened by a wide variety of water pollutants of emerging concern, including pharmaceuticals, personal care products, endocrine disruptors, perfluorinated compounds, and multi-drug-resistant bacteria. Frequent detection of such contaminants in natural waters and sewage treatment plant effluents underscore the need for technological innovation and capacity vitalization of water treatment infrastructure.  

Through control over material size, morphology and chemical structure, nanotechnology offers novel materials that could endow water treatment systems with superior catalytic, adsorptive, optical, quantum, electrical and/or antimicrobial properties.  These engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) can enable multi-functional technology platforms for next-generation water treatment systems with superior capacity to process larger volumes of water with a smaller footprint, and decrease costs associated with energy requirements and waste residuals management. ENMs can also help match the treated water quality to the intended use (i.e., “fit-for-purpose treatment”) to further lower treatment costs. Promising applications for advanced materials include selective adsorbents, solar-thermal processes enabled by nanophotonics to desalinate water with membrane distillation, fouling-resistant membranes with embedded ENMs that allow for self-cleaning and repair; capacitive deionization with highly conductive and selective electrodes to remove multivalent ions that precipitate or cause scaling; rapid magnetic separation or heavy metals and other inorganic pollutants using superparamagnetic nanoparticles; disinfection and advanced oxidation using nano-photocatalysts; and nanostructured surfaces that discourage microbial adhesion and protect infrastructure against biofouling and corrosion.

This workshop will focus on emerging opportunities and sustainable approaches for the application of such advanced materials for water treatment and reuse. Research priorities to overcome potential technological and economical barriers associated with the development and application of ENM and other advanced materials for will also be addressed. We will also explore multidisciplinary collaborations and industrial/governmental partnerships to enable cost-effective removal of recalcitrant contaminants of emerging concern in a manner that minimizes chemical and energy use as well as waste production.

As part of TISED's Research Workshop Program (RWP), the goals of this workshop are to bring together and conduct a preliminary opportunity analysis for various stakeholders (e.g., industry, water utilities and service providers); prioritize research needs and development strategies to enhance water security; and, develop and publish an article for general science audiences and policy makers; 


Pedro Alvarez, Moderator, TISED Scholar-in-Residence, McGill University

Dr. Pedro J. J. Alvarez is the George R. Brown Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Rice University, where he also serves as Director of the NSF ERC on Nanotechnology-Enabled Water Treatment (NEWT).  His research interests include environmental applications and implications of nanotechnology, bioremediation of toxic chemicals, water footprint of biofuels, water treatment and reuse, and antibiotic resistance control. Dr. Alvarez received the B. Eng. Degree in Civil Engineering from McGill University and MS and Ph.D. degrees in Environmental Engineering from the University of Michigan. He is the 2012 Clarke Prize laureate and also won the 2014 AAEES Grand Prize for Excellence in Environmental Engineering and Science.

Dionysios (Dion) D. Dionysiou, Professor, Environmental Engineering and Science, University of Cincinnati

Dionysios D. Dionysiou, PhD and CEAS environmental engineering professor at the University of Cincinnati. Dionysiou performs research in the fields of advanced oxidation technologies for water treatment, drinking water treatment and purification, physicochemical phenomena on particle-water interfaces, ultraviolet technologies in water treatment, destruction of biological toxins in water and environmental nanotechnology (fundamental, fate, transport, and applications of nanomaterials). Dionysiou earned his diploma in chemical engineering from the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA), Greece in 1991. When he came to the United States, he graduated with his master’s degree in chemical engineering from Tufts University (’95). In 2001, Dionysiou received his PhD in environmental engineering from UC.

Qilin Li, Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Rice University

Dr. Qilin Li teaches courses and conducts research on physical and chemical processes that impact water quality in natural aqueous environment as well as water/wastewater treatment systems. Dr. Li’s current research focuses on the behaviors of environmental colloids and macromolecules at aqueous-solid interfaces and the subsequent impact on their fate and transport in natural and engineered systems. Dr. Li’s research group is devoted to finding a solution to sustainable water supply. Li earned her Ph.D. in environmental engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and joined the Rice faculty in 2006. She serves as associate director for research for the NSF’s Nanosystems Engineering Research Center for Nanotechnology Enabled Water Treatment (NEWT) and chair of the International Water Association’s Nano&Water Specialty Group management committee, and is a member of the U.S. EPA’s Science Advisory Board’s Environmental Engineering Committee.