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Nanotechnology-Enabled Water Treatment: A Vision to Enable Decentralized Water Treatment and Address Growing Challenges of the Water Energy Nexus

Wednesday, January 17, 2018
4:00 PM - 5:00 PM
Location: South Mudd 365
Pedro J.J. Alvarez, George R. Brown Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Rice University; Director of the NSF ERC on Nanotechnology-Enabled Water Treatment, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Rice University


Through control over material size, morphology and chemical structure, nanotechnology offers novel materials that are nearly "all surface" and that can be more reactive per atom than bulk materials. Such engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) can offer superior catalytic, adsorptive, optical, quantum, electrical and/or antimicrobial properties that enable multi-functional technology platforms for next-generation water treatment. This presentation will address emerging opportunities for nanotechnology to improve the selectivity and efficiency to remove priority pollutants, decrease electrical energy requirements, and meet a growing need for safer and more affordable decentralized water treatment and reuse. Because water is by far the largest waste stream of the energy industry, we will also discuss technological innovation to enable produced water reuse in remote (off-grid) oil and gas fields, to minimize freshwater withdrawal and disposal challenges. Examples of applicable nano-enabled technologies include 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 using superparamagnetic nanoparticles; solar-thermal processes enabled by nanophotonics to desalinate with membrane distillation; disinfection and advanced oxidation using nanocatalysts; and nanostructured surfaces that discourage microbial adhesion and protect infrastructure against biofouling and corrosion. We envision using these enabling technologies to develop compact modular water treatment systems that are easy to deploy and can treat challenging waters to protect human lives and support sustainable economic development

Series: Environmental Science and Engineering Seminar
For more information, please phone 626-395-8724 or email

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