LSU’s faculty of engineering works to develop water treatment for wells

The following information was provided by Louisiana State University:

In 2019, 43 million Americans did not have access to public water supply systems and relied on private wells. Indeed, a 2015 report by the United States Geological Survey, or USGS, showed that 11 to 30 percent of Louisiana residents get their water from private wells. The national average was 14%.

Unlike public water systems, these wells are unregulated and pose an increased health risk from waterborne contaminants like pesticides, herbicides, and even sewage. Additionally, as these wells are dug out of necessity due to lack of access to public services, people facing health risk are also generally socio-economically disadvantaged.

This problem is at the heart of a National Science Foundation Partnerships for Innovation and Technology Translation, or PFI-TT, project of LSU associate professor of chemical engineering Kevin McPeak and assistant professor of civil engineering and Environmental LSU Samuel Snow. The pair work with Troy Smith at Kingdom Technology Services in Houston. Smith has decades of UV water treatment experience and will advise on the project.

The project will develop a novel water treatment system that simultaneously treats odorous water, recalcitrant organic matter (e.g. pharmaceuticals) and biological pathogens using ultraviolet or UV light, light and without the addition of chemicals. Existing solutions typically require multiple processing systems which add complexities and costs.

“We have shared and complementary expertise with this light-focused technology,” Snow said in reference to its partnership with McPeak. “We will push the limits of our materials to design very compact and efficient chambers that will allow us to expose water to as much ultraviolet light and photoactive surfaces as possible. The process uses only oxygen dissolved in water, plus UV light to convert hydrogen sulfide that smells like rotten eggs into harmless, odorless products.

In addition to the desired practical outcomes of this project, McPeak and Snow aim to advance the understanding of inhibitory agents in photocatalytic water treatment systems. This knowledge is essential for the development of a robust photocatalyst for water treatment. Among the techniques they will employ in this project is the use of a Scanning Near-Field Optical Microscope, or SNOM, a first-of-its-kind piece of equipment awarded through an NSF MRI grant in 2020. The Unique Nano-Fourier Transform The device’s infrared spectroscopy capabilities will be used to probe and better understand fouling on water photocatalyst surfaces with nanoscale mapping capabilities.

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