Research Focus: Environmental Engineering


Arup SenGuptaEngineered Processes for Enhanced Sustainability
This research area focuses on applying engineering principles to environmental remediation challenges and developing processes for sustainable water, air and soil quality. Current research projects in development include:

  • Zero-valent iron nanoparticles that remediate a wide array of contaminants in ground and surface waters
  • Ion exchange and membrane processes that treat contaminated water, including remediation of arsenic-contaminated groundwater and removal of excess nutrients from drinking water
  • Geo-environmental sensors, such as wireless sensor networks (WSN) and Brillouin Optical Time Domain Reflectometry (BOTDR) technologies, for understanding and quantifying geo-media properties, spatial and temporal distribution of liquid content in subsurface, and monitoring environmental systems, such as underground pipelines and storage facilities for leaks, contamination, and structural integrity
  • Electrochemical detoxification of contaminated clay soils using direct electric current to enhance beneficial redox reactions and mass transport
  • Development and use of advanced geo-materials for subsurface hazard mitigation, such as polymer-enhanced surface reactive soils for liquid barriers, or pervious concrete for water transport; also under way are studies that investigate the sustainable recycle and reuse of civil engineering materials
  • Civil engineering applications of geothermal energy, including electrically enhanced oil extraction from tight geological formations

Environmental Biotechnology
This research area applies biological and biochemical principles to the discipline of environmental engineering. These principles include biological thermodynamics and kinetics; genetics; biochemistry; biological interfaces; and the interactions of various biological and physical systems.
Current research activities investigating pathogen fate and transport in the environment include:

  • Genetic typing of pathogenic organisms to track the pathogens back to their source
  • Identifying factors that affect the movement of microorganisms through groundwater systems
  • Understanding factors that control the survival of pathogens in natural and engineered systems

Current research activities in biological kinetics and bioenergetics include:

  • Investigating the effects of bacterial metabolic activity and survival on surfaces
  • Biodegradation of environmental contaminants

Water Quality and Resource Management
This includes factors affecting the survival of microorganisms such as Cryptosporidium spp. in surface waters and transport microorganisms through the subsurface. Current research focuses on pathogens transported vertically through unsaturated soils from septic systems until they reach the water table, where they then migrate horizontally with the saturated groundwater flow. We are currently developing a meso-scale physical groundwater system for determining the hydrologic factors that are important to understanding the microbial transport at the scale of 10 meters.
Current research activities in this area include:

  • Identifying factors that affect the fate and transport of pathogens in surface and ground waters. This includes factors affecting the survival of microorganisms such as Cryptosporidium spp. in surface waters and transport microorganisms through the subsurface. Current research focuses on pathogens transported vertically through unsaturated soils from septic systems until they reach the water table, where they then migrate horizontally with the saturated groundwater flow. We are currently developing a meso-scale physical groundwater system for determining the hydrologic factors that are important to understanding the microbial transport at the scale of 10 meters.
  • Developing technologies that provide potable water to rural communities. Research in this area has produced wellhead ion exchange systems for remediation of arsenic-contaminated groundwater in the Indian subcontinent. Lehigh has installed over 140 of these systems to date.
  • Developing electrochemical technologies to enhance in situ transformation or mass transport of toxic contaminants in soil and groundwater. The geo-environmental faculty is currently part of the European research consortium ELECTROACROSS, a Marie Curie International Research Staff Exchange Scheme (IRSES) comprised of multiple institutions from Europe, Asia, Australia and North America. The consortium is investigating electrochemical and electrokinetic processes for water clean-up and preservation.

Faculty Engaged in Environmental Research

Brown

Derick Brown, Ph.D., Princeton University, 2000, Class of 1961 Associate Professor. Research interests include microbial attachment, metabolic activity and survival at interfaces; transport of microorganisms through porous media; multisubstrate biodegradation and microbial kinetics; and multicomponent non-aqueous phase liquids (e.g. coal tars).

Fox

John T. Fox, Ph.D., Pennsylvania State University, 2011. Research interests include the modification and use of biomaterials to prevent or treat air pollution; industrial waste reclamation process technologies for value-added resources; and developing materials with novel properties for water treatment applications.

Jellison

Kristen Jellison, Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2003, Associate Professor. Research interests include environmental microbiology and molecular biology; pathogen sources, fate, transport, and viability (e.g., Cryptosporidium spp.); phylogenetic analysis of environmental pathogens; watershed protection; and water treatment technologies for developing countries.

Pamukcu

Sibel Pamukcu, Ph.D., Louisiana State University, 1986, Professor. Research interests include soil mechanics and foundation engineering; geo-environmental engineering; electrochemical technologies for soil decontamination; value-added use of waste materials in earthen construction; and development and application of wireless and fiber-optic based-sensors for subsurface measurements.

SenGupta

Arup K. SenGupta, Ph.D., University of Houston, 1984, P. C. Rossin Senior Professor. Research interests include ion exchange; adsorption and membrane processes; environmental separation; toxic metal sensing; efficient desalination and water reuse; and sustainable arsenic and fluoride technology in developing countries.

Suleiman

Muhannad Suleiman, Ph.D., Iowa State University, 2002, Assistant Professor. Research interests include soil-structure interaction; foundation engineering; underground structures; ground improvement; advanced sensors and instrumentation; pervious concrete; and sustainable geotechnical and foundation systems.

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