water treatment technology

The four-year research is being backed by a $970,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.

A team led by Sapna Sarupria will begin developing computer models in January to test the chemical coatings and geometric designs on membranes without having to create a prototype in the lab.

The water is forced through membranes to filter out impurities that are sometimes even smaller than the width of a human hair.

Over time, bits of organic, inorganic and biological material become caught in the microscopic pores, making the membranes less productive.

In order to overcome this, a new design will be developed that would lower the cost of water treatment around the world.

Sarupria said: "This project addresses a grand challenge facing society today: how to make clean water available to a growing population at a low cost.

"The computer models we develop will lead to leapfrog improvement in membrane filtration technologies."

Clemson University environmental engineering and Earth sciences assistant professor David Ladner said that evaluating five prototype membranes could take as long as five months with current methods, but that the computer models will make a big difference.

"Toward the end of the project when all the models are running, we should be able to very quickly test lots of different patterns.

"I would estimate a 100-fold increase in the types of patterns you could evaluate," Ladner added.

Image: A team led by Sapna Sarupria will begin developing computer models in January. Photo: courtesy of Clemson University.