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NSF Directorate for Engineering | Division of Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental, and Transport Systems (CBET


Environmental Engineering and Sustainability Cluster

Environmental Engineering
Program Director - Paul L. Bishop -

 Trends in Research Education
 Program Topical Areas

 Research Project Examples


Trends in Research and Education
 Tools and techniques in areas of measurements, analysis, modeling, and synthesis are becoming increasingly sophisticated  This requires interfacing with more science and engineering areas

 Refocusing on large natural systems and on more holistic (cross-media) studies at large spatial scales while also expanding in the opposite direction: nano-science, molecular and genetic analysis
 Developing broad theoretical/conceptual underpinnings by embracing concepts of industrial ecology, sustainability, and ecological engineering

Environmental Engineering Program at NSF
The Environmental Engineering program supports innovative science-based engineering research and education with the goals of:
 restoring and maintaining the chemical, physical, and biological quality of the Nation‟s water, air and land environment  preventing human exposure to toxic chemicals and pathogenic bacteria  achieving sustainable development of natural resources.

Some “hot” topical areas in the Environmental Engineering programs
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Pollutant Fate/Transformation
 Environmental fate and reaction kinetics concerning the persistence of antibiotics, pharmaceuticals, personal-care products, and other emerging contaminants in the environment

Nano-technology in Environmental Engineering
 Applications of nano-materials in water and wastewater treatment, air pollution control, and ground-water remediation; environmental and health implications of nano-materials

Some “hot” topical areas in the Environmental Engineering programs
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Biotechnology in Environmental Engineering
 Innovative coupling of physical-chemical and microbial processes

Information Technology in Environmental Engrg
 Development of advanced sensors and data acquisition systems, internet-based data sharing and information processing

Complex Environmental Systems
 Ability to model and predict across a wide range of spatial and temporal scales; real-time measurement and management

Unsolicited Research Projects: FY 2009 Grants - Selected from 82 awards in FY 2009
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Treatment Technology Research
 Bacterial adhesion and metabolic activity
 Development of highly efficient Aquaporin based membranes for aqueous separations

 Identifying and quantifying active denitrifiers in complex environments using functional gene expression analysis
 Complete reductive dechlorination of trichloroethylene (TCE) by non-Dehalococcoides microorganisms  Desalinated water and stability of drinking water distribution systems


Unsolicited Research Projects: FY 2009 Grants - Selected from 82 awards in FY 2009
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Environmental Sensing Research
 Rapid, sensitive and sequential detection of E. coli and total coliforms
 Use of chiral tracers to determine cycling of POPs in stream ecosystems  TT virus: A potential indicator of human enteric viruses in source and drinking waters  Stable isotope probing to assess bioremediation of LUST contaminants  Physiologically-coupled biosensing approaches for real-time monitoring of environmental contaminants  Functional analysis of biofilms in premise plumbing

Unsolicited Research Projects: FY 2009 Grants - Selected from 82 awards in FY 2009
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Nanomaterial Research
 Environmental impacts of nanomaterials in engineered water systems on microorganisms
 Capacitive deionization using asymmetric nanoporous oxide electrodes  Using nanotechnology to identify pollution sources in the landscape  Novel activated carbon nanofiber biofilm support for enhanced wastewater treatment


Unsolicited Research Projects: FY 2009 Grants - Selected from 82 awards in FY 2009
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Water Resources and Watershed Management
 Integrated modeling for watershed management  EDC compounds in a Rocky Mountain stream

 Fate and transport of biocolloids in beach sand
 Fundamental understanding of mercury cycling in lakes  The role of sunlight in controlling fecal indicator bacteria and human virus concentrations in recreational waters

Unsolicited Research Projects: FY 2009 Grants - Selected from 82 awards in FY 2009
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Phytoremediation Research
 Enhanced phytoremediation using endophytes  Heterotrophic degradation of and bioaugmentation for emerging trace contaminants in wastewater  Removal of wastewater-derived contaminants in treatment wetlands

 Enhancing phytoremediation through callus-culture induced variations in wetland plants

Unsolicited Research Projects: FY 2009 Grants - Selected from 82 awards in FY 2009
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Air Pollution Research
 Optimization of urban designs for air quality and energy efficiency

 Effects of volatility and morphology on vehicular emitted ultrafine particle dynamics
 Adsorption and desorption of air pollutants on engineered nanomaterials  Integrated scheme for treating hydrophobic air contaminants

Agent-based Modeling of Wastewater Bacteria
Andrew Schuler - Duke University
Design and operation of biological wastewater treatment systems relies on mathematical modeling of the biological processes of waste degradation. This project is pioneering the use of agent-based modeling in these systems, which entails the modeling of individual bacteria as they move through bioreactors, as opposed to the conventional "lumped" approach, whereby bacteria are modeled with respect to their bulk concentrations.

Figure 1: Hydraulic residence time (HRT)

distributions for 1 completely mixed flow reactor (CMFR), 2 or 6 CMFRs in series

The Schuler lab has built and applied a new agent-based simulation program (DisSimulator), which can model thousands of bacteria as they move through a given system. Using this program they have revealed several "emergent behaviors" that may Figure 2: Predicted state (microbial storage product lead to improved system design and concentrations) variability in a bacterial population operation for improved plant performance. responsible for phosphorus removal in an anaerobic
Highlight ID: 15483 CBET-0607248

reactor. Green squares are glycogen, blue triangles are polyhydroxyalkanoates, and red circles are polyphosphate.


„Multiple Genomic Targets‟ Advance Water Pollution Control Technology
Amy Pruden - Virginia Tech Recent advances in molecular biology have presented a tremendous opportunity to herald the next generation of environmental science and engineering in which biological process design considers the actual microbial communities involved in catalyzing treatment.

The Pruden team is developing new genome-enabled tools and using advanced statistical approaches to synthesize the information obtained in order to determine which tools best predict the performance of bioremediation systems. They are also applying these tools for advancing consideration of inoculum as a viable aspect of engineered design of bioremediation systems.

Figure 1: Schematic overview of a sulfate-

reducing permeable reactive zone (SR-PRZ) remediating acid mine drainage. The lignocelluloses-based matrix (wood chips) provides a slow-release source of organic carbon for sulfate-reducing bacteria (SRB). SRB produce sulfides, which bind heavy metals and remove them from the water while at the same time neutralizing acidity.


Debromination of PBDEs in Aquatic Sediments
An Li – University of Illinois-Chicago Karl Rockne – University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) (Figure 1), have been used extensively as flame retardants in consumer goods for fire protection. As a result, rapid accumulation of PBDEs has occurred literally everywhere in the environment. In aquatic systems, the majority of the PBDEs are deposited in sediments, particularly those with high degrees of bromination. The basic hypothesis of this proposal is that PBDEs, which have accumulated in the environment over the past four decades, have debrominated in the sediments of heavily contaminated water bodies. Comparison between PBDEs and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in their production history, congener distribution patterns in commercial products, carbon-halogen bond energy, and the time scale of environmental contamination, etc, supports their hypothesis.
CBET-0756428 CBET-0756320
O Brx Bry

Figure 1. Structure of PBDEs.

Figure 2. Sampling at Maple Lake,

Illinois with a gravity piston corer (Wildco Co.). A push corer (Great Lakes Water Institute, Milwaukee, Wisconsin) has also been used for sediment sampling in this project. 14

Enhancing Gas-Particle Transport Processes for Improved Mercury Emissions Control from Coal-fired Power Plants
Herek Clack - Illinois Institute of Technology

In 2005, the U.S. EPA issued the Clean Air Mercury Rule (CAMR), making the U.S. the first country to regulate mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants (CFPPs). The CAMR emissions caps are designed to reduce total mercury emissions by 70% by 2018. This project represents a combined experimental and numerical modeling collaboration between research groups at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) and the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities (UM) to provide fundamental understanding of mercury removal processes and to develop enhanced mercury removal processes.
Highlight ID: 15480 CBET-0607292

Figure 1: Helium-Neon laser used for

instantaneous particle Mass loading and particle agglomeration measurements.

Figure 2: The trajectories of 1, 5, and 10

micron particles in a turbulent round jet. Computational resources provided by the Minnesota Supercomputing Institute.