Nanotechnology Enabled Water Treatment or NEWT: Transforming the Economics of Water Treatment: Rice, ASU, Yale, UTEP win $18.5 Million NSF Engineering Research Center


LARGE_NEWTisometricNEWT Center will use nanotechnology to transform economics of water treatment A Rice University-led consortium of industry, university and government partners has been chosen to establish one of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) prestigious Engineering Research Centers in Houston to develop compact, mobile, off-grid water-treatment systems that can provide clean water to millions of people who lack it and make U.S. energy production more sustainable and cost-effective.

Nanotechnology Enabled Water Treatment Systems, or NEWT, is Houston’s first NSF Engineering Research Center (ERC) and only the third in Texas in nearly 30 years. It is funded by a five-year, $18.5 million NSF grant that can be renewed for a potential term of 10 years. NEWT brings together experts from Rice, Arizona State University, Yale University and the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) to work with more than 30 partners: including Shell, Baker Hughes, UNESCO, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and NASA.

ERCs are interdisciplinary, multi-institutional centers that join academia, industry and government in partnership to produce both transformational technology and innovative-minded engineering graduates who are primed to lead the global economy. ERCs often become self-sustaining and typically leverage more than $40 million in federal and industry research funding during their first decade.

“The importance of clean water to global health and economic development simply cannot be overstated,” said NEWT Director Pedro Alvarez, the grant’s principal investigator. “We envision using technology and advanced materials to provide clean water to millions of people who lack it and to enable energy production in the United States to be more cost-effective and more sustainable in regard to its water footprint.”

NEWT Center will use nanotechnology to transform water treatment: Video

Houston-area Congressman John Culberson, R-Texas, chair of the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science, said, “Technology is a key enabler for the energy industry, and NEWT is ideally located at Rice, in the heart of the world’s energy capital, where it can partner with industry to ensure that the United States remains a leading energy producer.”

Alvarez, Rice’s George R. Brown Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and professor of chemistry, materials science and nanoengineering, said treated water is often unavailable in rural areas and low-resource communities that cannot afford large treatment plants or the miles of underground pipes to deliver water. Moreover, large-scale treatment and distribution uses a great deal of energy. “About 25 percent of the energy bill for a typical city is associated with the cost of moving water,” he said.

NEWT Deputy Director Paul Westerhoff said the new modular water-treatment systems, which will be small enough to fit in the back of a tractor-trailer, will use nanoengineered catalysts, membranes and light-activated materials to change the economics of water treatment.0629_NEWT-truck-lg-310x239

“NEWT’s vision goes well beyond today’s technology,” said Westerhoff, vice provost of academic research at ASU and co-principal investigator on the NSF grant. “We’ve set a path for transformative new technology that will move water treatment from a predominantly chemical treatment process to more efficient catalytic and physical processes that exploit solar energy and generate less waste.”

Co-principal investigator and NEWT Associate Director for Research Qilin Li, the leader of NEWT’s advanced treatment test beds at Rice, said the system’s technology will be useful in places where water and power infrastructure does not exist.

“The NEWT drinking water system will be able to produce drinking water from any source, including pond water, seawater and floodwater, using solar energy and even under cloudy conditions,” said Li, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, chemical and biomolecular engineering, and of materials science and nanoengineering at Rice. “The modular treatment units will be easy to configure and reconfigure to meet desired water-quality levels. The system will include components that target suspended solids, microbes, dissolved contaminants and salts, and it will have the ability to treat a variety of industrial wastewater according to the industry’s need for discharge or reuse.”0629_NEWT-mod-lg-310x239

NEWT will focus on applications for humanitarian emergency response, rural water systems and wastewater treatment and reuse at remote sites, including both onshore and offshore drilling platforms for oil and gas exploration.

0629_NEWT-log-lg-310x310Yale’s Menachem “Meny” Elimelech, co-principal investigator and lead researcher for membrane processes, said NEWT’s innovative enabling technologies are founded on rigorous basic research into nanomaterials, membrane dynamics, photonics, scaling, paramagnetism and more.

“Our modular water-treatment systems will use a combination of component technologies,” said Elimelech, Yale’s Roberto C. Goizueta Professor of Environmental and Chemical Engineering. “For example, we expect to use high-permeability membranes that resist fouling; engineered nanomaterials that can be used for membrane surface self-cleaning and biofilm control; capacitive deionization to eliminate scaly mineral deposits; and reusable magnetic nanoparticles that can soak up pollutants like a sponge.”

UTEP’s Jorge Gardea-Torresdey, co-principal investigator and co-leader of NEWT’s safety and sustainability effort, said the rapid development of engineered nanomaterials has brought NEWT’s transformative vision within reach.

“Treating water using fewer chemicals and less energy is crucial in this day and age,” said Gardea-Torresdey, UTEP’s Dudley Professor of Chemistry and Environmental Science and Engineering. “The exceptional properties of engineered nanomaterials will enable us to do this safely and effectively.”

Alvarez said another significant research thrust in nanophotonics will be headed by Rice co-principal investigator Naomi Halas, the inventor of “solar steam” technology, and co-led by ASU’s Mary Laura Lind.

“More than half of the cost associated with desalination of water comes from energy,” said Halas, Rice’s Stanley C. Moore Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and professor of chemistry, bioengineering, physics and astronomy, and materials science and nanoengineering. “We are working to develop several supporting technologies for NEWT, including nanophotonics-enabled direct solar membrane distillation for low-energy desalination.”

Mike Wong Lake%20ZurichRice’s Michael Wong, Yale’s Jaehong Kim and UTEP’s Dino Villagran will collaborate in efforts to develop novel multifunctional materials such as superior sorbents and catalysts, and Yale’s Julie Zimmerman will co-lead cross-cutting efforts in safety and sustainability. Rice’s Roland Smith will lead a comprehensive diversity program that aims to attract more women and underrepresented minority students and faculty, and Rice’s Brad Burke will head up innovation and commercialization efforts with private partners. Rice’s Rebecca Richards-Kortum will lead an innovative educational program that incorporates some of the “experiential learning” techniques she developed for the award-winning undergraduate research programs at Rice 360º: Institute for Global Health Technologies, and Rice’s Carolyn Nichol will lead the K-12 education efforts.

Alvarez said NEWT’s goal is to attract industry funding and become self-sufficient within 10 years. Toward that end, he said NEWT was careful to select industrial partners from every part of the water market, including equipment makers and vendors, system operators, industrial service firms and others.

NEWT is one of three new ERCs announced by the NSF today in Washington. They join 16 existing centers that are still receiving federal support, including Texas’ only other active ERC, the University of Texas at Austin’s NASCENT, as well as the other active center in which Rice is a partner, Princeton University’s MIRTHE.

0629_NEWT-Alvarez29-lg-310x465Alvarez credited Culberson and the Texas Railroad Commission for helping facilitate partnerships that were crucial for NEWT. He said the consortium’s bid to land the NSF grant was also made possible by seed funding from Rice’s Energy and Environment Initiative, a sweeping institutional initiative to engage Rice faculty from all disciplines in creating sustainable, transformative energy technologies.

“Rice’s Energy and Environment Initiative was instrumental in developing a competitive proposal, in facilitating a team-building effort and in facilitating contacts with industry to get the necessary buy-in for our vision,” Alvarez said.

Nanotechnology Enabled Water Treatment Program

LARGE_NEWTisometric

Got Quantum Dots? Seeking to Impact Our Lives (for the better) through Nanotechnology


QDOTS imagesCAKXSY1K 8 Got Quantum Dots?

 

A Nanotechnology and Applied Materials company, Quantum Materials Corporation (QMC), explains that Quantum dots refer to one of several promising materials niche sectors that recently have emerged from tremendous nanotechnology advances in chemistry and materials processing in the past two decades, and fall into the category of nano-crystals, which also includes quantum rods and nanowires. QMC believes there are abundant opportunities  to commercialize the many applications emerging now in this arena … and QMC intends to capitalize on those opportunities! (See potential Applications Below)

As a materials subset, quantum dots are characterized by synthetic nano-materials particles fabricated to the smallest of dimensions from only a few atoms and upwards. At these tiny dimensions, they behave according to the rules of quantum physics, which describe the behavior of atoms and sub atomic particles, in contrast to classical physics that describes the behavior of bulk materials. In other words, objects consisting of many atoms.

Quantum Dots measure near one billionth of an inch and are a non-traditional type of semiconductor that can be used as an enabling material across many industries that is unparalleled in versatility and flexible in form.

Quantum Materials Corporation (QMC) is now commercializing a low cost quantum dot technology of a superior quality and characteristics. This revolutionary new quantum dot production technique, developed by Dr. Michael S. Wong and colleagues at Houston’s William Marsh Rice University, has been acquired under an exclusive, world-wide license. QMC’s new synthesis method is mass producible using continuous flow technology processes developed in conjunction with Access2Flow micro-reactor technology. QMC’s research and development group was instrumental in developing the new scaling-up process.

michaelwongRice University Quantum Dot Synthesis

Dr. Wong’s Rice University lab invented a simplified synthesis using greener fluids in a moderate temperature process producing same-sized QD particles, in which more than 95 percent are tetrapods; where previously even in the best recipe less than 50 percent of the prepared particles were all same size and tetrapods. These highly efficient tetrapod QD are available across the entire light wavelength from UV to IR spectra and very narrow bandwidth is common. Selectivity of arm width and length is very high allowing different characteristics to be emphasized. Capping with shells and dyes adds desired properties. A custom mixture of quantum dots tuned to optimal wavelengths is easy to create, and projects will have the advantage of unprecedented flexibility and quantities for determining the optimal quantum dot without the time, expense and poor quality of batch synthesis methods.

Moreover, the Rice process uses much cheaper raw materials and fewer purification steps. A positively charged molecule called cetyltrimethylammonium bromide provides this dramatic improvement in tetrapod manufacture. This compound, found in some shampoos, also is 100 times cheaper than alkylphosphonic acids currently used and is far safer, further simplifying the manufacturing process.

With the underlying theme of designing and engineering novel materials for catalytic and encapsulation applications, Dr. Wong’s research interests lie in the areas of nanostructured materials (e.g. nanoporous materials, nanoparticle-based hollow spheres, and quantum dots), heterogeneous catalysis, and bioengineering applications. He is particularly interested in developing new chemical approaches to assembling nanoparticles into functional macrostructures.

QD Nanotech Applications

Current and future applications of quantum dots impact a broad range of industrial markets. These include, for example, biology and biomedicine; computing and memory; electronics and displays; optoelectronic devices such as LEDs, lighting, and lasers; optical components used in telecommunications; and security applications such as covert identification tagging or biowarfare detection sensors. All of these markets can move from laboratory discovery to commercialization as QMC scales production of quantum dots to robust levels. They include:

IN VITRO analysis for cells and biological systems:

Quantum dots make improvements in the quality of marking in both brightness and time to study (hours instead of minutes).

IN VIVO selective tissue marking:

Quantum dots have been used for lymph node mapping and vascular and deep tissue imaging. This use has the potential to be much more significant for disease control and cure than any other current pharmacological technology.

QD Printing Applications

Quantum Materials Corporation has the exclusive worldwide license to proprietary quantum dot printing technologies developed by Dr. Ghassan Jabbour. This pioneering technology makes significant improvements over prior art.

Displays:

Quantum Dot LED as well as nanoparticle LED/OLED based displays now have the potential to be manufactured using very high volume, low cost roll-to-roll print processing on inexpensive substrates, with potential to deliver a significantly lower price point combined with higher definition, increased viewing angles, lower power consumption, and reduced response time for enhanced display imaging in a very thin, light weight, format.

Lighting:

Tetrapod quantum dots and printing technologies can be printed and applied to certain lighting applications delivering high brightness, true color balance, long life and low energy consumption for highest efficiency. As global consumption of electricity in the world increases dramatically, energy efficiency through better electronics and lighting is a key to reducing the overall burden on power production and the expected increases in greenhouse gas emissions.

Thermoelectrics:

Thermoelectric devices are notoriously inefficient, and many researchers are working diligently on nanocomposite materials, such as quantum dots that artificially induce phonon scattering, thereby inhibiting heat transfer due to lattice vibrations while facilitating electron and hole conduction.

Photonics & Telecommunications:

Quantum dots open potential to develop optical switches, modulators, and other devices that rely upon nonlinear optics, with the aim of creating faster, cheaper, and more powerful optical telecommunication components.

Security Inks:

Inks and paints incorporating quantum dots, nanoscale semiconductor particles, can be tuned to emit light at specific wavelengths in the visible and infrared portion of the spectra.

While currently marketing its tetrapod quantum dot technology to end users in the Printed Electronic, LED, and Solar markets, QMC is specifically focusing efforts on capturing a significant market share of the 2013 forecast estimated over $100MM by BCC Research for quantum dots in Bioscience applications. To accomplish this, QMC says it will demonstrate its tetrapod quantum dots’ superiority over standard spherical quantum dots to its diverse customer base.

MarketsandMarkets 2012 Quantum Dot Global Forecast predicts total QD sales of $7.48 Billion by 2022 in a wide range of QD applications. Quantum Materials believes that its provision of an accessible supply of quantum dots enables potential partners to now strategically develop commercially viable quantum dot products.

A company, Quantum Materials Corporation, is delivering tetrapod quantum dots to a client studying dual emission effects in sensitive force sensing environments. Dual-emitting tetrapod QD sensors can measure very minute stresses such as those of a heartbeat by reading the changing variance of luminescence response emitted as the tetrapod quantum dots arms bend. Nano-probes of this type are poised to be a platform technology providing optical readout for many other biomechanical processes.

This unique ability of the tetrapod quantum dot helps it to outshine the more common spherically shaped quantum dot.

QMC says in a release that its patented synthesis allows precise control of tetrapod quantum dot composition, size of QD core, length of arms, and arm thickness, and this ability to design the tetrapod characteristics allows optimization to control the tetrapod’s reaction to stress and thereby tune the light emissions for different applications.

QMC with its Patented Technologies receiving the prestigious Frost and Sullivan Award “Best Practices Award” for Advanced Quantum Dot Manufacturing Enabling Technology”, is the singular company that can provide industrial-scale quantities of tetrapod quantum dots, customized client’s needs, with the uniformity and reliability necessary to feed the demands of large scale commercial operations.

Collaboration with Texas State’s Material Science, Engineering and Commercialization Doctoral Program exemplifies that institution’s powerful commitment to advancing nanotechnology “Research with Relevance” and parallels Quantum Materials’ own strategy to convert advanced quantum dot research into successful products. Texas State is creating a team environment for innovation by attracting internationally renowned faculty, encouraging cross-pollination across different scientific disciplines, and supporting STAR Park’s growth environment.

“Quantum Materials is a great example of the kind of collaborative effort Texas State University is interested in creating through STAR Park. The firm will have access to experienced faculty and specialized facilities that will support joint R&D efforts.