Student working at eco-machine

Environmental Engineering Research

Environmental Engineering focuses on the improvement of environmental quality through design, including the treatment of surface water, groundwater, wastewater, soil, and air; the management of wetlands and watersheds; the treatment and disposal of solid and hazardous wastes; the production of renewable energy; and the design of “green” products. The Penn State Environmental Engineering (Env E) program has specific strengths in biological processes for energy production, bioremediation of hazardous contaminants, physical/chemical processes for contaminant removal, conventional water and wastewater treatment, green product design, and environmental law.

The EnvE research program is supported by projects of over $20 million dollars funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences, the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, the American Water Works Association Research Foundation, and many other federal, state, and local agencies, as well as by various industries.  The majority of this research is conducted in the Kappe Environmental Engineering Laboratories housed within the Sackett Building on the Penn State, University Park campus.

Environmental Engineering Research by topic:


Desalination and Membrane Technologies 

Environmental Biotechnology

Environmental Hydro biogeochemistry

Green Engineering

Physical-Chemical Treatment


Salinity Gradient Energy

Water treatment

Research Funding in Environmental Engineering

There is a vigorous research program in Environmental Engineering (EnvE) here at Penn State. The total funding for research projects in the EnvE group was $7.41 million as of September 1, 2018. The project titles, principle investigators, and other information on these research contracts and grants is listed below.


Hybrid microbial fuel cell-biofiltration system for energy neutral wastewater treatment. (PI: Logan). U.S. Army Engineering Research and Development Center, June 15, 2016 – June 14, 2019. $571,821

Greener desalination technologies by reducing RO membrane biofouling and developing alternative low-energy technologies. King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). (PI: Logan). July 1, 2018 - June 30, 2019. $250,000.

Configurations and materials to improve hydrogen gas production in microbial electrolysis cells. (PI: Logan). National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Golden, CO. December 11, 2015 – January 15, 2019. $450,000.

Energy 2100: Ensuring a carbon-neutral, global energy economy. (PI: Logan). Strategic Initiative funds, Penn State University. $250,000. July 1, 2018 – June 30, 2021.

Sustainable Biofuel Production from Decentralized Wastewater Treatment Systems: Duckweed as a Diverse and Well-Distributed Feedstock for Enhancing Energy Diversification.  (PI: Brennan; Co-PI: Anderson). Northeast Regional Sun Grant Center, USDA, $40,000.

Solving Global Engineering Challenges in Our Own Backyard: Advanced Nutrient Recovery from Wastewater with Simultaneous Production of Feedstocks for Sustainable Agriculture and Bioenergy Production. (PI: Brennan), Penn State Office of the Physical Plant, July 2018 – June 2019, $40,355.

Nitrite Ammonification in Manures and Soils under Adaptive Management for Climate Change. (PI: Bruns, Co-PIs: Regan, Karsten). USDA AFRI, April 2016 – March 2019, $540,000.

Conference on Phosphorus Fate, Transport, and Management in Agro-Ecosystems. (PI: Regan) U.S. Department of Agriculture, January 2017 – December 2017, $50,000.

Novel Inocula for Enhanced Biological Phosphorus Removal: Bridging Stream and Engineered Ecosystems. (PI: Regan; co-PI Duncan), Penn State Institutes of Energy and Environment, March 15, 2018 – December 31, 2018, $25,000.

EAGER SitS: Emergent Properties during Soil Formation. (PI: Brantley; co-PI Regan, Nyblade).  National Science Foundation, October 01, 2018 – September 30, 2019, $300,000.

Sloan Scholarship Program, University Center for Exemplary Mentoring, 2000 to 2019, for selected underrepresented PhD candidates in 7 Colleges at the University Park campus of Penn State. (PI: Cannon, Preston Administrative PI) June 30, 2016 to June 30, 2019 (supplement). $900,000.  

Characterization of activated carbons for removing perfluoroalkyls from water (PI: Cannon) Evoqua Water Technologies LLC November 15, 2017 to December 31, 2018. $14,000.

SusChem: Manganese oxide supercapacitor charging/discharging mechanisms to capture energy using capacitive mixing (CapMix). (PI: Gorski; Co-PI: Logan) National Science Foundation: CBET Environmental Engineering. September 1, 2016 – August 31, 2019. $330,000.

CAREER: Battery-inspired electrodes for efficiently desalinating water or harvesting salinity gradient energy. National Science Foundation. Environmental Engineering. (PI: Gorski) August 1, 2018 – July 31, 2022. $500,000.

Linking Thermodynamics to Pollutant Reduction Rates by Fe(II) Bound to Iron Oxides. National Science Foundation, Environmental Chemical Sciences (ECS) Program. (PI: Gorski). August 15, 2018 – July 31, 2020. $345,765.

Utilizing hydrotropes to increase flow battery storage densities. Penn State University Internal Seed Grant Program. (PI: Gorski, Co-PIs: Logan, Hickey R.). 4/1/2018-12/31/2018. $25,000.

Hydroacoustic Cavitation for Reclaiming Clay and Sand from Hydrofracturing Fluids and Solids National Science Foundation (NSF) Partnerships for Innovation: Accelerating Innovation Research-Technology Translation AIR-TT (PI: Warner, co-PIs Cannon, Klima, Wunz) $251,799 September 15, 2016 - February 28, 2019.

Batch Method to Measure TDS Generation Potential from Coal Refuse (PI: Burgos, W., co-PI: Warner, Cravotta) US Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, Applied Science Program. October 1, 2016 – July 30, 2019. $267,421.

Health impacts of roadway dust and groundwater following treatment with oil and gas fluids (PI Warner, CoPIs: Chase, Grady, Braiser, Freedman, Burgos, Vanden Heuvel, Taylor, Wilson) Penn State Clinical and Translational Science Institute July 1, 2018- June 30, 2020 $50,000.

Identifying water quality issues using distributed sensor arrays and targeted chemical analyses (PI McCarthy, co PI Warner, Kahl) Penn State Global Programs. August 1, 2018-July 1, 2019 $16,000.

Collaborative Research: Combining complex systems tools, process-based modelling and experiments to bridge scales in low temperature geochemistry. National Science Foundation. (PI: Li), January 1, 2018 – December 2020, $173,352

Using the Susquehanna - Shale Hills CZO to Project from the Geological Past to the Anthropocene Future.” National Science Foundation (NSF) (PI: Brantley, co-PIs: Davis, Eissenstat, Kaye, Li, Lin, Russo). November 2013 – October 2018, $700,000 (project total $5,000,000)

Understanding Ecohydrological Controls of Biogeochemical Reactions and Fluxes at the Watershed Scale, DOE Subsurface Biogeochemistry Research (SBR). (PI: Li, co-PI: Kaye, Shi), September 2016 – August 2019, $180,000

Harvesting Data and Models for Hydro-biogeochemical Forecasting. Penn state Institute of Cyberscience seed grant. (PI Li, Co PI Brantley). June 1 2018 – May 31, 2019. $34,636

Collaborative research: Determining the eco-hydrogeologic response of tropical glacierized watersheds to climate change: An integrated data-model approach. National Science Foundation, Hydrology program. March 15, 2018 – February 28, 2021, $151,658 (PSU PI Li,  Collaborative with Crystal Ng, Andrew Wicket et al., U Minnesota, project total $548,953)

RAISE-SitS: Designing models to forecast how biogeochemical fluctuations in soil systems govern soil development, terrestrial water storage and ecosystem nutrient fluxes. National Science Foundation. 9/1/2018-8/31/2020, $121,266. ((PSU PI: Li, Collaborative with Pamela Sullivan (U Kansas), Daniel Hirmas (UC Los Angeles), Alejandro Flores (Boise State U.), project total $500,000)

Metal-Microbe-Mineral interactions and biomineralization mechanisms in anaerobic acidophiles: Geochemical, microbiological and biotechnological implications. (PI: Sanchez-Espana; co-PI: Burgos), Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation, January 1, 2017 – December 31, 2020.  $110,000.

Impact of Oil & Gas Wastewater Disposal on Lake and River Sediments. (PI: Burgos; co-PI: Warner), National Science Foundation, CBET – Environmental Engineering, September 1, 2017 – August 31, 2020. $330,000.

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The Penn State Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, established in 1881, is internationally recognized for excellence in the preparation of undergraduate and graduate engineers through the integration of education, research, and leadership.

Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering

212 Sackett Building

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802-1408

Phone: 814-863-3084