Water Treatment

At Penn State, several faculty conduct research that pertains to the physical-chemical treatment of water, wastewater, and air. Penn State Environmental Engineering faculty have aimed at purveying drinking water that contains less contaminants and potential toxins.

Research by Fred Cannon has focused on how to tailor activated carbons that more effectively remove targeted trace contaminants such as odorants like methyl isoborneol and geosmin, and perchlorate; how to characterize natural organic matter and remove more of it from the drinking water; and how to better thermally reactivate activated carbon. He is also exploring various means of regenerating spent activated carbon, including thermal, and quasi-thermal processes. Cannon has also conducted extensive study of the nature of natural organic matter that passes through various water treatment unit processes. Cannon has also devised methods of preloading activated carbon with iron nanoparticles in a manner that enhances the removal of arsenic from groundwater.

Water is usually disinfected before being distributed to customers by water piplelines. Research by Professor Jay Regan has employed DNA-fingerprinting to characterize the microorganisms that proliferate in water pipelines when a municipality practices disinfection using chloramination.  

Saline water and water reclaimed from wastewater operations can be treated using membranes to very high quality. Professor Kumar works on utilizing reverse osmosis and other membrane technologies for treatment of these challenging water sources. The Kumar group also works on the treatment of water from unconventional gas extraction operations (hydraulic fracturing). 



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