Student working in Kappe labs

Kappe Environmental Engineering Laboratories

The Kappe Environmental Engineering Laboratories include the 1,800 ft2 BioEnergy Laboratory, part of the 9,800 ft2 Kappe Environmental Engineering Laboratories on the University Park campus, and a small lab on site at the Wastewater Treatment Plant. These laboratories include general research lab areas, dedicated microscopy and dark rooms, multiple temperature control rooms, and general-use rooms for instrumentation and preparations. 

Analytical Chemistry

We have many instruments that can be used to detect trace quantities of chemicals. There are nine gas chromatographs available in the labs. Two are equipped with autosamplers: (Agilent 6890 GC with Headspace autosampler and flame ionization detector (FID); Shimadzu GC-2010 with liquid autosampler and FID); one equipped for pyrolysis (Hewlett-Packard 5890 Series II / JHP-22 Curie Point Pyrolyzer); and six used with manual injection for separation of permanent gases (five SRI Model 310 with thermal conductivity (TCD) detectors and one SRI 8610B with FID, TCD and Hall detectors).

For detecting low concentrations of aqueous species, we have two ion chromatographs with autosamplers and column heaters (Dionex ICS-1100), and a high performance liquid chromatograph with autosampler and column oven (Shimadzu Prominence HPLC system with Photodiode Array detector), both with gradient elution. Ion chromatography is particularly useful for anions for which no other rapid analytical technique exists. HPLC can separate complex components of organic mixtures.

We have a carbon / nitrogen analyzer with autosampler and solid sample module (Shimadzu TOC-VCSN / TNM-1; SSM-5000A). We can measure trace metals in solid or liquid samples by atomizing the sample in the atomic absorption spectrophotometer with flame and graphite furnace (Shimadzu AA-6601F). Concentrations of radioactive compounds in liquids can be measured using our scintillation counter (LKB Wallac 1217 Rackbeta). For highly specific analysis of uranium VI in water we have a Kinetic Phosphorescence Analyzer (Chemchek KPA-11). We have several UV spectrophotometers (Perkin-Elmer Lambda 35; Shimadzu UV-1601 and UV-1801) as well as multiple COD analyzers (Hach DR 2000 Spectrophotometers with COD heater blocks).

Many other types of analytical equipment are available. For example, thermogravimetry is the measurement of the mass of a sample as the temperature increases. This technique is useful for determining sample purity and water, carbonate, and organic content, and for studying decomposition reactions. We have a thermogravimetric analyzer (Cahn TG-131), an accelerating rate calorimeter (CSI), and a thermal reactivation furnace (Applied Test Systems 3210). We have a variety of equipment useful in water treatment studies, including an Ozone Analyzer (Dasibi Environmental Corp 1008-HC), a UV lamp advanced oxidant generation system, a bench-scale Advanced Oxidation Sonoperoxone system (Furness-Newburge), computer-aided titrimeters (Mettler-Toledo) and lab water purification systems (Barnstead and Millipore).


Many of the research projects in the department involve microbiological techniques, and we are fortunate to have several microscopes and other pieces of equipment that are particularly useful in doing microbial research. We have a Zeiss Axiophot microscope, an Olympus BH-2 and an Olympus BX61, all with image analysis and epifluorescence capabilities. 

Much research in the department involves anaerobic microorganisms. We have one medium-sized floor model steam sterilizer (AMSCO Eagle 3024) and one benchtop sterilizer (Tuttnauer 2540E),  five anaerobic chambers (two dual chambers) with temperature controlled oxygen detectors, and both anaerobic and aerobic respirometer systems (Challenge Technology; Respirometer Systems and Applications) for gas production measurement in batch or continuous flow bioreactors. We also have a Columbus Instruments Oxymax-BGM biogas monitor (20-chamber) equipped for monitoring oxygen, carbon dioxide, methane, hydrogen, hydrogen sulfide, and nitrous oxide.

Other equipment useful in microbiological studies includes: six walk-in environmental chambers (three each at 4 ºC and 30 ºC); three laminar flow hoods for sterile microbiological work (Biosafety Class II); several real-time PCR systems (one Bio-Rad iCycler iQ and two Applied Biosystems StepOnePlus thermocycler and detection systems); an Electrophoresis imaging system (Bio-Rad ChemiDoc); a DGGE system (Bio-Rad DCode); two autoclavable fermentors with mixing, gas flow and temperature control (New Brunswick BioFlo / CelliGen 115); a multi-mode microplate detection system (Molecular Diagnostics SpectraMax i3) with UV to visible absorbance detection, fluorescence intensity and multi-color luminescence; three centrifuges capable of handling various-sized samples; and an Omni Bead Ruptor 12 Homogenizer for preparation of biological samples prior to molecular extraction.

Particle Analysis

We have a Malvern Zetasizer Nano ZS for measuring particle size, the potential or surface charge of colloids, and absolute molecular weight of polymers and proteins. For characterizing surface area and pore size of microporous carbons, we have Porosimetry Units (Micromeritics ASAP 2000/2010) with density functional theory pore analysis software.


Various electrochemical measurement devices are also used in microbial fuel cell research, such as galvanostats and potentiostats (Bio-Logic MPG2 and VMP3 models, with electrochemical impedance spectroscopy (EIS) capability; Solartron 1470E with EIS; Uniscan PG580RM; WonATech WMPG 1000) and data loggers (Agilent and Keithley). We also have a rotating disk electrode (Pine) for investigating reaction mechanisms related to redox chemistry.


We have several ovens, incubators and freezers, including one vacuum oven (Cole-Parmer) and one freeze dryer (Labconco); one ultra-low freezer for microbiological storage (So-Low); pH and conductivity meters; pumps; distillation equipment, and a wide variety of general lab equipment.

To learn more about the types of research going on in the Kappe Labs, visit the Environmental Engineering group webpage.



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