Nidal Abu-Zahara, Ph.D.















Jason He low rez


Zhen He, Ph.D.






Fabien Josse


Fabien Josse, Ph.D.








Chung Hoon Lee


Chung Hoon Lee, Ph.D.










Zitomer cropped


Daniel Zitomer, Ph.D.

Lead removal using foam polymers impregnated with ZrP/TiP nanoparticles

Nidal Abu-Zahara, Ph.D., Principal Investigator, UW-Milwaukee

This project combines molecular design approach with absorption chemistry in order to eliminate lead and other heavy metals from drinking water in parts-per-billion concentration levels. Novel polyurethane foam with controlled porosity containing sulfonate functional groups as active sites for the absorption of lead is prepared and tested for absorption capacity. Structure-processing-properties-performance relationships for this new system will be investigated for optimum foam morphology for metal ion absorption. The foam system will be further enhanced by impregnating zirconium phosphate (ZrP) and titanium phosphate (TiP) nano particles to the surface in order to improve the selectivity of this cation exchange media towards specific family of heavy metal contaminants.

Several variables will be studied to assess the performance of the newly synthesized cation exchange medium in four categories: 1-chemical structure (composition); 2-physical structure (pore size, cell density, cell morphology), which affect surface area of the medium; 3-solution conditions (pH, temperature, other contaminants); 4-application conditions (contact type and time). Different types of functional groups targeting various forms of heavy metal contaminants will be tested individually and combined. Inductive Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry will be used to measure lead (and other heavy metal ions) in water solutions before and after applying the filtering medium. Although the instrument is capable of measuring parts-per-trillion traces of metal ions, the samples will be prepared at 1-50 ppb levels.

Microbial fuel cell technology for simultaneous bioenergy production and wastewater treatment

Zhen He, Ph.D., Principal Investigator, UW-Milwaukee

This project is to develop a microbial fuel cell (MFC) with unique dual-cathode configuration for simultaneous bioenergy production and nitrogen removal. The dual-cathode MFC integrates nitrification and denitrification in its aerobic and anoxic cathodes, respectively. Organics supply electrons to both cathodes via microbial oxidation in the anode. The success of the project will develop a new technology with potential application to biological treatment of wastewater or agricultural wastes.

The project continues from the previous research. In the proposed period (second year), research will focus on the operation of an upflow MFC with dual cathodes, understanding of the limiting factors and determination of the optimal parameters for achieving a better performance. The developed MFC will be linked to an organic-based MFC to realize complete removal of organics and nitrogen in wastewater. Experiments will be carried out through chemical, electrochemical and microbiological analysis.


Chemical Sensors for Monitoring Contaminants in Aqueous Environments

Fabien Josse, Ph.D., Principal Investigator, Marquette University

Dr. Josse’s team will create devices that use chemically modified surfaces that show stability in water, to achieve low detection limits with class specificity.  Chemically sensitive coatings will be studied and characterized for optimal performance, (i.e., sensitivity, reproducibility and electrical passivation) include polymer films and functionalized polymers.  After determining sensor ruggedness, the devices will be configured and optimized for the analytes of interest (phosphorus-based compounds such as pesticides, and metal ions), and individual sensors will be built and characterized.

The end goal of the three-year project, which Dr. Josse anticipates will span three years, will be the actual implementation of sensors for use in the field.  Year 2 will focus on further coating optimization, synthesis and testing to improve sensitivity and response time.  Dr. Josse will continue to investigate BPA-HMTS coated-sensor response in the presence of selected interferences (chemical, sediments).  His team will initiate the investigation and synthesis of PDMS-based polymer (BPA-PDMS) for further improvement in surface penetration rate.  Sensor Signal processing: Use of estimation theory for on-line analysis of sensor signals.  Finally, the team will initiate the investigation and synthesis of polymers compatible with SH-SAW sensors for the detection of selected metal ions in liquid environments.

Micro-Calorimeter Array for Real-Time Water Quality Monitoring

Chung Hoon Lee, Ph.D., Principal Investigator, Marquette University

Dr. Lee’s project focuses on detecting bio/chemical molecules in water/air by miniaturized micro-calorimeter array.  Thermal properties (melting temperature, heat capacity) of bio/chemical molecules are unique.  Therefore, measuring the thermal properties can identify various bio/chemical components in water/gas with ultra high sensitivity, which is very similar to spectroscopy.  Dr. Lee is building miniaturized micro-calorimeters that have advantages over macroscale calorimeters because they use smaller liquid volumes resulting in smaller thermal mass and faster operation (real-time), and can be built in arrays to provide parallel operation. The sensor electronics on the micro-calorimeter is isolated from physical contact with testing liquid, which results very long sensor’s life time (~ 5 years).

Dr. Lee has successfully built a preliminary single unit micro-calorimeter and measured bio/chemical entities in liquid in a few seconds (~ 5 seconds).  He will build the micro-calorimeter in array form interconnected with microfluidic valves, which enable multiple/simultaneous monitoring of bio/chemical entities in water. He will develop temperature sensors, which have higher sensitivity that may detect 1 ppb (part per billion) of bio/chemical entities in water.

An Assessment of the Current State of Graywater Reuse and Rainwater Harvesting in Wisconsin

Daniel Zitomer, Ph.D., Principal Investigator, Marquette University

Graywater comprises 50-80% of residential wastewater. Separation of graywater form sanitary wastewater may represent a more sustainable option for residential and commercial wastewater management. However, residential graywater treatment systems currently available are expensive. In addition, many of the regulations regarding graywater management are not necessarily based on sound science. We are conducting an assessment of the current state of graywater management including: characterization of graywater, current regulations, current technologies used as well as technology gaps.