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Generating Interest Among Undergraduates Toward Research in Environmental Engineering by Incorporating Novel Desalination Technology-based Hands-on Laboratory Assignments

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Environmental Engineering Division Technical Session 1

Tagged Division

Environmental Engineering

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Paper Authors


Sanjay Tewari Louisiana Tech University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Tewari holds joint appointment of Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering and Construction Engineering Technology at the Louisiana Tech University. Prior to joining Louisiana Tech, he earned his Bachelor of Engineering (Civil Engineering) and Master of Technology (Chemical Engineering) in India. Later, he joined Texas A&M University and earned his Doctor of Philosophy in Civil (Environmental) Engineering. His research efforts are focused on water quality and issues related to treatment of wastewater using physical, chemical, biological and electro-chemical/kinetic processes. His broader research efforts have been in the area of application of geographic information systems to environmental management and sustainability, causes/effects of salinity in soils and corrosion of metal pipes. Dr. Tewari also has keen interest in STEM education, improving diversity in STEM areas, inclusion of hands-on and digital tools in curriculum.

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Md Ashique Ahmed Louisiana Tech University

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Md Ashique Ahmed is a PhD student in the Civil
Engineering Program at the Louisiana Tech University. His research is focused
on application of novel carbonaceous materials for water deionisation. His
other interests include metal oxide nanoparticle treatment of materials for
enhancement of deionisation capacity, solid and hazardous waste management
and treatment of emerging contaminants. Before joining Louisiana Tech
University, he completed his BSc in Civil Engineering from the Bangladesh
University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), where he worked on
greywater analysis during his undergraduate degree.

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Chandra Mouli Tummala Louisiana Tech University

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Chandra Mouli Tummala is a first year PhD student of Engineering at Louisiana Tech University. Chandra's interests include electro-kinetic processes, water/wastewater treatment, solid waste management, and site remediation. Before joining Louisiana Tech University, he graduated from Jawaharlal Technological University with a B.Tech in Civil Engineering and he earned master’s degree from Bradley University. During the Master’s program Chandra worked on modelling of microbial transport under low strength electric field. Chandra was recognized as outstanding student and leader at Bradley University. Currently, Chandra is investigating electro-kinetic barriers for groundwater protection against sea-water intrusion.

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Undergraduate students were exposed to hands-on novel desalination laboratory experiments in an attempt to generate interest towards research in the broad field of environmental engineering and specifically in the field of water desalination. The laboratory exercises were designed to introduce desalination techniques, enhance their learning experiences and prepare them as potential researchers in laboratory settings. The capacitive deionization (CDI) is an emerging and novel technique for desalination of low salinity water. The hands-on experience of CDI based laboratory experiments provided foundational and working knowledge of the CDI concept and allowed students to learn basic methodology followed in environmental laboratories to arrive at technical conclusions. Students were given opportunity to desalinate water solutions using commercially available carbon aerogel fiber/paper electrodes at various conditions. Different parameters such as applied voltage, ambient temperature, initial concentration, flow rate, ion radius were varied and effects on desalination performance were observed. Students were allowed to have teams (maximum two students per team). The teams were assigned one of these variables and asked to explore the effect its variation on desalination in using a semi-batch mode CDI experiment set up. The students were supervised and aided by a couple of doctoral student mentors.

In one of the laboratory assignments, students used a conductivity meter to develop salinity vs conductivity calibration curves for a given salt. Each team was asked to prepare and use their calibration curve to measure the salinity levels of 2 to 3 solutions of unknown salinity of the same salt type. In another assignment, each team was asked to adopt a basic CDI reactor and were provided with basic material, equipment and supplies and guidelines for the project. A salt solution was pumped through the reactors in a continuously re-cycled (multi-pass) mode. The conductivity was observed in a reservoir. Once the electrodes are saturated and cannot absorb more ions, the salinity does not change any more. Students were asked to do mass-balance on the total quantity of salt involved in the experiment. They were asked to use initial and final concentrations and the volume of the solution in these calculations. Students were allowed to explore the effects of various operating conditions on desalination.

The hands-on design-build-operate experience starting from preparation of solutions of varying concentrations, preparing calibration curves, adopting a reactor with a basic design and operating it under variable conditions exposed students to fundamental of experimental research. Pre/post-activity surveys were conducted to measure the students’ experience on specific aspects of the laboratory assignments and their change of interest in environmental engineering. The results have been encouraging and provide deeper insight into the whole process.

Tewari, S., & Ahmed, M. A., & Tummala, C. M. (2018, June), Generating Interest Among Undergraduates Toward Research in Environmental Engineering by Incorporating Novel Desalination Technology-based Hands-on Laboratory Assignments Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30558

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