Department of Energy picks Carnegie Mellon and NAWI to lead Energy-Water Desalination Hub

Carnegie Mellon’s College of Engineering has been chosen to be part of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Energy-Water Desalination Hub as a founding member of the National Alliance for Water Innovation (NAWI).

Civil and Environmental Engineering Professor Greg Lowry and Chemical Engineering Professor Zachary Ulissi will participate in the new initiative to secure a circular water economy in which 90% of nontraditional water sources–such as seawater, brackish water, and produced waters–can be cost-competitive with existing water sources within 10 years.

“Our national research program will enable scientists from industry, academia, and the national labs to work together to develop new technologies to make desalination and water treatment more efficient, more reliable, and lower cost,” said Peter Fiske, director of Berkeley Lab’s Water-Energy Resilience Research Institute and executive director of NAWI. “Our research program will invite broad participation using a series of research proposal calls, with the first anticipated in June of 2020.”

At Carnegie Mellon, the team will research selective ion removal for water remediation. In this initial project, Ulissi will use advanced modeling techniques to identify possible molecules of interest that will then be tested in a laboratory environment by Lowry to evaluate their effectiveness.

“Emerging ideas and approaches to computational design of materials have really impacted catalysis and electrochemical energy conversion, and we want to develop similar concepts in water quality and treatment,” says Ulissi. “To enable this and accelerate the design process, we will use high-throughput calculations and machine learning methods, and collaborate with other research groups in the NAWI hub.”

“Our understanding of surface reactivity at the atomic scale is improving. These ideas and approaches have really impacted catalysis and electrochemical energy conversion, and NAWI will allow us to develop similar concepts in water quality and treatment,” said Ulissi.

“The NAWI desalination hub is a much-needed investment in water infrastructure in the United States”, added Lowry. “It will provide affordable and sustainable water treatment technologies”.


About the College of Engineering

The College of Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University is a top-ranked engineering college that is known for our intentional focus on cross-disciplinary collaboration in research. The College is well-known for working on problems of both scientific and practical importance. Our “maker” culture is ingrained in all that we do, leading to novel approaches and transformative results. Our acclaimed faculty have a focus on innovation management and engineering to yield transformative results that will drive the intellectual and economic vitality of our community, nation and world.

About NAWI

NAWI was formed two years ago to support DOE’s goal of establishing the desalination hub. It consists of two parts: the core research consortium (which includes the three national labs along with the founding academic and industry partners) and the larger NAWI Alliance (which includes more than 100 U.S. organizations and whose membership is open). As a DOE innovation hub, NAWI will not only conduct research but also develop a roadmap to prioritize the highest impact technology options, then identify and solicit projects to support those priorities. NAWI’s vision for creating a stable and resilient water supply for agriculture, industry, and communities involves a circular water economy, where water is treated to fit-for-purpose standards and reused locally, rather than transporting freshwater long distances.

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