Published: Aug. 24, 2021

Whitney Knoop

Whitney Knopp

Whitney Knopp – an undergraduate in the Environmental Engineering Program – spent her summer creating pasta-shaped 3D-printed plastic for use in water reclamation efforts.

The work is funded by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and is based in CU Boulder Research Professor John Pellegrino’s Fundamental Membrane Development, Characterization, & Applications lab. The plastic could be used to increase the mixing and crystallization of supersaturated, saline water after it is pumped through a tube during inland water reclamation efforts.

That ability could have lasting implications for water conservation in the west where there are many "impaired" inland water sources. That includes water coming up from underground due to fossil fuel production or excess agricultural drainage for example. Both of which could still have beneficial uses after some treatment. Reverse osmosis desalination can be used to make those and other sources suitable for broad use – potentially easing supply and conservation issues if done economically. However, there is always a "high salt" leftover that must be disposed of during these processes. Knoop’s work is part of an effort to maximize the amount of water available from those kinds of sources and minimize the amount of leftover water that contaminates the environment.

There are many real-world undergraduate student research opportunities in the college through industry, government, and academic partnerships. Find your fit by browsing the programs, or talk to a professor about open positions in their labs.