Welcome to the Environmental Engineering Program Laboratories!
Environmental Engineering Research Laboratories
Housed within the Sustainable Energy and Environmental Laboratories (SEEL) this 14,000 foot facility focuses on research for advancing water and wastewater treatment techniques, water quality monitoring, air quality and treatment, and state of the art physical, chemical and microbial analyses. The laboratories includes a variety of analytical instrumentation and equipment to help students conduct research.
Bench and Pilot Scale Treatment Process innovations
In addition to conventional water and wastewater treatment research, the Boulder laboratories focus on next generation process development including:
Biofiltration – Pilot and lab-scale capacity to evaluate the biofiltration of drinking waters and wastewater effluent;
Biochar production and evaluation – Production capacity in the field (100 L) and in the lab (controlled furnaces), including lab-scale batch and column systems and pilot-scale columns for testing the adsorption capacity of the biochars.
Ozonation - Lab and pilot scale ozonation units for coupled ozone-biofiltration and ozone-ceramic membrane research, Ozone disinfection studies, and oxidation of organic contaminants;
Advanced Oxidation – UV-based lab and pilot facilities to examine hydrogen peroxide, peracetic acid, sulfate and chlorine-based hydroxyl and other radical-based processes for organic contaminant treatment in water and wastewater reuse; UV Light Emitting Diodes – bench and pilot scale next generation energy efficient, non-mercury UV-based processes for disinfection of pathogens and biofouling reduction ahead of membranes.
Membrane Testing Facilities and Modeling
Our membrane testing facilities include membrane synthesis, property measurements, and evaluation for important energy and water applications. They include systems capable of precisely controlling flow, temperature, and pressure in membrane modules, allowing for experiments on membrane distillation (MD), forward osmosis (FO), and pressure-retarded osmosis (PRO). For rapid characterization of samples, our facilities house a high-pressure reverse osmosis (RO) system capable of testing multiple membranes simultaneously. Equipment for ion transport measurements and electrochemical characterization, such as a function generator and potentiostat, is also available. Other instrumentation includes polarized light microscope, FT-IR spectrometer, a differential scanning calorimeter, dynamic mechanical analyzer, a powder X-ray diffraction system, gas permeation/sorption test unit, high resolution and environmental scanning electron microscope for elemental concentration and location with 1 mm spatial resolution, High field FT-NMR spectrometers (500-, 400-, and 300-MHz Varian spectrometers), elemental analyzers, EPR spectrometer and a resonance Raman spectrometer. Expertise in process-level modeling of desalination systems, mostly focused on quantifying energy consumption and system size for membrane and thermal based systems. The models quantify rejection in the process and effluent water quality and can be expanded to modeling systems with multiple dissolved species. Modeling is typically performed in Python or Matlab.
Chemical Analytical Facilities and Capabilities
Our water chemistry laboratories have state-of-the-art analytical capabilities with instrumentation such as a GC/MS, GC-ECD, GC-FID/ECD, TOC (combustion and persulfate-UV oxidation methods), UV-Vis spectrophotometers, fluorescence spectroscopy, HPLCs with photodiode detectors as well as ion trap and MS, size exclusion chromatography, ion chromatography, and inductively coupled mass spectrometry. Shared Instrumentation Network at CU Boulder allows immediate access to instrumentation for materials characterization, nanomaterials fabrication, mass spectrometry and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy.
Classical and Molecular Microbiological Facilities
Microbiological work includes virology/cell culture, molecular microbiology, bacteriology, phage microbiology, toxicology and mammalian cell culture. Our microbiology laboratories offer specialized equipment including a 10 m3 stainless steel walk-in chamber isolating controlled environment incubators separating pre- and post-infection cell lines, equipment for plaque assays (inverted microscopes), genetic material extraction, membrane immobilization, DNA/RNA hybridizations, PCR/qPCR thermocyclers, electrophoresis units and associated illuminators, photographic documentation equipment as well as a DNA sequencer. Also, this laboratory includes a state-of-the-art microscopy lab which houses several modern microscopes including a Olympus phase contrast station, and a Nikon E-400 compound epifluorescent microscope, with multiple filter sets capable of detecting a wide spectrum of biological stains.
Air Quality Research Facilities
The air quality engineering research laboratory is outfitted with multiple aerosol characterization chambers, including a 38 m3 walk-in aerosol test room. This lab houses several gaseous, aerosol, and bioaerosol characterization instruments. Specifically, we have a suite of on-line and off-line atmospheric chemistry instruments, including two gas chromatography-mass spectrometers, one proton-transfer reaction mass spectrometer, a total and non-methane hydrocarbon flame ionization detector analyzer, O3, CO, and CO2 monitors, an elemental/organic carbon analyzer, and a calibration chamber. For bioaerosol research, we have specifically a biosafety cabinet, a spiral plater, and bioaerosol sampling and analysis capability. For aerosol physical measurements, the laboratory houses multiple particle sizers and particle counters, multiple cascade impactors.
Photocatalysis facilitites possess capabilities for synthesizing photocatalysis-based processes, including two Schlenk lines, air free glassware, temperature controller, centrifuge, balance, hazardous waste handling area and glovebox. Characterization of semiconductor nanoparticles, is done with a Cary 100 double beam UV-Vis and a Malvern Nanosight LM10 Nanoparticle Tracking Analysis instrument. Photocatalytic reactions are powered by solar simulator and multiple LED light sources and to measure catalytic activity.
Solar Processes, Simulators and UV Irradiation Facilities
The labs house a state of the art 45 kW electric high flux solar simulator interfaced to a hybrid solar/electric 12 kW thermal receiver. In addition, the labs have unique light sources for photo-based processes including an Oriel solar simulator, bench and pilot-scale low and medium pressure mercury-based UV lamps, Excimer sources emitting at 222 and 282 nm, and a suite of UV LEDs spanning the deep UV to UVA wavelengths at bench and pilot scales.
Environmental Mass Spectrometry Laboratory
The University of Colorado, Boulder, Center for Environmental Mass Spectrometry has state-of-the-art instrumentation that are organized and managed to facilitate usage by students and faculty in the Environmental Engineering Program, with a special interest in analysis of water from unconventional oil and gas exploration and wastewater treatment plants. The Center of Excellence for Environmental Mass Spectrometry (CEMS) is a collaboration through the Civil, Environmental, and Architectural Engineering Department and Agilent Technologies, Inc., which was established in 2008. The Center also collaborates closely with the US Geological survey research group in Boulder, Colorado.
The instrumentation, mainly a liquid-chromatography quadrupole-time of flight mass spectrometer (LC-Q/TOF-MS) is operated by researchers who are dedicated to accurate mass analysis and run the samples. Unknown analysis is now one of the key topics in environmental research on water, water reuse, and energy. The Center has written numerous publications on these topics and are leaders in the field of environmental analysis and methods development for the identification of pesticides and pharmaceuticals. Also part of this laboratory is automated solid phase extraction equipment for sample preparation, which is a necessary component to trace analysis of water, especially in water reuse operations.
Center for Environmental Systems Analysis
The CU Boulder Center for Environmental Systems Analysis (CESA) was established in 2020 to support teaching and interdisciplinary research at the University of Colorado Boulder. CESA also provides technical services related to complex environmental and regulatory problems. The CESA laboratory facilities include Thermo and Perkin Elmer spectrophotometers, two Dionex ion chromatography systems, a Seal segmented flow analyzer, a Shimadzu carbon/nitrogen analyzer, a Costech elemental combustion system, and various other instruments. These instruments provide capabilities for low-level nutrient analyses and other analyses relevant to source-water protection, advanced wastewater treatment, environmental monitoring for standards compliance, and ecosystem studies. In addition to CESA's support for faculty and student research on the Boulder campus, service activities provide training opportunities for students and recent graduates who seek experience with analytical chemistry and field studies of environmental systems.