Water purification using a graphene bead filter

EPA Grant Number: SU839293
Title: Water purification using a graphene bead filter
Investigators: Joo, Sung Hee
Institution: University of Miami
EPA Project Officer: Page, Angela
Phase: I
Project Period: February 1, 2018 through January 31, 2019
Project Amount: $15,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2017) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: P3 Challenge Area - Water , P3 Awards , Sustainability


The proposed research objectives are three-fold: (1) to design and construct a column reactor filled with beads that are coated with nanomaterials (i.e. graphene), (2) to optimize operation parameters, and (3) to determine and assess the treated effluent after treatment through the column reactor filled with the beads. The described bead filtration system is expected to efficiently treat water containing the contaminants of concern (antibiotic-resistant bacteria) and to reduce the extensive treatment that is required by conventional treatment technologies. The graphene-coated bead filter water treatment system will generate economic benefits, along with the benefits of less waste generated from the system, less energy consumption, and increased simplicity of use. People would benefit from the bead filtration system because of its ability to improve public health and enhance the quality of life through the advancement of water quality. Overall, the filtration system would create a sustainable approach for meeting the nation’s clean water needs.


The proposed research project will develop and advance applications of nanotechnology for removal of difficult-to-treat contaminants (i.e. antibiotic-resistant bacteria). Recently, superbugs (antibiotic-resistant bacteria) have been detected even in drinking water across the nation. As population is expected to increase over time, significant demands for clean water continue to rise. It is therefore imperative to develop cost-effective treatment systems that would work for both small and large scale treatment plants. There is clear motivation to incorporate nanomaterials; due to their large surface area and high adsorbent qualities, nanoparticles have been regarded as promising materials for water treatment. Small amounts of nanoparticles are able to
uptake significant contaminant concentrations and their use has thus been widely regarded as a possible solution to small scale water treatment applications. Nonetheless, this field is still in its early phase of research. In particular, graphene oxide has only recently been added to the list of possible nanoparticles for use in water decontamination. Despite the numerous benefits associated with the use of nanoparticles for water treatment purposes, the use of graphene as coating materials on beads for filtration has not been understood well enough for such up-to-date applications. This research aims to develop cost-effective, nanomaterial-coated bead filtration and integrate recently studied methods regarding the various types of nanomaterials as coating materials and how to optimize treatment parameters for removal of the target contaminants (e.g. E.coli, P.aeruginosa, nitrate, perchlorate).


Our interdisciplinary student team at University of Miami (UM) will integrate “learning and training” into the filtration process and design in order to ensure the feasibility of the research regarding nanomaterials incorporated water purification systems. This field, as mentioned before, is in a relatively early stage of research and this project will be a potentially transformative study in water treatment. Results of this project will be assessed to determine the efficacy in collaboration with the industry partner (CH2M environmental consulting firm) and University of Alaska Fairbanks, and a webinar will be available to make the community aware of this sustainable approach for purifying contaminated water using the novel filtration system.

Expected Results:

This project aims to develop a more cost effective and sustainable water purification system. The proposed system offers a simple and comprehensive treatment method for contaminated water using graphene-coated bead filtration. The filtration system works to save treatment costs by reducing energy consumption through extensive treatment systems that are required for difficult-to-treat contaminants, such as newly emerging contaminants of concern including antibiotic-resistant bacteria. It is imperative to design such an integrated system that combines physicochemical transformation of contaminants through adsorption, degradation, and filtration. Throughout the experimental tests, it is expected that the filtration system will offer feasible and economic benefits to local utilities, particularly for decentralized water supply systems.

Supplemental Keywords:

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria, Decentralized water supply, Bead filtration, Graphene, Nanomaterials, Sustainability