University of Houston Cullen College of Engineering


Graduate Student Receives Fellowship for Work in Water Purification


Krista Kuhl
Environmental Engineering graduate student Archana Venkataramanan works with a electrocoagulation unit designed for drinking water purification research. Photo by Stephen Pinchback.
Environmental Engineering graduate student Archana Venkataramanan works with a electrocoagulation unit designed for drinking water purification research. Photo by Stephen Pinchback.

Archana Venkataramanan, an environmental engineering graduate student with the University of Houston Cullen College of Engineering, received a $5,000 fellowship from the Ivanhoe Foundation for her research on drinking water purification.

The Ivanhoe Foundation grants fellowships deserving students from developing countries. To qualify, students must be studying at a U.S. university for a practical Master of Science degree in engineering or science, with an emphasis on water resources.

Archana was nominated by Dennis Clifford, professor of environmental engineering and director of the EE graduate program. The fellowship will help fund her research with Clifford on an innovative process to remove viruses from drinking water called electrocoagulation microfiltration (EC-MF).

A bench-scale electrocoagulation unit with a 260-mL active volume, consisting of iron anodes and stainless steel cathodes, was specially designed and developed for this research.

“When a current is passed through the EC-MF unit, the pure iron anodes produce ferric iron. This reacts with the water to form a ferric hydroxide precipitate that attracts the viruses to its surface,” said Archana. “The water is then micro-filtered to remove the iron particles with viruses attached.”

The conventional method for virus removal from water is chemical coagulation followed by microfiltration (CC-MF), which has been used for nearly a decade. According to Archana, however, this method reduces the water pH and consumes its alkalinity, causing the water to become acidic. Electrocoagulation preserves the pH of the water while, in addition, eliminates the use of corrosive chemicals. These benefits, along with the small, robust nature of the unit, make the method preferred over the more conventional chemical method.

Originally, Clifford and Shankar Chellam, associate professor of environmental engineering, received a grant to study the EC-MF process for emergency water supplies in remote, drought-stricken, or war-torn areas. EC-MF is ideal for this use because the process is readily incorporated into transportable drinking water systems.

“Previous research in our laboratory has shown that EC-MF out-performs CC-MF for virus removal in synthetic water,” said Archana. “My objective is to study the working of EC-MF in natural water, Lake Houston water, with natural organic matter, turbidity and other contaminants present.”


Related News Stories

Bang for Your Buck: Three UH Engineering Online Master’s Programs Ranked Among Top in Nation for Return on Investment

UH civil engineering program makes the 2019 Best Online Colleges list.

Three online master’s programs in the University of Houston Cullen College of Engineering were recognized for providing high return on investment and best value in the 2019 Best Online Colleges rankings released by SR Education Group.

The recently released rankings put the online M.S. degree in civil engineering at No. 5, electrical engineering at No .11 and mechanical engineering at No. 19.

Building the UH Engineering Legacy at Katy: From Foundation to New Heights

Phaneendra "Phani" Kondapi brings a unique and invaluable skillset to his roles as founding director of the UH engineering programs at Katy and director of the UH subsea engineering program.

Q & A With Founding Director Phaneendra Kondapi


Plans for the Cullen College of Engineering to expand into the Katy area grow more concrete each day as the construction of the University of Houston Katy Campus progresses. The 84,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art building will open its doors to hundreds of UH engineering students in fall 2019.