$10,000 Grant to Fund Water Quality Research

By Anna Lynn Spitzer

Irvine, Calif., May 08, 2008 --Jian-Guo Zheng, project scientist and operation director of Calit2’s Irvine Materials Characterization Labs, is collaborating with the Irvine Ranch Water District to study the quality of its water.

Gian Mario Maggio

Zheng, who recently won a $10,000 seed grant from UCI’s Urban Water Research Center, will utilize the multi-purpose scanning electron microscope (SEM) in Calit2’s Zeiss Center of Excellence to study sludge and effluents in the IRWD’s processed water.  IRWD serves customers in Irvine, and portions of Costa Mesa, Lake Forest, Newport Beach, Tustin, Santa Ana, Orange and unincorporated Orange County.

The IRWD will supply multiple sludge samples taken from different stages of water processing, and Zheng and his team will analyze them. These analyses will provide useful information about the effectiveness of water processing and filtering.

Scientists use compound optical microscopes and X-ray fluorescence to analyze water sludge on a daily basis. Zheng says electron microscopes offer higher resolution and three-dimensional imaging, as well as higher spatial resolution for analyzing composition. “Our SEMs give us much higher quality images and enable us to observe samples under fully hydrated conditions,” he says.

“We’re going to characterize the sludge and effluents present in water, and try to improve water quality by understanding its processing,” he says. “By analyzing sludge samples, we can understand which areas need improvement.”

Zheng plans to wrap up the first phase of the research in September and apply for additional funding. He hopes to expand the research to include state and/or national agencies.

“The public is concerned with water quality,” he states. “We are obligated to address this issue by taking advantage of advanced imaging and analytical techniques, and continuing to improve quality.”

The Urban Water Resource Center, directed by William Cooper, professor of civil and environmental engineering, was established at UCI in September, 2001. Its mission is to advance understanding of the characteristics and challenges of the urban water environment, while promoting health, enhancing efficient use of water resources and protecting environmental values.