EES Laboratory Facilities

The laboratory facilities of the environmental engineering and science program occupy most of the 4th floor of the Newmark Civil Engineering Laboratory, with approximately 25,000 square feet of space. About half this space has been configured for laboratory use. In 1997, these facilities had a major year-long renovation, funded in part by the National Science Foundation and the University of Illinois.

A listing and acknowledgement of all of the contributors to the Environmental Engineering and Science Program, including those who contributed to the laboratory renovation, is on a separate page.

Individual laboratory facilities include:

The Pilot Laboratory, in addition to standard lab benches and lab services, has a number of special features:

  • enhanced electrical power (increased room capacity, both 120V & 240V) with electrical service provided to open floor spaces via pendant mounted outlets on the ceiling
  • special laboratory services including groundwater and a raw sewage sampling loop
  • specialized ventilation to remove off gases from reactors.

The Air Quality Engineering and Science Research Laboratories consist of the Dusenberry Clean Room (a 250 square foot class 1000 clean room), a 220 square foot controlled temperature and relative humidity room, two general purpose air quality research laboratories of 760 square feet each, a computational laboratory, an ambient aerosol monitoring station, and two 75 square foot analytical laboratories. The Dusenberry Clean Room was provided by a generous donation from the Dusenberry family. Building compressed air and vacuum, conditioned electrical power, distilled and de-ionized water, natural gas, and exhaust hoods/HEPA recirculating hoods are available in the air quality laboratories. Analytical equipment in these laboratories includes a gas chromatograph/mass spectrometer, gas chromatograph/flame ionizer detector, ion chromatograph, three wavelength nephelometer, open volume nephelometer, differential mobility analyzers, optical particle counters, condensation nucleus counters, electrodynamic particle balance, SO2/O3/NOx relative humidity sensors, mass flow controllers, gravimetric balances, and glove boxes.

Students working in the state-of-the-art Physico-chemical Water Treatment Processes Research Laboratories have access to activated carbon, ion exchange, reverse osmosis, ultrafiltration, advanced oxidation, and photocatalytic reactors of various configurations, carbon activation and regeneration systems, and corrosion control units. Analytical instrumentation available includes several gas and ion chromatographs with various types of detectors and sampling components, atomic absorption spectrophotometer, scintillation counter, total organic carbon analyzer, scanning spectrophotometer, and many other apparatuses of general use.

The William Richardson Disinfection Laboratory, endowed by a generous gift from Mr. Richardson, is a state-of-the-art facility available to students interested in investigating the inactivation of viral, bacterial and protozoal human pathogens such as Giardia lamblia cysts, Cryptosporidium parvum oocysts, and Escherichia coli. Experimental equipment available includes a 20-ft high pilot-scale ozone bubble diffuser contactor, various bench-scale ozone and chlorine disinfection units, ozone generation and monitoring systems, and a microscope equipped with phase, bright field, dark, fluorescence, and reflected light nomarski differential interference contrast components. Additional analytical equipment includes a scanning spectrophotometer.

The Molecular Environmental Chemistry Laboratory contains facilities to support experimental research in environmental chemistry. Currently, the lab houses an FTIR spectrometer outfitted with accessories that enable the analysis of samples of wide ranging composition (e.g., aqueous, particulate solids, membranes). FTIR spectroscopy can be utilized to characterize the molecular structure and coordination environment of organic constituents in various environmental matrices. The laboratory also contains a temperature-controlled, humidity-controlled anaerobic glovebox chamber for conducting experiments in oxygen-free environments. This is crucial for studying the fate of contaminants in low-oxygen settings, such as many soils and sediments.

The Membrane Science and Technology Laboratory has facilties for measurement of membrane charge/hydrophobicity, and adsorption of natural organics. It is also equipped with several pilots and cross-flow devices for study of membrane fouling and flux decline. All membrane facilities feature computer control and data acquisition.

Synthetic, asymmetric polymeric membranes are seen as solutions to a number of societal and regulatory demands for increased drinking water quality. We are striving to understand the chemistry and physics of the interface between the membrane and water; this is the critical region which determines the rejection properties of the membrane, and is the most sensitive region of the membrane in terms of membrane fouling. A new generation of polymeric membranes with modified surfaces is being developed in collaboration with the membrane industry. Important surface properties investigated in this laboratory are hydrophobicity, charge, surface roughness, and porosity. The interaction of common particulate and organic membrane foulants is studied using solution depletion techniques and direct measurements, while computer models are used to understand the interplay between solution chemistry, foulants, fluid mechanics, and membrane surfaces. The ultimate goal of work in this lab is to understand fouling of membranes, and to develop new membranes and surface modification techniques.

The Aquatic Biology Laboratories support laboratory-based toxicity testing and field-based bioassessments. The laboratory facilities include support for water quality analyses and an environmental chamber designed for organism culture and toxicity testing. An existing laboratory complex provides culture facilities and a 40-ft. experimental stream, supplied by tap, deionized, and well water, a sample processing area, and additional laboratory and office space.

Aquatic biology laboratory research is supported by a complete field assessment capability that includes a 20-ft. large river benthic sampling platform, two electrofishing boats, and other small craft; dredges, trawls, and other sampling devices for fish, benthic macroinvertebrates, and algae. Equipment is also available for automated water sampling and continuous monitoring of critical water quality parameters.

The Biotechnology Laboratories were designed as state-of-the-art facilities to accommodate the latest developments in analytical, microbiological, and molecular biological techniques applied to environmental biotechnology. During the design, special emphasis was placed on the safe handling of hazardous organic compounds and environmental pathogens and the importance of avoiding cross contamination of experiments with microorganisms and nucleic acids. General environmental biotechnology equipment available include a hybridization oven, thermal cycler for polymerase chain reactions, nucleic acid electrophoresis units with charged couple device visualization setup, an ultra-low temperature freezer, two autoclaves, a laminar flow hood, an anaerobic glove box with anaerobic gassing station, various microcentrifuges, a high speed refrigerated centrifuge, a speed vac system, and orbital shaker baths and tables. Research areas that benefit from the availability of these laboratories are in situ bioremediation of xenobiotic compounds, applications of microbial ecology to biological treatment processes, and detection of waterborne pathogens. A number of special features of the Biotechnology Laboratories include:

  • The H. Harvey Hunt Chromatography Laboratory, endowed by a generous gift from Mr. Hunt, in combination with adjacent areas in the Biotechnology and Subsurface Science Laboratories, demonstrates the excellent analytical capabilities of our research groups. Available equipment includes gas chromatographs (equipped with FID, TCD, ECD, and reduction gas detectors) and two high performance liquid chromatography systems (equipped with an auto-injector, a variable wavelength UV/visible detector, a refractive index detector, a diode-array detector, and a fraction collector). The various chromatographs are connected to accommodate control and data analysis through personal computers.
  • A separate Radioisotope Laboratory accommodates the widespread use of radiolabelled chemicals (32P and 33P, 35S, and 14C) in molecular biology and remediation research. Two dedicated fume hoods, stainless steel lab benches, and an easily accessible scintillation counter make necessary radioisotope studies as safe as possible.
  • A separate Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) Laboratory prevents cross-contaminations of samples (e.g., via aerosols) with nucleic acids. PCR is a powerful technique for amplification of nucleic acids commonly used in molecular biology research and diagnostics.
  • Two research level microscope systems capable of bright field, phase contrast, epi-fluorescence, and Nomarski differential interference contrast are available in the darkroom/microscopy laboratory. An extremely light-sensitive liquid-cooled charged coupled device camera in combination with fluorescence microscopy is used to identify and enumerate microorganisms through the use of fluorescently labeled DNA and antibody probes. This laboratory also allows for photographic work since nucleic acid sequencing and probing with 35S and 32P requires the flexibility to develop photographic film in-house on a routine basis.

Research in the James L. and Doris I. Willmer Subsurface Science Laboratory, endowed by a generous gift from the Willmers, is focused on advancing fundamental knowledge of the processes controlling the transport and fate (bioavailability) of organic contaminants in the subsurface. These processes include the sorption equilibria and kinetics of organic solutes and the distribution and dissolution characteristics of nonaqueous phase liquids (NAPLs), all in soils and sediments. To detect trace concentrations of volatile and semivolatile organic chemicals, the lab uses two gas chromatographs (GCs) equipped with the following detectors: flame ionization detector (FID), photoionization detector (PID), Hall electrolytic condunctivity detector (HECD), and electron capture detector (ECD). One GC is also equipped with a purge and trap concentrator and a discrete autosampler. To detect trace concentrations of nonvolatile organic chemicals, the lab has access to two high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) systems equipped with one or more of the following: auto-injector, variable wavelength UV/visible detector, refractive index detector, diode-array detector, and fraction collector. Personal computers collect and store data in digital format from all GCs and HPLCs. Other equipment and facilities available for use in adjacent laboratories include an ion chromatograph, a radioisotope laboratory with a scintillation counter, two autoclaves, an anaerobic glove box with gassing station, various microcentrifuges, a high speed refrigerated centrifuge, various orbital shaker baths and tables, and gravimetric balances. The lab also has access to particle size and mesopore gas adsorption equipment for soil and sediment characterization.

The Alumni and Friends Computational Laboratory is a key component of the Environmental Engineering and Science lab facilities. It houses personal computers, workstations, and printers that are used by Environmental engineering and science graduate students and faculty for data acquisition, analysis, and visualization, for development of mathematical models, and for word processing. This laboratory is essential for the computational research activities in our subsurface science, water and air quality, and environmental systems analysis programs. It also provides additional support to experimentalists who rely heavily on the availability of extra computers for data analysis. Expansions and upgrades of existing capabilities will be made possible through additional gifts by our alumni and friends.

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