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05-18-2014

Clarkson University Researcher Pioneering Method for Water Purification

“We’re using water to clean water.”

Selma Mededovic ThagardThis is how Selma Mededovic Thagard describes her current work on purifying drinking water.

The assistant professor of chemical & biomolecular engineering at Clarkson University is pioneering a new purification process that, if successful, could help millions of people without access to clean water quickly and efficiently purify water to make it safe for drinking and cooking.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is funding this first-of-its-kind water purification research project.



Thagard’s method begins by changing water from liquid to vapor. “Then, we go beyond that,” she says, “heating the vapor until it becomes plasma. In this state, the molecules become highly reactive. It’s like creating lightning in liquids.”

This conversion happens in a plasma reactor that generates an electrical field so powerful that within minutes it can purify several gallons of drinking water.

“We’re not heating the water that’s being purified,” Thagard says, “so the plasma reactor requires much less energy than some traditional purification methods. People all over the world -- especially in places with few resources -- could use this process to remove toxins and water-borne parasites from their drinking supply.”

Clarkson University launches leaders into the global economy. One in five alumni already leads as a CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. Located just outside the Adirondack Park in Potsdam, N.Y., Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university for undergraduates with select graduate programs in signature areas of academic excellence directed toward the world’s pressing issues. Through 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, sciences and health sciences, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo, and connect discovery and engineering innovation with enterprise.

[A photograph for media use is available at http://www.clarkson.edu/news/photos/sthagard-2.jpg .]

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Michael P. Griffin, director of News & Digital Content Services, at 315-268-6716 or mgriffin@clarkson.edu.]

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