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Environmental Concentrations

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The M.Eng. Environmental Program at Cornell University provides coursework and projects across three focus areas of environmental engineering: 

Students can choose a curriculum that provides depth in any of the three focus areas or breadth across the three focus areas. In addition to coursework, the program uniquely offers environmental engineering projects to students. The projects are designed and mentored by members of the environmental engineering faculty. Students work in teams to solve real world and open-ended environmental engineering problems using laboratory experiments, field measurements, and/or computer modeling and simulations. Students can select projects to develop skills in engineering design, engineering research and development, and/or data analysis and decision making. 

There is a diverse selection of projects centered around the AguaClara program, which uses laboratory research to invent low-energy, high-performance water and wastewater treatment technologies for the Global South. Students will be invited to participate in a January intersession trip to Honduras, where twelve AguaClara water treatment plants are in operation. Some examples of projects planned to be offered in the 2016-17 academic year are listed below. Students also have the option of participating in design projects in engineering management. Interested students should contact Monroe Weber-Shirk to discuss other potential project ideas. 


Proposed Projects for 2016-17

Ultra High-Rate Sedimentation Tank
Sedimentation Tank 560
Sedimentation tanks are the largest unit processors in conventional drinking water treatment and hence are responsible for a significant fraction of the capital cost. The AguaClara program has invented and deployed a hydraulically self-cleaning sedimentation tank. The goal for the next generation of the technology is to further reduce the size and cost of sedimentation tanks so that they are more compact than porous media filtration technologies. This will require bench-scale experiments as well as modeling work to invent a tank design that efficiently separates a high concentration solids stream from the clarified water. This sedimentation tank will be used initially to treat surface waters for villages in Honduras and then adopted for municipal scale water treatment plants.

Removal of Dissolved Constituents Using Polyaluminum Chloride
Polyaluminum Chloride
A range of dissolved constituents including fluoride, arsenic, textile dyes, and dissolved natural organic matter can be removed from water using polyaluminum chloride. This bench-scale research will focus on using fluidized bed reactors to maximize the removal efficiency of these constituents. 

High Efficiency Flocculator (Fluids)
Flocculation requires particle collisions and those particle collisions are caused by turbulence. The goal of this research is to develop flow geometries that generate more uniform turbulence and hence achieve more efficient flocculation. The turbulence levels in pilot-scale flocculators will be mapped using acoustic doppler velocimetry or particle tracking velocimetry. 

Sustainable Wastewater Treatment Bioreactors
Sustainable Water Treatment
Sustainable wastewater collection and treatment is a major challenge in the Global South. Industrialized, mechanized wastewater treatment plants have high energy and materials costs. Granular biomass reactors hold promise for compact, sustainable, easy-to-operate wastewater treatment operations that could be implemented in small communities. The goal of this research is to select and improve designs for both anaerobic biotechnologies that generate biofuel (e.g. Upflow Anaerobic Sludge Blanket reactors) – as well as aerobic/anaerobic Granular Sequencing Batch reactors which remove multiple contaminants simultaneously. Efficiency of treatment, net energy balance and bioreactor robustness are all parameters of interest. 

Surface Water Resources
Surface Water Resources
Students access the global surface water resources in order to determine where AguaClara water treatment technologies have the greatest potential to meet the need for safe drinking water. The watersheds of AguaClara facilities are then analyzed to provide recommendations for the water boards with a goal of improving water quality and quantity. 

Web-based Design of Municipal Water Treatment Plants
Web-based design
The design team for the AguaClara program is creating a suite of methods for the automated parametric design of municipal water treatment plants. Goals for 2016-17 include automated generation of section cuts for construction documents and design documentation in both English and Spanish.