Brain Chaplin

Please join us in congratulating ChE Associate Professor Brian Chaplin on receiving a SERDP grant entitled “Reactive Electrochemical Membrane (REM) Reactors for Electrochemical Degradation of Munitions Constituents in Manufacturing Wastewaters” for $749,000. 

Brian is the lead PI of this grant, and UIC is the lead university with a $500,000 share of the funds. Brian is the only PI from UIC; the other collaborating university is University of California at Riverside.

Brian is a leader in the area of water purification and reactive electrochemical membranes.

The abstract of the research proposal is provided below:

Proposal Title
Reactive Electrochemical Membrane (REM) Reactors for Electrochemical Degradation of Munitions Constituents in Manufacturing Wastewaters
Lead Principal InvestigatorBrian P. Chaplin, Dept. of Chemical Engineering
Lead OrganizationUniversity of Illinois at Chicago

Objective: The manufacture of munitions and load/assemble/pack (LAP) operations produce wastewaters that contain ppm-levels of various organic munitions constituents and inorganic oxyanions (i.e., nitrate (NO3-), perchlorate (ClO4-)). Munitions manufacturing facilities commonly use anaerobic/aerobic biological treatment, and LAP facilities use adsorbent-based treatment strategies. Due to stricter discharge limits and the manufacture of more water-soluble compounds, these current treatment practices are not sufficient. In addition, adsorbent-based treatment creates a concentrated waste that requires further treatment or disposal.

The overall objective of this work is to utilize a cost-effective reactive electrochemical membrane (REM) for the simultaneous degradation of various munitions constituents and IHEs from manufacturing wastewaters. Specific technical objectives associated with the proposed work include: 1) development of efficient, robust, and low-cost electrocatalysts for contaminant removal; 2) optimization of operating conditions for cost effective treatment; and 3) calculation of capital, operating, and maintenance costs for remediation using the REM and compare it to those determined for biological and adsorbent-based treatment strategies using cost and life cycle assessments.

Technical Approach: In the proposed work, we are investigating the technical and economic feasibility of using REMs for treating wastewaters containing munitions constituents. The REM is a novel electroactive membrane made of porous Ti4O7 with micron-sized pores. Anodic polarization of the REM results in degradation of organic munitions constituents through a combination of direct electron transfer reactions and reactions with OHŸ that are generated from water electrolysis, and perchlorate and nitrate are reduced on the REM cathode. The small pore size and operation in flow-through mode allows for very fast mass transfer, and thus complete elimination of compounds in a single pass through the REM.

The work plan consists of REM and catalyst synthesis, a series of bench-scale experimental studies that will determine optimal operating conditions for removal of munitions constituents from wastewater samples, and a preliminary cost assessment. Experimental parameters that will be explored include: 1) adsorption capacity; 2) necessary residence time in the reactor; 3) needed membrane surface area per groundwater volume treated; and 4) energy usage (kWh/m3 water treated). The work is projected to end with proof of concept data that will determine if the REM is suitable for treatment of wastewater generated from the manufacture of munitions and at LAP operations

Benefits: The successful completion of this project will have numerous benefits to DOD and the scientific community, these include 1) a better understanding of the use of electrochemical technologies for wastewater treatment of DOD priority contaminants; 2) the generation of proof of concept data that can be used to develop a prototype REM system for the remediation of wastewaters containing diverse munitions constituents; and 3) an energy cost assessment for using the REM technology at manufacturing sites, which can be used by practitioners to assess the REM technology as a viable treatment option.