LLE: From Mitigating Climate Change to Enhancing Access to Safe Water: Unmet Global Challenges and Role of Chemical Engineering (Arup SenGupta, Lehigh University)

November 16, 2022 @ 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm
200 College Street

Co-hosted with the Institute for Water Innovation (IWI)

Arup SenGupta, Lehigh University

Host: Prof. Nikolai De Martini

The elevated atmospheric CO2 concentration resulting from anthropogenic emissions is singularly responsible for global climate change and viewed as the worst existential threat confronting humanity today. Besides replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy and emission control, direct air capture (DAC) of CO2 from the ambient atmosphere has emerged as a potential strategy for achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 as recommended by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). While the DAC implementation is geographically very flexible, the ultra-dilute atmospheric CO2 concentration (~ 400 ppm) poses a formidable hurdle for high CO2 capture capacity using sorption-desorption processes. At Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, we have developed a hybrid sorbent enabling a high CO2 sorption capacity (> 5.0 moles CO2 per kg sorbent) that is nearly 2-3 times greater than other sorbents reported to date. Upon exhaustion, this sorbent is amenable to efficient regeneration by simple salt solutions at ambient temperature without needing any thermal energy. This study reveals for the first time that sea water has the potential to be used both as a regenerant and a sink for direct air capture of CO2 at ambient temperature.

It is well recognized today that lack of access to quality water drives inequality and perpetuates the cycle of poverty. Although unknown nearly three decades ago, natural arsenic contamination of groundwater has emerged as a major global crisis affecting over fifty countries. The adverse health effects resulting from drinking of arsenic contaminated groundwater are most apparent in South and Southeast Asia in countries like Bangladesh, Cambodia, Nepal, India, Laos and China where over 200 million people, according to World Health Organization (WHO), are severely threatened with arsenic-inflicted health impairment. During the last 20 years, the speaker and his students aided by many international partners are striving to resolve the crisis globally. In many regions, intervention through innovative technology has resulted in economic growth and employment opportunities in affected communities. Speaker’s experience in several countries including India, Cambodia and Bangladesh will be presented.

For well over three decades, Arup K SenGupta’s research has encompassed nearly every aspect of water science and technology: from drinking water treatment to desalination to municipal wastewater reuse to resource recovery. SenGupta is internationally recognized for advancing and expanding the field of ion exchange science and technology, and applying it for development of sustainable technologies and new materials. Currently, SenGupta is actively pursuing direct air capture (DAC) of CO2 from atmosphere to mitigate global climate change. He is the inventor of the first reusable, arsenic-selective hybrid anion exchanger nanomaterial (HAIX-Nano). Over two million people around the globe currently drink arsenic-safe water through use of HAIX-Nano.

For his research and scholarly contributions, SenGupta received many national and international awards including: 2004 International Ion Exchange Award at the university of Cambridge, England; 2007 Grainger Challenge Silver Award (2007) from the National Academy of Engineering (NAE); 2009 Lawrence K Cecil Environmental Award from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE); and 2012 Intel Environmental Award for ‘technology benefiting humanity’ to name a few.


View the complete 2022-23 LLE schedule

Questions? Please contact Professor Jay Werber (jay.werber@utoronto.ca) or Sophia Lu (soph.lu@mail.utoronto.ca).