Advanced materials for water treatment

The growing number of organic and inorganic contaminants, in combination with tightened regulations regarding their allowable limits in water sources, has created a need to develop more efficacious pollutant removal technologies. Conventional methods for water decontamination involve physicochemical separation and chemical oxidation, but physicochemical separation lacks pollutant selectivity and produces toxic waste streams, while chemical oxidation has intensive energy and chemicals requirements and may form toxic transformation byproducts.
New water-treatment technologies leverage the reactive and tunable properties of nanomaterials for selectivity toward priority pollutants, increased cost-efficiency, and increased energy/chemical sustainability. Through manipulation of material size, morphology, and chemical structure, nanomaterials can have exceptional adsorptive and catalytic properties for water decontamination. Two-dimensional (2D) nanomaterials are one of the latest frontiers in this regard, as their unique geometry results in a larger number of reactive and tunable surface-exposed atoms, corner sites, and edge sites as compared to their 0D and 1D counterparts.



The Importance of Nanomaterials and Environment. (A) Data obtained from Web of Science shows the increasing number of publications as a function of year in fields related to graphene and (B) its growing interest in environmental science, where applications and implications of nanosheets are focused on graphene-based nanomaterials.

Nanotechnology-based Multifunctional Materials for Water Decontamination

We aim to develop multifunctional materials for water decontamination by simultaneous adsorption, oxidation and filtration mechanisms. We fabricate novel 2D-based materials on active and passive platforms such as nanofibers and membranes to tap into hybrid removal mechanisms. We also aim to develop standardized methods to allow the comparison of decontamination performance between different multifunctional nanomaterials, pollutants, and system designs.



The Zucker Lab is well-experienced with growing nanomaterials on non-planar (3D) structures, and evaluating their potential use for water-related applications. (A) SEM images of a ceria aggregate (left), pristine fibers (center), and ceria-immobilized fibers (right). (B) Nanoceria-immobilized silica nanofibers for efficient removal of multiple contaminants through both adsorption and Fenton-like reactions.

Representative Publications

  1. S. Mauter, I. Zucker, F. Perreault, J.R. Werber, J.H. Kim, M. Elimelech; The role of nanotechnology in tackling global water challenges – pp. 166-169, 2018, Nature Sustainability.
  2. Boo, Y. Wang, I. Zucker, Y. Choo, C.O. Osuji, M. Elimelech; High performance nanofiltration membrane for effective removal of perfluoroalkyl substances at high water recovery – pp. 7279-7288, 2018, Environmental science & technology.
  3. Sun, I. Zucker, D.M. Davenport, X. Zhou, J. Qu & M. Elimelech; Reactive, Self-cleaning Ultrafiltration Membrane Functionalized with Iron Oxychloride (FeOCl) Nanocatalysts – pp. 8674–8683, 2018, Environmental science & technology.
  4. I. Zucker, N. Dizge, C.L. Fausey, E. Shaulsky, M. Sun, M. Elimelech: Electrospun silica nanofiber mats functionalized with ceria nanoparticles for water decontamination, Journal of Hazardous Materials (under review.

Our Research

Nanomaterials for water treatment

Development of advanced water-treatment technologies which leverage the reactive and tunable properties of nanomaterials for selectivity toward priority pollutants, cost-efficiency and sustainability


Using model phospholipid bilayer membranes, we fundamentally study interactions of living cells and emerging nanomaterials of different chemical composition, orientation, and morphology

Advanced Oxidation

Practical oxidation technologies for organic contaminant removal from wastewater and groundwater

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