03 November 2014

Team Profile: Stacked Rapid Sand Filter

Stacked Rapid Sand Filters are an AguaClara innovation that are significantly easier to operate and maintain in AguaClara plants. The Enclosed Stacked Rapid Sand Filters are an adaptation of these filters for flow rates of 3 L/s or less. Flow rates such as these are common through the India plants and the eSTaRs subteam will be working closely with AguaClara LLC in India. This Semester’s team consists of Senior Environmental Engineering majors Mary Millard, Sarah Bolander and Savannah Wing, Operations Research Junior Skyler Erickson and Sophomore Environmental Engineer Subhani Katugampala.

The eStaRs subteam was a part of the AguaClara summer internship program.

“The biggest project over the summer was getting the backwash system working,” Millard said.

This semester’s team will be working closely with engineers on the ground in India. “We’re hoping to help solve a lot of the problems going on in Gufu,” Erickson said. “We really want to find the upward turbidity the system can handle and by the end of the semester we’ll have a better understanding of the extremes the system can handle in the field.”

“We’re currently discussing how we could run several filters in parallel,” Bolander said “They’re already doing this in India but we’re looking for something more easy to handle.”

Summing up the semester’s goal nicely Millard noted “The LLC is working with TaTa in India and trying to produce next version eSTaRs on a large scale. We want to use our data in the lab to make sure it’s fine tuned and improved.”

27 October 2014

Chemical Dose Controller (CDC) Team Profile

After fabricating a new design for the Chemical Dose Controller (CDC), this semester’s team consisting of Senior Environmental Engineers Jeanette Liu and Andrea Cashon and Sophomore Chemical Engineer Christine Leu, looks to begin testing this semester.

In an AguaClara plant, the chemical dose controller acts as a semi-automated system that linearly increases the dosage of disinfectant and coagulant with an increase of flow. With this, AguaClara plants can operate at the most efficient chemical dosage levels despite any changes of flow through the plant.

Last semester, CDC fabricated a lighter lever arm, thus making it easier to ship, intended for plants with lower flow rates that do not need coagulant, such as in India. In addition to being light, the head tank must be chlorine resistant due to the AguaClara plants use of Chlorine as a disinfectant. Last semester’s CDC team adjusted a Nalgene water bottle to act as the head tank.

Looking to this semester, CDC anticipates to now test the equipment. One specific concern is that while the body of the Nalgene bottle is chlorine resistant, the cap is not, so additional adjustments and fabrication may be required. One of the current proposed solutions to the corrosion issue is to use a PVC pipe instead of a nalgene bottle and fasten a cap to the bottom of the PVC pipe. Additionally, the CDC team will be looking at testing the LFOM to determine if the size decreases by 10 cm if the linear relationship between the flow into the plant and the dosing still applies. If these test prove the relationship still stands the tank size can be scaled down. The scaled down plant size has the potential to cut construction plants and increase AguaClara plant efficiencies. The overall goal of the semester, however, is to see if all of the small adjustments, such as new eye bolts that are susceptible to corrosion and height adjustments, to the overall system will result in a greater improvement to the plant.

Eventually, the team hopes to make an equipment list and a guide to send out to plants on how to construct the improved CDC system.

15 August 2014

India update and new opportunities

AguaClara water treatment plant on top
 of a water storage tank in the village
of Ronhe, Jharkhand, India

The Cornell AguaClara program continues to grow into a global network with a vision for Safe Water on Tap for Communities Everywhere. 
In early July I visited the village of Ronhe in Jharkhand, India and their AguaClara water treatment plant with low flow stacked rapid sand filters (red/white/green columns in photo below) and chemical dosers. The facility is waiting for chemicals and then it will be fully operational. The system include a solar powered pump, an elevated storage tank with an AguaClara water treatment plant on top of the tank, and piped water to all of the households in the village.
On July 16, Ken Brown, Maysoon Sharif, and I met with Dr. Smita Misra in New Delhi, India. Dr. Misra is a senior economist at the World Bank and is the team leader for a $1 billion Rural Water Supply and Sanitation for low income states project that is underway in India. We presented the technologies we are showcasing in Jharkhand and in Honduras and discussed their applicability for scale up. Our new technologies for providing safe water on tap in villages generated a great deal of interest. We discussed system approaches to improving the performance of rural water supply systems. The World Bank project has $93 million dedicated for education and capacity building and Dr. Misra was enthusiastic about opportunities for collaborating.
Dhaval Mehta (Cornell '14) and
Maysoon Sharif (principal, 
AguaClara LLC) inside the Ronhe
AguaClara water treatment plant.
We met with Tata Water Mission in Mumbai and AguaClara LLC is exploring the possibility that Tata will fabricate our Low Flow Stacked Rapid Sand Filters for use in village water supply schemes.
We visited Somaiya Vidyavihar University and two of their village projects that were funded by the Girivanvasi Trust. We were hosted by Cornell alumnus and Indian industrialist and philanthropist Samir Somaiya ChE '90, MChE '92, MBA '93.  We are exploring opportunities for an ongoing collaboration between the AguaClara program at Cornell and Somaiya Vidyavihar University.
The Indian government has made providing piped water for villages a priority. AguaClara LLC plans to establish an India office in the coming months so that they can focus on the opportunities for scale up in India. AguaClara can provide expertise on how to make village water supply systems both high performing and sustainable. This is an amazing opportunity to improve the quality of life in rural India.
In the coming months I will be working with Ken Brown to assemble an AguaClara Advisory Council (AAC) that will oversee the combined AguaClara program at Cornell and AguaClara LLC. The AAC will extend our network for entry into additional countries and help establish an AguaClara Center at Cornell so that Cornell can expand its role as the global leader in safe drinking water supply.
A few weeks ago I learned that Professor Lion and I have received a National Science Foundation award for EXPERIMENTAL EVALUATION AND MODELING OF HYDRAULIC FLOCCULATION SYSTEMS UNDER CONDITIONS OF TURBULENT FLOW. This award will enable us to continue our research into the fundamental mechanisms of flocculation with the goal of improving the design of hydraulic flocculators. Our proposal is based on our new flocculation model that for the first time makes it possible to predict flocculator performance based on the physics of the process.
I am excited about the amazing opportunities for innovation, learning, and making the world a better place. At Cornell we develop new understandings of the fundamental mechanisms that underlie drinking water treatment. We change student lives with more than 500 students over the past decade having engaged in our innovation system. AguaClara LLC’s expanding role in the world will employ more Cornell graduates as they transfer knowledge generated at Cornell to local partners with the vision of providing safe water on tap for communities everywhere.

29 July 2014

New Cornell Engineers Send-off

This summer, AguaClara LLC hired two fresh Cornell graduates to join the team in Honduras in designing and implementing the technologies being developed on campus. Jon Christensen and Walker Grimshaw flew to Honduras to begin their year-long assignment this past Monday, July 28th. Before they left, I interviewed them individually and asked them a few questions about their thoughts on the journey.

Jon Christensen, M.Eng. 2014

Tell me about yourself.
My name is Jon Christensen and I’m from Minnesota. I just completed a Masters of Engineering degree here at Cornell, and while I was here, I worked on the Turbulent Tube Flocculator team on the AguaClara research group. I’m going down to Honduras for a year and I’m excited to have the chance to keep working with AguaClara.

Why did you want to go to Honduras with AguaClara?
I wanted to go to Honduras because I have a math, physics, and environmental engineering background. In my career, I want to do work that applies those skills and also helps people in providing clean drinking water, so working in Honduras was a perfect way to do that all that once.

What are you doing in Honduras?
In Honduras, I’ll be working with the people of Agua Para el Pueblo (APP), the people building the AguaClara plants. Both Walker and I will be the hydraulic experts assisting them in the construction of treatment plants while we’re down there.

How do you feel about the transition from lab work on campus to field work in Honduras?
I went to Honduras for two weeks last January and saw some of the large treatment plants there. I got to see the San Nicolรกs treatment plant while it was being built. I've been exposed to the plants and the conditions there, so I think it will be an easy transition even though the types of work I will be doing will be very different between researching the theory behind these treatment technologies versus actually implementing the technologies and building the plants.

What are you most excited about?
I think I’m most excited about experiencing a new culture. The weather is going to be much better than it is in Ithaca, and I think the food will be fun to experience. We experienced [on the January trip] that the people are very welcoming. I’m excited about that too.

Are you nervous about anything?
The thing I am most nervous about is communicating with people. My Spanish is pretty basic at the moment with a lot to learn, so it will be challenging to communicate with people right off the bat.

Will you be taking Spanish lessons?
Yes, when I get there, I’ll take at least a week of an intensive Spanish course, possibly longer. That’ll definitely help me work in Spanish.


Walker Grimshaw, B.S. 2014
Who are you?
I am Walker Grimshaw. I just graduated from Cornell with a bachelor’s degree in biological engineering in May.

Why are you interested in working in Honduras?
Initially, I was just planning on going to graduate school, but when I went on the annual January trip to Honduras with 20-25 other Cornell students, I saw what they had to offer and spoke to Monroe in the spring about the possibility of working down there. It just seemed to be the sort of opportunity that doesn't present itself very often, something that I can take advantage of as a twenty-something year old and that I can not only learn a lot from but hopefully also contribute a lot to.

What will you be doing there?
[Jon] and I are both essentially replacing Drew’s presence on the ground. Drew is the current engineer that works down in Honduras who was a student here at Cornell and did the AguaClara program. We will be doing maintenance and updates of the plants that have already been in operation for a few years as well as finding new projects and monitoring construction and helping out with a very specific hydraulic design of new projects.
Myself specifically, I will be working very closely with the foam filtration team at Cornell on a pilot project in Honduras for foam filtration, which is our newest technology for small communities less than 1000 people.

What are you most excited about?
With regards to living abroad, I have done a few fairly short trips to other countries and I've loved them. I’m really excited to go down and have a very different sort of life. It’s also what I’m most scared or anxious about. Things will be very different then they have been especially having lived in the “Cornell bubble” for the last 3 years and going to not even just a city but a city where I sort of speak the language. It will be very different, so I’m excited but apprehensive.

How is your Spanish?

I am confident conversationally, but that is about it. Since I graduated a month and a half ago, I've been trying to practice my Spanish a fair amount and get it back to where it was when I was taking Spanish courses. Pretty early on in the process we’ll have the opportunity to take some intensive Spanish courses. Then it will just be a matter of getting out of the house every so often and speak with people I’m working with and people outside of work in social settings. That will really improve my Spanish more than anything.


Walker and Jon, we wish you the best of luck for your time in Honduras!