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! 

14 July 2014

[AguaClara Summer Internship 2014] Design Team

This week, we feature the Design Team with Meghan Furton '16 and Serena Takada '17.

Serena '17 (left), and Meghan '16 (right)

The Design Team utilizes Mathcad and LabVIEW to digitize the team's designs for the various operating units of the AguaClara water treatment process. From day to day, they perfect their codes for these designs that require precision so that they can be shared with the engineers that implement the designs in Honduras, India, and elsewhere. Projects that members of the design team work on can vary immensely.

Watch this interview to get an idea of what Meghan and Serena are up to this summer!

02 July 2014

[AguaClara Summer Internship 2014] Subteam Spotlight: Foam Filtration

This week, we are featuring the foam filtration subteam that is composed of four students: Skyler Ericson '16, Abby Brown '17, Ethan Keller '15, and Ji Young Kim '16.

The team is working on foam filtration which is a team focused on constructing and perfecting a water filtration unit targeted at smaller more isolated communities, places that may not be practical to build full scale water treatment plants. The design consists of many layers of porous plastic foam layered inside of a large cylindrical tank that can treat up to 1 liter of water per second. The design also incorporates a way to clean the foam which involves compressing the foam to expel the caught particulates. The main focus of the summer team is perfecting this cleaning system.

Check out the interview to get a sense of their team and get a glimpse of some of their research!