Professor James Economy's Group









Adsorption Materials







Past Researchers







Last modified 08/21/03

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Material Copyright Economy's Group

Adsorption Materials

[Activated Carbon Fibers] [Ion Exchange Fibers] [Chelating Fibers] [Membranes] [Porous Inorganic Fibers] [Gas Adsorption Membranes]


Over the past decade it has become abundantly clear that the USA and world face major threats to our water supplies. These problems have come about from a number of factors including, uncontrolled depletion of our aquifers as well as contamination of our rivers and lakes from agricultural runoff, industrial effluents, acid rain and waterborne pathogens from untreated water. At the same time we are witnessing unusual drought conditions in many parts of the USA and the world probably associated with global warming. Today, approximately 1.1 billion people in developing countries do not have access to clean water. Children are at greatest risk ( e.g. 37 children die every 10 minutes due to water contamination).

By the year 2015, it is predicted that water, not energy or food will become the major resource problem in the USA and world. The uncontrolled building of dams on major rivers, will also lead to serious disputes between nations over water rights. By the year 2025, the stress on water supplies will become further exacerbated by continued population growth and global change in climate.

As noted recently in National Geographic in Sept. 2002, the population explosion over the past 300 years has resulted in a 45 fold increase in water usage from approximately 100 cubic kilometer of freshwater / year to 5000 in the year 2000. Currently, irrigation accounts for ~ 70 % of water use, industry consumes 20%, and the remaining 10% is for domestic use.

Another problem concerns the cost of renewal of the existing water infrastructure in the USA. It is estimated that the costs of replacing and upgrading both the water and wastewater treatment facilities could approach $ 1 trillion over the next 15-20 years, a prohibitively expensive figure even for the USA .

During the past several decades, research in industry aimed at addressing the need for improved desalination systems, elimination of foulants and removal of trace contaminants has been sharply reduced. Hence, most processes used today in water purification resemble closely the technologies in use 10-30 years ago. In August of 2002, the NSF established a Science and Technology Center at the University of Illinois on Advanced Materials for Water Purification. The goal was to stimulate research on new materials that would provide low-cost, highly efficient systems for producing potable water from the oceans and from waste water. This program is just now getting underway and hopefully will begin to make an impact in the next few years.