Thursday, June 30, 2011

Batch Tests, Samples, and More Samples

Continuing with several batch tests, I have started to expand the scope of my experiment. It turns out that iron oxide coated sand acts as a great sorbent of copper! I would like to explore this material (as well as coconut shell) as a feasible material for removing metals in gold mining wastewater in Ghana. It's feasibility is dependent on its ability to 'shed' copper with the help of a desorption solution.  Once I find this ideal solution, I will then test different strengths in order to find the most economical solution. 

The research that I am doing now will aid my PhD student in his pilot project in Ghana. He wants to control arsenic (present in goldmining wastewater at almost 5 mg/L) and copper (present at 10 mg/L), and will do so with two columns; one with coconut shell and the other with iron oxide coated sand. However, since he was unaware that iron oxide sand sorbs copper so well, he has to reconfigure his set-up. It's fantastic to see such a direct correlation between my work in the lab and 'real-world' applications. It is this correlation that fuels me to continue working hard this summer!!
Sorption/Desorption Batch Experoment
The above picture is one of the several batch tests that I am running to determine possible desorption (sorbent regeneration) solutions. I am testing HCl, EDTA, Acetate, NaOH, and Calcium Nitrate as possible media for desorption of copper from coconut shell/ iron oxide coated sand.

Samples, Samples
Hard work in the lab is being complemented by fantastic voyages around the Netherlands area. This past weekend, Kristin and I adventured to de Hoge Veluwe, a national park just outside of Holland. We biked along the beautiful vistas, enjoying dunes, forests, plains, and lakes. Even just outside of Delft, we found a nice lake and serious of canals surrounded by forest. These gems are everywhere, scattered throughout Holland, and are certainly worth seeing!


Wednesday, June 29, 2011


How the group spends some downtime between work-weeks...

Taking a break in Brussels
Naptime in Amsterdam
Playing in Delft

If they don't sell it, we make it.

This weekend was Anton's birthday so we went to the local costume shop in search of a pi~nata. They didn't sell any so Suzie and Caryssa decided to make one instead. Lots of newspaper, flour, water, and a balloon later, the duck was complete. See the unfinished product below (before the feathers were added).


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

All the colors of the rainbow

Lab work is definitely different here.  Making almost all your chemicals from scratch gives you a whole new perspective on how to measure water quality parameters.  Before working in the lab at USF I had only used the Hach kits.  With those you take your test tube a little sample dump in some packets of something, cook, then voila total phosphorous.  Now I really get to play chemist.  I have to make up liquid chemicals, then mix those together, work with strong acids, boil the strong acids (which takes a lot longer than you would expect), mix some more stuff together, and eventually somewhere in there I have something I can use to measure total phosphorous.  The advantages is that this way I get to make all sorts of pretty colors…  Phosphorous gives me pink/red and blue, ammonia gives me green and yellow, I just need something that makes orange, violet, and indigo....



Thursday, June 23, 2011

My little membrane factory

Yesterday morning I made a trip to the awesome hardware store, GAMMA!! I purchased some glue that I needed to make my membrane modules.

I inserted the hollow fibers into the tubing and glued the ends closed.

Here they are waiting to dry. Three hours later I cut the ends to open the fibers for filtration.


Living Buildings

I've heard of buildings being related to living systems. A common comparison is how the ventilation system allows the building to breathe and improves the overall health, but it's not something easily seen.

I think I understand the concept a little better after seeing it through my window.

It's aliiive
Each window has a retractable shade to help keep excess heat out, but still let natural light inside. It reminds me of how trees move their leaves to manage sunlight for photosynthesis.  Different use, similar movement.


Set up complete...again!

 It rains in the Netherlands a lot…  This is not a desirable trait when you’re trying to build a semi-closed system.  So my wetlands were moved yesterday to a more water proof environment, I hope.  Previously a shelter for hazardous waste now the home for my wetlands.  Don’t worry the hazardous waste is still in secondary containers and covered by plastic but most importantly my wetlands have a nice cover to keep ‘em dry.
The new set up complete with roof for protection from the elements.

Me fiddling with the drip system, I spend a lot of time looking like this.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Building on Water

The Dutch have a history of "keeping their feet dry" or living with water through years of intense water management.  Traditionally people like the build on dry land, but what happens when that option is gone?

Houseboats aren't a new technology, but they can be found throughout the Netherlands.  There was a large increase in the number of houseboats after World War II with all the leftover barges hanging around.  Today the canals are filled to near capacity.

In Amsterdam, land is scarce (as well as city canal space).  Expansion is being pushed into the waterways.  One example is the Silodam, an apartment building built over the water next to an old dock.  The apartments are no different than those on dry land, and the dock even provides both above ground and below ground car parking.

The Silodam building
Automated car parking machine underneath the dock.
To the east of Amsterdam is the community of Ijburg that is being created from the waterway.  Within the area are buildings similar to the Silodam, but there are also floating neighborhoods.  Unlike the Silodam, these neighborhoods rise and fall with any change in sea level; they are not rigid structures.

A colorful floating community at Ijburg
 Both sites can be viewed as examples of resilient buildings and potential strategies for emergency shelter construction.  If flooding is the hazard, why not build a floating component to a structure?


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

data data everywhere

I've been extra busy recently working on a report for Assiyeh and analyzing my data. It also didn't help that there were happy people playing volleyball outside my window in Mina last night as I tried to write. Eventually there will be time for play!

We finally narrowed down the research topic to either focusing on understanding the effect of different coagulation conditions (pH, dose, mixing time, and mixing intensity) on the fouling behavior of TEP (transparent exopolymer particles) in membranes or the coagulation behavior of TEP for different conditions.

I've been having a lot of trouble trying to duplicate my results so I'll have to spend some time thinking about my experimental procedure/setup to see what may be contributing to this. Meanwhile....time to keep on chugging and hopefully I'll have some results that I can use by the end of the summer.


Monday, June 20, 2011


Brugge, Belgium was amazing!  There were chocolate stores everywhere!  And I think we went into dozens of them.  Oddly there were several times as many chocolate shops in Brugge as Brussels and Brugge is probably half the size.  I bought some chocolates from “The Chocolate Line” which according to Mari is one of the best places to buy chocolate.  I can’t say I disagree the chocolates are fantastic and come in all sorts of flavors.  Although I must say hazelnut and chocolate are a very common combination around here half the chocolates seemed to have hazelnut in them.  As you can see I bought a box to bring home, there were 8 but a few have disappeared ;-).




Randomly ranting....

I haven't got back to the blog for a week or so. Last week was a pretty short because last monday was a holiday in EU. And  I also was so busy with lab work and revising my dissertation. My experiment was not really good last week. The rain gauge chip was corroded. The rain gauge box could not be resealed. The bottom tube (next to the pump) was loose and I lost all the sludge from the reactor. Anyway, it was not a really good week for me tho. I was so frustrated because of all that. It's like after you had done a lot of work then you lost everything in just a second. But at the end of the week, I could fix all of those problem and then life was getting better.
Last week, I also attended the first seminar ( this seminar is like EWER in USF) in IHE. The talk was given by Dr. Murhier about water supply and management in Uganda. It's a pretty interesting talk. His experience sharing would be very good for the third world countries in water supply.
We spent together  last Sunday in Brugge. It was a really good time for us after a hard working week. Brugge is a small city but it's very historical. The Brugge's centre is a prominent world heritage site of Unesco. Some pictures of the city will be posted very shortly after this...
I think that should be it for this blog.
ohh one more thing I want to say never use or buy a sim card from Ortel NL because it's really bad and you won't be able or have a tough time to use it outside of the NL

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Set up complete!

My project is up and running!  It still isn’t without its hick-ups such as: a tube coming disconnected last night and depriving one of my panels of influent for the evening, one of my channels doesn’t seem to be producing any effluent, my homemade grey water only having a COD of 100 mg/L instead of the 300 mg/L I wanted, or my flow rates not staying constant over a few hour period but instead slowing down or stopping.

Ah, the joys of experimentation.  Nothing ever goes as planned and if it does you’re looking for the lightning that must be about to strike you down.  I know my fellow lab mates can relate the trials and tribulations of lab work.

But we all must enjoy the small successes.  So today I am immensely happy that my 16 inch long flower boxes full of about 5 inches of water only supported by 5 flat head screws in a Styrofoam like material are still standing and have been for over 5 days now.

And here are some pictures so you all too can enjoy.

You can see the flower boxes uncovered and sort of see the screws supporting them underneath.

The black plastic is to keep rainwater out from my homemade grey water feed.  It rains frequently in Holland...

A whole picture view of my set-up.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Last weekend, I biked from Delft to the coast. I went to a Scheveningen, which is located just outside of Den Haag. It was an unusual perfect day (clear skies and highs in the 80s), and I couldn't think of any better way to take advantage of the beautiful weather.

There are a half a dozen ways to bike there, but I definitely recommend taking Delfweg, since the road lies adjacent to a beautiful and rather large canal. The ride was super easy, and I just followed the signs to Den Haag and Scheveningen. Even after being in The Netherlands for a month now, I am still amazed how safe and easy it is to get around on a bike, and I am really looking forward to more bike trips.

Maeslantkering in Pictures

Kinderdijk in Pictures

Thursday, June 9, 2011

My First Experiment!

This past week, I have completed my first batch experiment. I will be comparing the absorption of copper with two biomaterials: crushed coconut shell and iron oxide coated sand. Each medium will be placed in a flask along with a solution of copper chloride. Samples will be taken every twenty four hours for 3 days.
Hopefully, the concentration of the copper will dramatically decrease! I recently processed the data from this experiment, and will post the results soon!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Our regular workday at IHE (celebrate the 50th blog)

Mari: here I'm setting up my "homemade" hollow fiber membranes for a coagulation/filtration experiment. The hardest part is trying to get all of the air bubbles out before filtration or else my pressure readings will be off!! First I flush my membranes with milli-q water, then artificial seawater, and finally seawater with iron for coagulation experiments.

Caryssa: This morning I coorindated with Leah about case study visits over the next couple weeks, and spent the rest of the day working on creating a framework for shelter design and implementation  (Sorry, no fancy experiements to see... but interesting site visit pictures in the coming weeks).  The site visits should help bring a tangible aspect to the framework and provide examples of existing best practices.  I'm especially looking forward to visiting the floating homes at Maasbommel!

Suzie: With this project I actually feel like an engineer.  I'm still trying to get the system set up and after a day of playing with a pump and trying to split the flow equally with little success I decided to seek help.  Frank had a great idea to buy a rectangular flower planter and use that as a constant flow source for a drip feed.  I'll add more pictures as I get further building the system.
Kristen: Here I am helping Raffaella and Denys with some batch experiments. We are looking at the role pH plays on metal-sulfide precipitation. The pH values being tested are 3, 5, and 7.

Anh: I was taking samples, playing around with the AnMBR and praying the sludge won't get over my body again :D. Actually the AnMBR system is running very smoothly right now. The system is being operated under start up conditions and will be fully operated after a week from now (as expected).

Anton: I am concerned that the pH meter is actually trying to give me hard time, so I am putting it through its paces. My experiments are running very well, and I am anxious to process my recently attained data for my first batch experiment. It seems as though I have made a small discovery, and I am excited to document it!

-the 2011 team-

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Water quality?

The Netherlands and Florida share several things in common the most obvious being the low lying land.  Another thing both places share, probably due to the low lands, is a prevalence of water bodies.  Florida has retention ponds and lakes everywhere where as the Netherlands is covered with canals.  With so much water and much of it right next to roads I wonder how clean the water actually is.

Eutrophication is definitely a problem in Florida.  It is not unusual to see a retention pond covered in algae.  With the run-off from roads and all the fertilizer applied to farms and lawn it is no surprise Florida has had problems.  I am somewhat surprised however to see the same problem in the Netherlands.  Unlike in Florida they do not mow or appear to directly maintain their medians and grassy areas.  I would think that the lack of grass clippings and debris would have a positive impact on the water quality.  The use of fertilizers has increased in the Netherlands which could be affecting the water quality.

While traveling I have also seen people fishing in canals right next to road ways.  I also wonder about the safety of this.  I know in Florida people also fish near roadways but the fish is not considered safe to eat.  In some areas it is downright dangerous to consume fish from water near roads.  The runoff from roads contaminates water in Florida and I bet it does here too.  It would be interesting to do some water quality testing of the canals and waterways around Delft, maybe test the fish too.

The canal outside our apartment.  It has gotten progressively more covered in algae.  When we arrived it was clear and Friday it was about half way covered and now both sides are covered with algae as far as you can see.


Sunday, June 5, 2011

Energy Supply

Part of my research on emergency shelters includes evaluating available energy sources. The Netherlands has their fair share of power plants, but they also make use of coastal wind power (which is a very exciting sight to some environmental engineering students).

My first encounter with a wind turbine!
An important question is what happens when central power is disrupted? One answer is to look to alternatives... maybe even as far as bicycle-power, another popular energy source in the Netherlands (even if they may not know it).

Can you get adapters in that size?

Friday, June 3, 2011

Happy Workplaces

Wednesday was spent in Hoofddorp at Dura Vermeer. I appreciate being able to work with the team there, and everyone always has time for a quick hello. So far most people we've come across seem to enjoy life. It might have something to do with the bright and inviting decor at work.

Dura Vermeer shared workspaces
The fancy coffee machines don't hurt either.

...and I don't normally drink coffee
I spent time focusing the scope of my research project on smart shelters. The project is missing a technology and best practices review, so I have been collecting papers to build on that information. I think that a lot of the sustainable practices used in buildings can also be applied to the shelters, but the primary function of a technology may need to change. Technologies with multiple benefits or uses (such as green roofs) will probably tend to be the better features for smart shelters, as they are for sustainable design.

I have also been looking into Maslow's hierarchy of human needs, or other similar systems. Most emergency shelters focus on the short-term survival needs of people; but safety, self-fulfillment, and other higher needs should also be considered for proposed shelter functions, especially for longer stays.

There was an error in this gadget