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Environmental engineering student wins national award for research paper

Prasun Chatterjee, a graduate student in environmental engineering, has helped develop an inexpensive material that uses a simple pH test to detect toxins in drinking water.

Prasun Chatterjee, whose research at Lehigh has contributed to a new way of detecting toxic lead and copper in water, has been chosen to receive one of the highest research honors bestowed on graduate students in the field of environmental chemistry.

Chatterjee will receive the 2010 C. Ellen Gonter Environmental Chemistry Award from the American Chemical Society’s (ACS) Environmental Chemistry Division when ACS holds its fall national meeting in Boston this August.

Chartered by the U.S. Congress, ACS has more than 160,000 members. It is the world’s largest scientific society and the premier international organization for chemists, chemical engineers and related professions.

The Gonter award is given to a graduate student for an outstanding research paper. Gonter (1922-2006) was a research chemist and consultant who worked for the U.S. Army, U.S. Steel Corp., Pittsburgh Coke and Chemical Co., the Nuclear Utilities Service Corp. of Pittsburgh and the National Sanitation Foundation of Ann Arbor, Mich.

Chatterjee, a Ph.D. candidate in environmental engineering in the department of civil and environmental engineering, will deliver the invited Gonter lecture, “Rapid Detection of Toxic Metals in Water through pH Changes Using a Novel Hybrid Material.”

Detecting toxins at the parts-per-billion level

At Lehigh, Chatterjee’s faculty adviser is Arup K. SenGupta, the P.C. Rossin Professor of civil and environmental engineering and also of chemical engineering. SenGupta has won numerous awards for applying the principles of ion exchange and physical chemistry to environmental challenges.

Chatterjee’s doctoral research has led to the development and synthesis of an inexpensive inorganic material that can detect toxic lead or copper in water at the parts-per-billion level by using a pH meter or pH paper. He and SenGupta coauthored a paper on the material for the AIChE (American Institute for Chemical Engineers) Journal.

Chatterjee is also co-inventor of a technology called “Rapid Sensing of Toxic Metals through Use of Hybrid Inorganic Materials,” for which a U.S. patent has been applied.

Students in Lehigh’s freshman engineering projects classes use hybrid inorganic materials to make easy-to-use gadgets that detect toxins in drinking water.

Chatterjee received his B.S. and M.S. in chemical engineering from Jadavpur University in India and is hoping to complete his Ph.D. this year.

 

Story by Kurt Pfitzer

Posted on Tuesday, April 06, 2010

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