The ART Lab

We play with salinity and thermal gradients to teach and inspire the next generation of engineers.

We conduct research on membrane contactor processes for desalination, water reuse, and energy recovery from water and wastewater.

We look at process intensification, integration, and modelling of water and wastewater systems.


Our Lab is located at the WEST Center where we have bench- and pilot-scale membrane separation equipment as well as advanced analytical capability for chemicals and pathogens detection. 




April 2020: New funding from Phoenix Water

Phoenix Water is sponsoring a 18-month project to look for UF/RO pretreatment in water reuse applications. In this project we will investigate interactions between colloidal organic matter and membranes and devise pretreatment strategies to maximize water production and quality while minimizing energy and material consumption in a UF/RO treatment scheme.

March 2020: The ART Lab is going to NAMS 2020

Dr. Bianca Chaves, Mukta Hardikar, and Zach Binger are going to deliver five talks at The North American Membrane Society conference in May. Topics range from CFD modeling of membrane spacers to high salinity membrane distillation and pretreatment options for reverse osmosis in water reuse applications. We are excited to update the membrane community with the latest work of the ART Lab!

January 2020: Pilot offering of the RAPID Process Intensification Short Course Wrapped-up Successfully

We just delivered the pilot of a short course we developed through a DOE RAPID grant. Participants from all over the country and the process industries had a lot of fun playing with our pilot-scale membrane systems. We are looking forward to make it a yearly event here at the WEST Center. More info can be found here.



November 2019: New Funding from the Department of Interior Bureau of Reclamation

The ART Lab is very proud to be collaborating with PI Prof. Jim Farrell and Co-PI Prof. Kerri Hickenbottom in a pilot-scale high efficiency reverse osmosis (HERO) project funded by the the Bureau of Reclamation. This project has a 9-month aggressive timeline to demonstrate the HERO process to increase water recovery in brackish water desalination and it is expected to start in January 2020. The system will be first developed at the WEST Center and then deployed to the Brackish Groundwater National Desalination Research Facility (BGNDRF) for testing.

May 2019: Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors (AEESP) Conference

The ART Lab and the Hickenbottom group was well represented at the last AEESP Conference hosted by Arizona State University. We had three fruitful days of workshops and presentations. The teams presented updates on the many projects going on. As always, we are looking forward to the next AEESP conference in 2021.

Left to right: Dr. Andrea Achilli, Mukta Hardikar, Tenzin Phakdon, Dr. Itzel Marquez, Marisa Gonzalez, Dr. Bianca Chaves, Dr. Leila Karimi, and Dr. Kerri Hickenbottom

April 2019: Congratulation to Tenzin Phakdon for receiving the SBAR graduate fellowship!

PhD student Tenzin Phakdon is the recipient of the 1-year Sustainable Bioeconomy for Arid Regions (SBAR) graduate fellowship. The SBAR Center of Excellence is a consortium of several universities in the Southwest, funded by USDA, with the purpose of of developing a systems approach for feedstock development, production, and delivery in the Southwest United States. The main mission of the fellows is to bring research and science literacy into schools. Tenzin will first attend two 1-week workshops at Las Cruces, New Mexico for summer training and then she will be paired with a K-12 teacher to support the development and implementation of lessons and activities related to SBAR themes.

February 2019: European Membrane Society Summer School - Membranes for a Sustainable Future

Andrea Achilli has been invited to present at the 36th EMS Summer School - Membranes for a Sustainable Future this coming June in Edinburgh, Scotland. He will talk about how membrane distillation and osmotically driven membrane processes can help enhancing desalination and water reuse sustainability.

January 2019: We are working on a WEST priority to increase water recovery of a UF/RO treatment scheme for water reuse

For this project, postdoc Bianca Souza Chaves is investigating methods to reduce reverse osmosis (RO) fouling from colloidal organic carbon present in highly treated wastewater effluent. Specifically, she is developing a pretreatment method that includes inline coagulation-ultrafiltration (UF). Experiments are being conducted in both lab- and pilot-scale. The results are expected to be valuable for water reuse systems operating with water matrices containing colloidal organic carbon.

October 2018: Education and workforce development funding

We recently received funding from the RAPID Manufacturing Institute for the project "RAPID Integrated Course: Emerging Membrane Processes for Water Purification" to develop a 4-day face-to-face course enabling professional engineers and graduate students to compare and contrast the uses of conventional membrane processes with emerging membrane processes for process intensification in water separation problems. Co-PI of the project is Prof. Edoardo Saez and research is performed by Dr. Itzel Marquez. The work will be performed at WEST.

August 2018: Funding from the Department of Interior Bureau of Reclamation

The ART Lab recently received funding from the Bureau of Reclamation for the project "Near zero-liquid discharge water reuse with a closed-circuit ozone-membrane distillation process". The project was one of the 16 ones selected within the Desalination and Water Purification Research (DWPR) program. Co-PIs of the project are Prof. Kerri Hickenbottom and Dr. Minkyu Park. Mukta Hardikar and Tenzin Phakdon are the graduate students that will perform the experimental and modeling research.