|Dr. John Bang|
North Carolina Central University is one of six universities sharing in a $4.7 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The grant will support interdisciplinary research aimed at developing technological solutions to water quality problems that result from international maritime trade, energy production and the manufacture and global circulation of new materials.
The grant, of which NCCU will receive $400,000 over five years, is from the NSF’s Partnerships for International Research and Education (PIRE) program. The program combines international collaborations in cutting-edge research in science and engineering while also promoting the development of young scientists and engineers.
Six universities are involved in the project: NCCU, Duke University and Michigan State University are the U.S. participants. Joining them are leading research universities in Turkey, France and Singapore. The principal investigator for NCCU’s portion of the project is John Bang, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Environmental, Earth and Geospatial Sciences.
Bang’s focus in this project is on development of a removal method for waterborne pathogens and organic pollutants that are released into the environment when ships, especially petroleum tankers, dump the ballast water that they carry. “Ships often replace some of their ballast water when they’re in port,” Bang said, “and that has been shown to be a source of pathogen spread.”
Bang will develop a technique to remove organic pollutants and pathogens by using light-sensitive nanomaterials (photocatalytic nanomaterials). When combined with another filtration technique called membrane distillation, he said, this has the potential to remove pathogens and pollutants, generating pure water at lower cost and with lower energy consumption than other techniques such as reverse osmosis.
A significant component of the research project is the training of young scientists, particularly those from racial and ethnic groups underrepresented in the sciences and engineering, such as African-Americans and Latinos. At NCCU, Bang will work with one graduate student and two undergraduates for each of the five years covered by the grant, providing them with hands-on research experience. The graduate students will also have opportunities to conduct research at one or more of the foreign universities involved in the project: Istanbul Technical University and Gebze Institute of Technology in Turkey, National University and Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, and Centre Europeen de Recherche et d’Enseignement des Geosciences de l’Environment in France.
The undergraduate scientists will have shorter-term travel opportunities to attend international conferences. They also will have internship or co-op opportunities with corporations participating in the research project, including PepsiCo, BP, Shell and other oil companies.