Optical Sensors for Emerging Contaminant Analysis

Emerging contaminants in drinking water have been subject to less scrutinization than the legacy ones that are currently regulated and constantly monitored by the authorities. People may get exposed to emerging contaminants via drinking water for a long time without notice, which can elicit adverse impacts on human health. Our group is leveraging the absorption, emission, and scattering of photons by the emerging contaminants to develop rapid and inexpensive sensors for their detection. Our goal is to alert people as early as possible after a concerning level of emerging contaminants appears in their tap water and to protect the health of the vulnerable group of people, e.g., children.

Vibrational Spectroscopy for Environmental Interface Characterization

Interfaces play a significant role in both natural and engineered environmental systems, spanning from a tiny water droplet over the surface of Lake Mendota to a huge water supply pipeline in a megacity. Characterization of interfacial chemistry is a non-trivial task given the dynamic nature of environmental interfaces. Vibrational spectroscopy provides abundant information on chemical bonds and can deliver such information in a (near) real-time manner. Our group is employing vibrational spectroscopy to characterize the interfacial reactions that occur in water treatment processes and uncover key mechanistic insights for further system optimization.

Point-of-use Drinking Water Treatment Technologies

Providing safe drinking water to everyone in the world is one of the sustainable development goals of the United Nations. This goal has yet to be achieved because of various economical, societal, and technical reasons, such as the aging or absence of water infrastructure and water pollution. Our group is interested in technologies that can provide affordable drinking water at the point of use with minimal infrastructure investment and carbon footprint.


Our research is supported by the National Science Foundation, Environmental Protection Agency, Wisconsin Sea Grant, Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, and the United States Department of Agriculture.