Current research projects

Energy efficiency of potable water reuse

Seawater desalination can help alleviate water scarcity at a cost to our climate. Purifying wastewater into drinking water (potable water reuse) requires less energy than seawater desalination, but desalination is sometimes more easily embraced by the public. We are studying the energy requirements of potable water reuse to make a clear case that municipalities should consider potable water reuse before more energy-intensive seawater desalination.


Inorganic scaling behavior and energy efficiency of batch RO 

When pure water is extracted from wastewater, the concentration of the remaining dissolved material raises the risk of crystallization (scaling) on the membranes. With funding from the US Bureau of Reclamation, we are developing an energy-efficient water reuse technology by building and testing a cyclical reverse osmosis (RO) desalination system. By treating water in short cycles, rather than continuously, we hope that RO membranes can be used to purify scaling-prone wastewater using less energy.


Thermal insulation performance of quilts and other textile reuse methods

Used and unsold clothing results in waste, pollution, and economic injustice, particularly in the developing world. At the same time, the threat and effects of climate change drive the need for passive and low-energy heating and cooling methods. We aim to find out how clothing waste can be repurposed to provide insulation and passive thermal control for people and buildings. We are measuring the thermal conductivity of traditional methods of repurposing textiles (e.g., quilting, rag crochet, etc.) and using thermal modeling to explain findings. We hope to determine which types of textile reuse are the most effective insulators in order to give used textiles a useful second life and reduce dependence on fossil fuels. We hope to share our message of conservation (of textiles and energy) to a wider audience through the creation of textile art. Learn more in the 2019 Olin summer research video:





Are you a student who is interested in engineering for sustainability and thriving? Would you like to get involved in research? I welcome student researchers (remote or on campus) year-round, so please don't hesitate to email me. -Emily


Shredded T-shirt material