Water research facility officially opens at PUC
By Michelle L. Quinn Post-Tribune correspondent December 17, 2012 9:58PM
Purdue University Calumet chancellor Thomas Keon gives opening remarks before the ribbon cutting and openhouse for the Water Institute and Energy Efficiency and Reliability Center on campus in Hammond Monday afternoon. | Jeffrey D. Nicholls~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 17, 2012 10:30PM
HAMMOND — Northwest Indiana’s leading research facility for its water and energy supplies officially opened up its new home during a Monday afternoon ribbon-cutting.
The new labs at the Water Institute and the Energy Efficiency & Reliability Center, in the basement of Purdue University Calumet’s Schneider Avenue Building, are the culmination of efforts started in 2007. The 2,000 square-foot Institute basement lab addresses water and its importance to industry and the environment, while the 1,000 square-foot energy lab conducts research on new energy systems.
“(The two) are really bright starts in Purdue Calumet’s skies,” said Chancellor Thomas Keon.“Water and energy are significant today, and water is particularly significant in our area.
“As I hear about those downstate, we find that water is like gold to many people.”
Energy Center Director Robert Kramer said when the center started 10 years ago, its main goal was to get the maximum investment out of the energy supply. Since then, it has added nine different research areas into its fold, and students have conducted energy audits in eight Northwest Indiana municipalities.
“We don’t take it lightly. We want to generate benefits,” Kramer said.
Water Institute Director George Nnanna said among the research he and his students are conducting is Net Zero Discharge, wherein contaminated water is passed through a generator and into a polymer membrane that sorts out the contaminants. That water can then be reused in industry, such as cooling hot steel, an infinite number of times.
“If a company uses 1 million tons of water from Lake Michigan, it may have to replace some of the water due to evaporation, but not nearly as much,” Nnanna said. “You can also run the contaminants through microfiltration to get more water, and when it’s done, you can even restore it to ‘lake quality’ and arguably return it to the lake in even better condition than it started.
The Water Institute has received more than $8 million in research grants and engaged in more than 60 partnerships with industries, municipalities and other organizations since its establishment in 2005. Support for the Energy Center came through a $900,000 Department of Energy grant.