A bright future: With a Sea Grant Industry Fellowship, Joshua Koch gained real-world engineering experience and a master’s degree in civil and environmental engineering.
An Illuminating Industrial Experience 12/05/05
Joshua Koch ended his master’s degree program in December on a promising note. Koch earned a civil and environmental engineering degree from UW-Madison, and he describes the small drinking water disinfecting unit he worked on as "promising," if still inefficient.
It currently produces "less than a shot glass" of disinfected water per minute, Koch said.
Koch’s challenge was to boost the efficiency of the unit. To do that, he worked with the Sheboygan office of Pentair, a Minnesota-based manufacturer of water filters and other equipment. Koch’s work was supported by a Sea Grant Industry Fellowship.
The device is intended to work beneath household sinks or in other point-of-use applications. It uses a process called photocatalysis, in which light is used to initiate chemical reactions. In this design, water is pumped through coils of clear plastic that are partly coated with titanium dioxide (TiO2). The coils wrap around a tube-shaped ultraviolet light bulb. Light striking the TiO2 starts a process that turns some water molecules into hydroxyl radicals, which are more deadly to microorganisms than chlorine or ozone.
The reaction now runs best at low pH levels, and Koch, working with advisors Marc Anderson and Greg Harrington, has been searching for a compound to add to the TiO2 that will keep it running quickly at pH levels typical of drinking water.
Koch hopes the real-world experience gained through his fellowship will boost the efficiency of landing a good job in environmental engineering.