Student working at eco-machine

Environmental Engineering Research

Environmental Engineering focuses on the improvement of environmental quality through design, including: the treatment of surface water, groundwater, wastewater, soil, and air; the management of wetlands and watersheds; the treatment and disposal of solid & hazardous wastes; the production of renewable energy; and the design of “green” products.  The Penn State Environmental Engineering (Env E) program has specific strengths in biological processes for energy production, bioremediation of hazardous contaminants, physical/chemical processes for contaminant removal, conventional water and wastewater treatment, green product design, and environmental law.

The EnvE research program is supported by projects of over $20 million dollars funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences, the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, the American Water Works Association Research Foundation, and many other federal, state, and local agencies, as well as by various industries.  The majority of this research is conducted in the Kappe Environmental Engineering Laboratories housed within the Sackett Building on the Penn State, University Park campus.

Environmental Engineering Research by topic:


Desalination and Membrane Technologies 

Environmental Biotechnology

Environmental Hydro biogeochemistry

Geological Carbon Sequestration

Green Engineering

Physical-Chemical Treatment


Salinity Gradient Energy

Water treatment

Research Projects

There is a vigorous research program in Environmental Engineering (EnvE) here at Penn State. The total funding for research projects in the EnvE group was $6.97 million as of September 1, 2016. The project titles, principle investigators, and other information on these research contracts and grants is listed below.


Hybrid microbial fuel cell-biofiltration system for energy neutral wastewater treatment. (PI: Logan). U.S. Army Engineering Research and Development Center, June 15, 2016 – June 14, 2019. $571,821

Removal of nutrients from anaerobic wastewaters. King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). (PI: Logan). July 1, 2016-June 30, 2017. $100,000.

Configurations and materials to improve hydrogen gas production in microbial electrolysis cells. (PI: Logan). National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Golden, CO. December 11, 2015 – November 31, 2018. $450,000.

Energy sustainable wastewater treatment systems for forward operating bases based on microbial fuel cells. (PI: Logan). Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP). July 18, 2012 – December 31, 2016. $1,010,617

Resource Recovery from Wastewater with Bioelectrochemical Systems (PI: Ian Head, University of Newcastle). Resource Recovery from Waste Programme, Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), UK.

Enzymatic biocatalysis of endocrine disrupting chemicals in wastewater: A sustainable technology for emerging contaminants. (PI: Brennan; Co-PI: Dorman), National Science Foundation, September 2012 – August 2017. $308,000.

Development of an integrated fixed film activated sludge (IFAS) system for the removal of emerging contaminants at the Penn State wastewater treatment plant.  (PI: Brennan), Penn State Wastewater Management Committee, Office of the Physical Plant, July 2015 – June 2017, $75,000.

Sustainable biofuel production from ecological wastewater treatment systems: maximizing starch content and carboxylic acid production from aquatic plant biomass.  (PI: Brennan; Co-PI: Anderson)  Penn State Sustainability Seed Grant Program, July 2016 – June 2017, $25,000.

Hydrological-microbial interactions controlling landscape phosphorus mobility. (PI: Regan, Co-PIs: Walter (Cornell), Carrick (Central Michigan), and Buda (USDA-ARS)).  USDA.  Jan 2014 – December 2016.  $500,000. 

Nitrite Ammonification in Manures and Soils under Adaptive Management for Climate Change. (PI: Bruns, Co-PIs: Regan, Karsten). USDA AFRI, April 2016 – March 2019, $540,000.

Kazakhstan, Nazarbayev.  Nitrogen-Grafted Activated Carbon: Remove Nitrate in Water:Electro-Regeneration. 1/2014-6/2016.  $946,356 ($271,520 to sub-PI Cannon).

Sloan Scholarship Program, University Center for Exemplary Mentoring, 2000 to 2019, for selected underrepresented PhD candidates in 7 Colleges at the University Park campus of Penn State. (PI: Cannon, Preston Administrative PI) June 30, 2016 to June 30, 2019 (supplement). $900,000.

Collaborative Research: Recrystallization of Stable Iron Oxides in Reducing Environments. PI. C. Gorski. $199,841. August 1, 2015 to July 31, 2017.

MRI-PSIEE Seed: pH-Gradient Flow batteries for generating electricity from waste CO2 streams. Materials Research Institute Seed Grant Program. (PI: Gorski, co-PI Logan). June 1, 2016-May 31, 2017. $10,000.

INGaR: Enhanced Gas Recovery using Chemical-Mechanical Fracturing. (PI: Velegol, D.; Co-PI: Gorski, C.A.) Halliburton Energy Services. September 2015 – August 2016. $169,296.

High Pressure/High Temperature Reactor Systems for Unconventional Oil and Gas Research. (PI: Burgos, W.D.; Co-PIs: Gorski, C.A., Alger, M., Velegol, D.) Research Equipment Grant, College of Engineering Penn State University. March 2015 – February 2016. $114,230.

SusChem: Manganese oxide supercapacitor charging/discharging mechanisms to capture energy using capacitive mixing (CapMix). (PI: Gorski, C.A.; Co-PI: Logan, B.E.) National Science Foundation: CBET Environmental Engineering. September 1, 2016 – August 31, 2019. $330,000.

Sediment Record of Anthropogenic Changes in the Upper Allegheny Watershed, Penn State Institute of Energy and the Environment (PSIEE) Seed grant (PI: Warner, co-PI Burgos, Drohan) June 1, 2016- May 31, 2017 $25,000

Hydroacoustic Cavitation for Reclaiming Clay and Sand from Hydrofracturing Fluids and Solids National Science Foundation (NSF) Partnerships for Innovation: Accelerating Innovation Research-Technology Translation AIR-TT (PI:Warner, co-PI Cannon, Klima, Wunz) $200,000

Understanding Ecohydrological Controls of Biogeochemical Reactions and Fluxes at the Watershed Scale”, DOE Subsurface Biogeochemistry Research (SBR). (PI: Li, co-PI: Kaye, Shi), September 2016 – August 2018, $180,000

Redefining Reactive Surface Area: Understanding Reactive Interfaces in Heterogeneous Porous Media”, National Science Foundation (NSF) (PI: Li), July 2015 – June 2018, $193,050

Using the Susquehanna - Shale Hills CZO to Project from the Geological Past to the Anthropocene Future.” National Science Foundation (NSF) (PI: Brantley, co-PIs: Davis, Eissenstat, Kaye, Li, Lin, Russo). November 2013 – October 2018, 5,000,000 (Approximately $700,000 to Li)

Understanding characteristics of hyper saline waters from deep aquifers for geological carbon sequestration.” Department of Energy (PI: James Silva), subcontract through General Electric (GE), September 2015 – March 2017, $99,825 

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The Penn State Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, established in 1881, is internationally recognized for excellence in the preparation of undergraduate and graduate engineers through the integration of education, research, and leadership.

Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering

212 Sackett Building

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802-1408

Phone: 814-863-3084