Document Type


Date of Degree

Fall 2016

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Civil and Environmental Engineering

First Advisor

David M. Cwiertny

Second Advisor

Gene F. Parkin

First Committee Member

Sarah C Larsen

Second Committee Member

Syed Mubeen

Third Committee Member

Michelle M Scherer


Small drinking water systems, often financially and resource-limited, face unprecedented challenges due to the current diversity and ubiquity of water pollutants. Well-characterized inorganic legacy pollutants, including arsenic, copper, hexavalent chromium, and lead, remain persistent in drinking water systems. In addition, emerging organic contaminants, like endocrine disrupting compounds and pharmaceuticals, are largely uncharacterized but prevalent in the environment and water supplies, calling into question what levels of these relatively new contaminants are truly safe in drinking water. Point-of-use (POU) and point-of-entry (POE) water treatment devices, installed at a specific tap or at the water entry point to a single facility, respectively, are necessary to ensure safe drinking water in contexts where centralized water treatment is not available or cannot adapt to meet new regulatory standards. While existing POU and POE technologies, including reverse osmosis and packed bed media filters, are effective for removing contaminants, installation costs, energy demands, and spatial footprints of these systems can inhibit their implementation. There is a need for new POU and POE technologies that remove a diversity of water contaminants while maintaining a small application footprint. Nanotechnology, referring to technology using material with at least one dimension or feature less than 100 nm in length, is ideal for meeting this need in drinking water treatment. With high surface area-to-volume ratios, nano-enabled treatment technologies exhibit enhanced reactivity with less material, keeping overall footprint relatively small. Specifically, electrospinning, a process in which a polymer precursor solution is electrified to produce a cohesive sheet of nanofibers, can be used to easily synthesize chemically active nanofiber filters for water treatment applications. In this study, we develop electrospun nanofiber filters that harness nano-scaled hematite (Fe2O3) for sorption of inorganic contaminants (e.g., As, Pb) and nano-scaled titanium dioxide (TiO2) for use with ultraviolet (UV) and visible light as an advanced oxidation process (AOP) for removal of emerging organic contaminants (e.g., benzotriazole, carbamazepine, DEET). Most importantly, we strive to optimize both reactivity and material strength to develop cohesive, durable filtration platforms that overcome barriers to use of nanomaterials in water treatment (e.g., concerns over leaching of nanoparticles deployed as suspensions). Herein, we first demonstrate reactivity optimization of pure (though brittle) TiO2 nanofiber photocatalysts by noble metal catalyst (Au) surface loading. Additionally, we optimize polymer-Fe2O3 composite nanofibers for reactivity while maintaining material flexibility by coating the doped polymer with additional Fe2O3 surfaces available for metal/metalloid uptake. Finally, we apply reactivity optimization and strategies to maintain material strength in the development of carbon/TiO2 nanofiber composites used for (photo)chemical filtration of water containing emerging organic contaminants. Ultimately, we find that nanofiber composites exhibit substantial reactivity and structural integrity in water treatment platforms. Outcomes of this work contribute to making nanomaterials, which have been studied for decades but have yet to be commercially employed for water treatment, practical for chemically active water filtration.


Electrospinning, Hematite, Nanofibers, Point of use, Titanium dioxide, Water treatment


xxii, 189 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 170-189).


Copyright © 2016 Katherine E. Greenstein