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Medtech Impact on Wellness

Pedro J. Alvarez, George R. Brown Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Rice University, delivers an interesting overview of the important new technologies that can help provide clean water to global communities.

Alvarez is truly passionate about science and engineering and has devoted his career to the study and research of the environmental implications and applications of nanotechnology, the water footprint of biofuels, bioremediation, antibiotic resistance control, toxic chemicals, and water treatment and reuse. He is the founding Director of the NSF Engineering Research Center on Nanotechnology-Enabled Water Treatment (NEWT) at Rice University.

Alvarez discusses his work at Rice, and his passion for bringing clean water to everyone, to support global health and economic development. The engineering expert explains the dangers of bisphenol A (BPA), a synthetic chemical used to make plastics, and he details how it affects fertility and reproduction rates. He states that many contaminants are not regulated, and wastewater treatment often meets the bare minimum only.

Unfortunately, many cans for foods such as soups, baby foods, etc., have linings that may contain BPA or similar compounds. He talks about the need for better water treatment, and discusses the micron-sized spheres that have been developed to capture and destroy BPA. Alvarez talks about their work utilizing technology and advanced materials to bring clean water to the global population, in areas where it is desperately needed. He explains how the original concepts were lacking in regard to energy efficiency and thus not adapted by industry. With new developments, energy usage can be cost-effective and exceedingly more sustainable.

The technology expert delves into the processes that they use to develop these advanced technologies. As he states, water is somewhat of a difficult space to make changes within, and some barriers do exist. He explains the scientific methods that are utilized for the treatment of water. Fortunately this advanced technology can potentially work for other polluting compounds in addition to BPA. He details the scientific technology they use for treating wastewater and also drinking water. He cites specific examples of the use of their photocatalyst that showed it was capable of successfully treating the water in select communities, eliminating pesticides and fecal matter.

Finally, Alvarez lays out their plans for future development and how they hope to expand, to help curb potential problems with contamination of water in many areas and industries. Professor Alvarez received a B. Eng. Degree in Civil Engineering from McGill University as well as MS and PhD degrees in Environmental Engineering from the University of Michigan.

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