December 2019 eNews

NMSU Student Receives NM WRRI Student Water Research Grant

By Marcus Gay, NM WRRI Student Program Coordinator

Muchu Zhou is a PhD student at New Mexico State University in the Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering. In June, she received an NM WRRI Student Water Research Grant entitled, Design of Optimized Produced Water Treatment Units for Agricultural Irrigation. The purpose of the study is to design and optimize a water treatment unit capable of treating produced water so that it meets the requirements for agricultural irrigation.

In 2018, New Mexico ranked third in crude oil production in the United States, and advanced hydraulic fracturing technology is causing the oil output in New Mexico to grow. This hydraulic fracturing also generates a large amount of water known as “produced water.” Around 900 million barrels of produced water was generated in New Mexico in 2017. Conventionally, produced water is considered wastewater, but advanced wastewater treatment and state regulatory framework has made the reuse of produced water possible.

Currently, treated produced water does not meet the quality required for reuse in agricultural irrigation. Therefore, the goal of Muchu Zhou’s research is to design and optimize a produced water treatment unit for agricultural irrigation that considers high efficiency, low energy consumption, and low cost as three key factors.

As Muchu Zhou explains, “We have considered four units for designing produced water treatment: (1) pretreatment, (2) organic matter removal, (3) reduction of salinity, and (4) heavy metal ions removal. For each unit, two or three methods will be tested for optimization. Microfiltration, sedimentation, adsorption, ion-exchange, electrodialysis, nanofiltration, and reverse osmosis have been taken into account.”

An optimized treatment train is expected to meet the reuse requirements for agricultural irrigation and have low cost and low energy consumption. The total dissolved solids, organic compounds, and inorganic ions will be efficiently removed to the standard level of the irrigation water, and the salinity of the produced water can also be reduced if needed.

The value of this research is effectively reusing treated produced water with the quality required for agricultural irrigation. This project addresses resource efficiency, sustainability, and water reuse at a time when water scarcity is such a big issue in New Mexico.

Muchu Zhou expects to complete her studies and graduate from NMSU with a PhD in chemical engineering. She is working under the guidance of her faculty advisor Dr. Reza Foudazi, Associate Professor of Chemical and Material Engineering at NMSU. Muchu Zhou received her Bachelor’s Degree from East China University of Science and Technology located in her home country of China, and also received a BS and MS degree in chemical engineering from NMSU.

December 2019 eNews

Meet the Researcher: Reza Foudazi, Assistant Professor, New Mexico State University

By Jeanette Torres, NM WRRI Program Coordinator

This month for meet the researcher, we are profiling Reza Foudazi, who first joined New Mexico State University in August 2013 as an Assistant Professor for the Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering and became an Associate Professor in August of 2019. He originally began his career as a Postdoctoral Fellow for the Material Science and Technology group for Cape Peninsula University of Technology in Cape Town, South Africa.  From there he became a Research Associate for the Department of Macromolecular Science and Engineering for Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. Foudazi was also visiting faculty for both the University of Minnesota Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (2016) and at the Foundation for Research and Technology at the University of Crete (2017).

Reza earned a Doctorate of Technology in Chemical Engineering from Cape Peninsula University of Technology in Cape Town, South Africa (2010), and Bachelor (2002) and Master (2004) degrees in Polymer Engineering from Amirkabir University of Technology in Tehran, Iran. Foudazi has been the recipient of many awards and honors including the Polymer Processing Society Early Career Award (2019, and was the winner of the Arrowhead LAUNCH Competition for his Prosthetic Sleeve Liner project (2018).

According to Foudazi, his recent studies involve the self-assembly of amphiphilic molecules, and the rheology of soft matter with the long-term goal of producing responsive multifunctional membranes for water treatment and electrochemical processes. Currently, Reza has been working on a Bureau of Reclamation project which centers on synthesizing antibacterial ultrafiltration membranes. As opposed to the conventional method for membrane fabrication, which uses a large amount of organic solvents, his proposed method is considerably more eco-friendly and does not need such solvents for production. This new strategic change allows the produced membranes to have higher fouling resistance, almost double water flux, and higher rejection rate compared to conventional membranes.

Over the course of his career, Foudazi authored and co-authored over 40 publications and has contributed to several intellectual property patents including, “Antimicrobial filtration membranes” and “Method for the Production of High Internal Phase Emulsion Foams.” He has also been the reviewer for numerous journals such as Langmuir, Journal of Rheology, Journal of Polymer Engineering, and Rheologica Acta. Additionally, Reza has been invited to several keynote talks and has presented at many conferences including the 256th American Chemical Society National Meeting and Exposition, as well as the 2017 Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies Annual Meeting where he received the Best Poster Award for his efforts.

In addition to being an active author and professor, Reza is associated with several organizations including the Society of Rheology, American Chemical Society, and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. Furthermore, he is a part of the admission committee for the Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement program at NMSU, which is funded by the National Institutes of Health and has fostered and supported over 300 scholars. The purpose of this committee is to engage students in an integrative approach of biology and engineering research.

New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute (NM WRRI) has proudly funded several of Foudazi’s projects, one of which enabled him and his team to create new ultrafiltration and microfiltration membranes that consisted of a higher flux and rejection rate than commercial membranes with similar pore sizes. Several of his students were also funded by NM WRRI, which gave them the opportunity to make new connections within the scientific community, extend their research and complete their degrees. He anticipates further collaboration with NM WRRI concerning advancements on produced water, and believes any challenges can be addressed with the available resources provided by NMSU and NM WRRI.

When asked about the most important aspect of his position, Foudazi stated, “I believe training students for real-life challenges is the most important aspect of my job. These challenges can be scientific, technical, and even societal. If they learn how to think critically and out-of-box and how to work with their colleagues, I consider their training to be successful.” In his future endeavors, Foudazi indicated that he and his team will continue to investigate and perfect their work on the removal of heavy metals such as arsenic and hexavalent chromium from water resources and seek a solution to produced water treatment.

For those interested in Reza Foudazi’s research listed in this article, please visit the links below:

Ultrafiltration and microfiltration membranes:

Removal of heavy metals from water resources: