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DOE Particle Accelerator Awards Support Clean Water and Plasma Wave Tech Projects

E beam pfas

STONY BROOK, NY, September 5, 2019 – Two Stony Brook University faculty have received Department of Energy (DOE) Particle Accelerator Research grants totaling more than $600,000 to advance their research. Arjun K. Venkatesan, PhD, Associate Director for Drinking Water Initiatives at the Center for Clean Water Technology and Adjunct Professor of Civil Engineering; and Navid Vafaei-Najafabadi, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, are among only 13 to receive these DOE grants nationally.

Model showing treatment of persistent emerging contaminants in drinking water via electronic beam technology.

Venkatesan is receiving one-year $281,000 grant that begins in late September to test a novel treatment technology the removes emerging contaminants from drinking water. The research will provide the first demonstration of using electronic beam (e-beam) technology to remove toxic pollutants such as perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and 1,4-dioxane from contaminated drinking water. Existing technologies such as certain types of carbon filters and reverse osmosis systems do not break down these toxic pollutants and create concentrated waste end-products requiring further treatment or disposal. According to Venkatesan, the proposed e-beam technology has the potential to completely degrade these toxic chemicals from contaminated drinking water. For more information about the study and award see this news.

Vafaei-Najafabadi is receiving a two-year $350,000 grant, effective September 1, to design plasma channels (electrically conducting fluids) by way of controlled meter-scale “lightning bolts.” Lightning bolts in nature form a natural plasma channel. Vafaei-Najafabadi and colleagues will use a focused prism, called a hyperchromatic lens, to focus energy of different wavelengths in a high-energy laser pulse along a meter-scale length to create a plasma channel on the same scale. He hopes this experimentation will produce plasma channels via superluminal ionization waves or a “traveling light bolt” wave at arbitrary speeds and highly controlled transfer of energy. Developing plasma sources in this way enables a wide range of applications including particle acceleration, radiation generation, and fusion energy research.

Both projects involve collaborative work with other institutions – the clean water research with Brookhaven National Laboratory, and the plasma channel research with the Laboratory for Laser Energetics at the University of Rochester. The water contamination removal project also involves use of the facilities at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, with a portion of the DOE grant going to Fermilab.


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Stony Brook University, widely regarded as a SUNY flagship, is going beyond the expectations of what today’s public universities can accomplish. Since its founding in 1957, this young university has grown to become one of only four University Center campuses in the State University of New York (SUNY) system with over 26,000 students, more than 2,700 faculty members and 18 NCAA Division I athletic programs. Our faculty have earned numerous prestigious awards, including the Nobel Prize, Pulitzer Prize, Indianapolis Prize for animal conservation, Abel Prize and the inaugural Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics. The University offers students an elite education with an outstanding return on investment: U.S.News & World Report ranks Stony Brook among the top 40 public universities in the nation. Its membership in the Association of American Universities (AAU) places Stony Brook among the top 62 research institutions in North America. As part of the management team of Brookhaven National Laboratory, the University joins a prestigious group of universities that have a role in running federal R&D labs. Stony Brook University fuels Long island’s economic growth. Its impact on the Long island economy amounts to $7.38 billion in increased output. Our state, country and world demand ambitious ideas, imaginative solutions and exceptional leadership to forge a better future for all. The students, alumni, researchers and faculty of Stony Brook University are prepared to meet this challenge.

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