Advanced Water Treatment

NREL develops novel technologies, along with innovative manufacturing practices, to improve the efficiency and reduce the cost of water treatment.

Photo of a man standing in water looking at a water sample in front of a hydropower plant.


NREL offers the following advanced water treatment capabilities.

Multifunctional Membranes for Desalination

NREL has developed porous nanofiber composites and functional nanocatalysts that can be formed into functional filters and purification membranes to improve water treatment technology performance.

Key Staff

David Ginley, Michael Ulsh


Nanofiber Composite Patent: 9409111

Nanomaterial Composites for Next Generation Water Filters, NREL Technical Report (2013)

Advanced Manufacturing of Water Filter Elements and Membranes

NREL develops innovative roll-to-roll manufacturing techniques to reduce the cost and energy intensity of membrane and water filter technology manufacturing.

Key Staff

Tony Burrell, David Ginley, Scott Mauger, Michael Ulsh


Gravure Coating for Roll-to-Roll Manufacturing of Proton-Exchange-Membrane Fuel Cell Catalyst Layers, Journal of the Electrochemical Society (2018)

Bio-Based Treatment and Mineral Recovery

NREL performs research on algal strains that can be used for desalination and mineral recovery from waste brines.

Key Staff

Ryan Davis, Michael Guarnieri, Lieve Laurens, Phil Pienkos


Development of Algae Biorefinery Concepts for Biofuels and Bioproducts: A Perspective on Process-Compatible Products and Their Impact on Cost-Reduction, Energy and Environmental Science (2017)

Planning for Algal Systems: An Energy-Water-Food Nexus Perspective, Industrial Biotechnology (2014)

Polymer Synthesis and Characterization

NREL has unique expertise in polymer synthesis and characterization related to water treatment membranes. This research facilitates the expansion of conductivity, selectivity, and stability of membranes, facilitating greater efficiency of water treatment technologies

Key Staff

Wade Braunecker, Eric Karp, Ross Larsen, Bryan Pivovar


Chemical Stability via Radical Decomposition Using Silicotungstic Acid Moieties for Polymer Electrolyte Fuel Cells, Journal of the Electrochemical Society (2018)

Synthesis and Characterization of Perfluorinated Anion Exchange Membranes, ECS Transactions (2017)

Emerging Areas

  • Large-scale remediation
  • Advanced process configurations


Bryan Pivovar

Group Research Manager