Wen's Research Group​

A dark field image of a green laser shooting across water suspension of nanobubbles, where due to the Tyndall effect, a green beam is observed to the laser scattering by nanobubbles.

Prototype of the nanobubble generator in Zhang’s lab.

Harnessing the Power of Tiny Bubbles

    Suspended in liquids, they have a high degree of stability against dissolution and collapse. Their large surface area and random movements allow them to move nutrients around to enhance plant growth, disinfect bacteria and aerate hypoxic environments.

        Like seltzer-swilling humans, plants are also partial to bubbly libations. Environmental engineering professor, Wen Zhang, hopes to exploit this predilection to design efficient irrigation systems with nanobubbles for agriculture and other broad environmental applications such as harmful algal bloom mitigation.

       To meet growing food demand, global fertilizer use and water for irrigation continue to expand. However, many traditional methods have long proved inefficient: The absorption ratio of nitrogen fertilizer in a harvested crop can be as low as 40-50%, with the residual lost through surface runoff that pollutes streams and lakes and results in harmful algal blooms (HABs). Supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Zhang’s research has demonstrated enhanced germination and plant growth for soil-planted fava seeds with successive batches of water containing ultrafine bubbles, between 200 and 500 nanometers in diameter, made with gases such as nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide and hydrogen. Besides agricultural benefits, his air nanobubble technology could mitigate HABs in water by adhering to and lifting the algae from impaired water, which has been supported by New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP).

   Dr. Zhang’s group and their commercial partners developed prototypes of their patented nanobubble generator as shown in the figure. Under support from New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) and NJIT’s entrepreneurial incubator, New Jersey Innovation Institute (NJII), a new startup company (Purenanotech Inc.) has been established. Dr.  Zhang, who is a senior consultant to the company, said it is designed for diverse applications, such as the use of ozone nanobubbles as a possible replacement for chlorination or traditional ozonation in water treatment and dental rinsing to combat microbe-driven periodontal diseases and the overuse of antibiotic chemicals; and nanobubble water to increase the mobility of contaminants in soil remediation.

On October 5, 2023, PNT was invited to join the Propelify Innovation Festival (https://propelify.com/) and presented the technology as well as line of products of nanobubble generators. Photos below shown the PNT’s partners demonstrating the nanobubble technology to visitors including NJ senator, Andrew Zwicker, and NJII’s vice president, Kathy Naasz.

Wen Zhang, Ph.D., P.E., BCEE

Principal Investigator
Professor

Phone: (973) 596-5520 
Fax: (973) 596-5790
Email: wen.zhang@njit.edu

Office Location: Colton Hall 211

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