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Researcher Spotlight: Dr. Karl Linden

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Researcher Spotlight: Dr. Karl Linden

This Fall, our team welcomed Dr. Karl Linden, the Mortenson Professor in Sustainable Development in the Department of Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder. Dr. Linden joined Dr. Gagnon and the CWRS team through a Fulbright Research Chair Award, which is awarded to American Scholars to promote collaboration, cultural exchange, and knowledge sharing. He is coordinating his visit at Dalhousie with his hosts at Saint Mary’s University.

With a lifelong interest in environmental protection, particularly water quality, Dr. Karl Linden’s research specializes in the development of tools and methods to better understand water pollution and improve water disinfection and oxidation techniques using UV technology. Dr. Linden has spent his time at the CWRS contributing to UV disinfection and advanced oxidation research projects in drinking water applications.

“My goal is to help advance and find innovative approaches to protect water quality through water treatment using UV light as a process”, he says. “I believe this method represents a more sustainable approach especially for smaller systems.  If we think of methods such as UV disinfection, it has a lot of benefits over other methods such as chlorination. It’s effective against all kinds of pathogens and it works faster. Having an electrified treatment process is of interest because you can run it using renewable energy, and UV requires no further inputs. These are all great sustainability opportunities.” 

Dr. Linden’s research overlaps with research conducted by the UV disinfection and advanced oxidation teams in the CWRS lab, allowing for an on-going collaboration between the two teams, well past his visit this Fall.

“As collaborators with overlapping expertise and research interests, we can effectively share information about research findings and techniques. My students are in touch with Dr. Gagnon’s students to address research challenges that might come up for us and for them,” he says. “When I think about future research projects, I want to keep the relationships built here in mind and continue collaborations that could be supported by funding and exchanges of students.” 

Currently, Dr. Linden’s research team is working on ways to integrate UV and UV LED technology to minimize formation of biofilms in pipes, as well as other methods of surface disinfection using UV LEDs and Far-UVC wavelengths, which could also be used in small water systems for disinfection and destroying chemical contaminants such as pesticides.  

Discussing the future of UV light technology research, Dr. Linden says accessibility and inclusivity are a priority, especially for lower-income communities. 

“One of the themes we are beginning to explore in our research is how to bring more inclusivity into engineering design from diverse cultures and knowledge held by Indigenous communities, such as the relationships being develop by the CWRS and Atlantic First Nations in Canada for instance,” he explains.  “These communities have unique knowledge around water and energy resilience. We want to explore how to better partner with communities to help make engineering design solutions more sustainable and resilient.

Additionally, Dr. Linden believes using UV light as a disinfection method could be a more appropriate approach, compared to chlorination, for culturally diverse communities. 

“We have seen in some of our work that culturally, the taste and odor of chlorine, and the thought of adding a poisonous chemical to water can be a big issue and deal breaker for some communities. UV light disinfection is basically using sunlight, it is harnessing a natural process without adding chemicals and can be as or more effective and more acceptable,” he explains. “This is exciting technology and there are many opportunities for growth and expanded acceptance.” 

Learn more about Dr. Linden’s research here and follow him on twitter @waterprof. 

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