Due to its breadth of scholarship, reputation, location, and established relationships with local businesses and government agencies, UCLA is well-poised to play a leading role in a massive shift in our thinking of FEWS management in urban systems. Several UCLA faculty members beyond the core participants will be involved including: J. Jay (water contamination), G. Sant (construction materials), S. Tolbert, A. Spokoyny, R. Kaner (inorganic material synthesis), J.R. DeShazo (urban planning, environmental policy), M. Delmas (business and behavioral science), B. Dunn, X. Duan, Y. Hu (material synthesis, energy storage), W. Slusser (nutrition, health science), and R. Shipe (ecology, marine phytoplankton). In each project, NRT trainees and faculty advisors will carry out policy, economic, and life-cycle analyses to inform market adoption of the new sensors, materials, and systems developed.


 Lab. scale anaerobic bioreactors with microbiomes engineered for various metabolites ( Mahendra’s lab ).

Lab. scale anaerobic bioreactors with microbiomes engineered for various metabolites (Mahendra’s lab).

Reduction and up-cycling of food waste

Problem statement:

Between 25 and 50% of food produced in the U.S. is wasted every year [1]. A large portion of food waste is produced in households [2] and is made up mainly of fresh products such as fruits and vegetables, milk, eggs, and fish [3]. Furthermore, the volume of food waste per capita in the U.S. has increased by 50% since 1974 [4]. Most of this waste is produced in populated areas and constitutes a real challenge for urban centers. In fact, discarded food represents the single largest component of the municipal solid waste stream reaching landfills and incinerators. Only less than 3% of that waste is recovered and recycled as compost [5]. Growing, processing, packaging, warehousing, transporting and preparing food is water intensive and wasted food means wasted water and energy [6]. Unfortunately, urban centers have not been designed to maximize resource efficiency with respect to food, water, and energy.

Ongoing projects:

  • Decaying food sensors (Dunn, Delmas, Tolbert)
  • Responsive polymeric gels for hydration of soil and stabilization of food additives (Maynard, Diaconescu, Spokoyny, Duan, Kaner, Rowat)
  • Behavioral science of FEWS waste (Delmas, DeShazo, Dunn, Tolbert)
  • Food waste upscaling using microbiomes (Mahendra, Jay)


[1] National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics. “Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities. 2012. Special Report NSF 14-305. Arlington, VA (2012) Retrieved from:

[2] Crano, W.D., Brewer, M.B., & Lac, A. Principles and methods of social research (3rd ed.). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates (2014).

[3] Calhoun A, Mainor A, Moreland-Russell S, Maier RC, Brossart L, Luke DA. “Using the Program Sustainability Assessment Tool to Assess and Plan for Sustainability”, Prev Chronic Dis; 11:130185 (2014).

[4] Chung, C.-H., Bob, B., Song T.-B., and Yang, Y., “Current–voltage characteristics of fully solution processed high performance CuIn(S,Se)2 solar cells: Crossover and red kink” Solar Energy Materials and Solar Cells”, 120 (B), 642 (2014).

[5] C -H. Chung, B. Bob, B. Lei, S. -H. Li, W. W. Hou, and Y. Yang, “Hydrazine solution-processed CuIn(Se,S)2 thin film solar cells: Secondary phases and grain structure”, Solar Energy Materials and Solar Cells, 113, 148 (2013).

[6] D’Arcy J.M., El-Kady, M.F., Khine, P.P., Zhang. L., Lee, S.H., Davis, N.R., Liu, D.S. Yeung, M.T., Kim S.Y., Turner, C.L., Lech, A.T., Hammond, P.T., and Kaner, R.B., “Vapor-Phase Polymerization of Nanofibrillar Poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene) for Supercapacitors”, ACS Nano, 8 (2), 1500 (2014).


 Building, with active microalgae façade, designed by Bio Intelligent Quotient.

Building, with active microalgae façade, designed by Bio Intelligent Quotient.

Innovation in FEWS Sustainability in Urban Systems

Problem statement:

World population is rapidly shifting toward greater urbanization, posing challenges with respect to environmental sustainability. For example, food production has been relegated almost exclusively to rural areas, resulting in increased energy consumption and CO2 emission to cover long travel distances. In addition, the high density of buildings in urban centers results in a dramatic urban heat island (UHI) effect, whereby solar radiation gets trapped among the buildings leading to substantial rise in ambient temperatures [7]. This results in additional energy consumption by the building heat, ventilation, and air conditioning system. However, with world population reaching 9 billion, arable land availability per capita decreasing, and climate change impacting water cycling and agriculture, we are in the midst of a sea change in our views on the interconnectedness of water, energy, and food in cities.

Ongoing projects:

  • New membranes for water purification (Maynard, Spokoyny, Kaner, Duan, Diaconescu, Dunn, Pilon, Alexandrova, Mahendra)

  • FEWS for zero net energy buildings (Pilon, Jay, Sant, DeShazo)

  • Solar desalination (Pilon, Jay, Sant, DeShazo)

  • Urban agriculture and urban forestry (Delmas, DeShazo, Jarrahi, Jay, Mahendra, Sack, Pincetl)

    • Urban resilience

    • Urban heat island reduction


[7] Santamouris, M., “Cooling the cities – A review of reflective and green roof mitigation technologies to fight heat island and improve comfort in urban environments”, Solar Energy 103 (2014) 682-703


CNSI Edu 3.jpg

Integrated Solutions for FEWS Management in LOS ANGELES

Problem statement: Promoting thinking and research across disciplines is critical to addressing today’s pressing sustainability challenges. Despite a wide-spread recognition of the value of interdisciplinary work, academic research remains largely divided by departments or centers. To address this issue, several universities, including UCLA established Grand Challenge Programs to focus a broad range of faculty participants toward solving major societal problems. These efforts require effective communication among scientists of different disciplines and between the scientific community and government officials and the general public. For UCLA and the city of LA, achieving sustainability will require new and interdisciplinary quantitative characterization of the INFEWS systems for which information is currently lacking regarding flows of food, energy and water.

Ongoing projects:

  • Sustainable LA working group (Pincetl, Lettenmaier)
  • A virtual lab space
  • A Citizen science approach (Carruth, Blaik)