Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

MS in Electrical Engineering (M.S.E.E.)

Degree Granting Department

Electrical Engineering

Major Professor

Sylvia Thomas, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Norma Alcantar, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Delcie Durham, Ph.D.


Cactus mucilage, Polystyrene, Scanning electron microscopy, Atomic fluorescence spectrometry, Life cycle analysis


Water is the essential part of every organism and it is also a vital constituent of healthy living and diet. Unfortunately water contamination over the past decade has increased dramatically leading to various diseases. As technology advances, we are detecting many pollutants at smaller levels of concentrations. Arsenic (As) is one of those major pollutants, and Arsenic poisoning is a condition caused due to excess levels of arsenic in the body. The main basis for Arsenic poisoning is from ground water which naturally contains high concentrations of arsenic. A case study from 2007 states that over 137 million people in 70 countries were affected by arsenic poisoning from drinking water [1]. This thesis work is motivated by this study and investigates the fabrication, characterization, and testing of Opuntia ficus-indica mucilage nanofiber membranes formed using a mucilage, polystyrene (PS) and iron oxide (Fe2O3) solution by an electrospinning process. Cactus mucilage is a jelly-like substance, which is extracted from the cactus pad, and is an inexpensive, biodegradable and biocompatible material. It is also an abundant material available in nature. Polystyrene is a synthetic aromatic polymer prepared from monomer styrene. Polystyrene is further dissolved using D-Limonene as a solvent. D-Limonene is a non-toxic solvent and is a citrus extract of orange peelings. In an effort to enhance adsorption capacity for the mucilage nanofiber membranes, iron oxide nanopowder is incorporated into the polymeric solution. A mucilage and polystyrene-iron oxide solution is mixed in different ratios and electrospun to obtain nanofibers. The fibers will be characterized by certain techniques such as Scanning electron microscopy (SEM), contact angle measurements, viscosity and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR). The fibers obtained from mucilage and PS-Fe2O3 will be further tested under Atomic fluorescence spectrometry (AFS) for testing the removal of arsenic from water. Also, a life cycle analysis (LCA) is conducted to evaluate the environmental impacts of the fabrication of the membranes by using SimaPro® software.