Rock left behind in abandoned mines after coal is extracted contains sulfur impurities that decompose and form sulfuric acid when exposed to air, water and microbes. When water fills a mine’s underground tunnels, sulfuric acid can leach off the walls and get into nearby groundwater, according to Temple University Chemistry Professor Daniel Strongin.
While chemicals such as lime are often used to neutralize acidic runoff, they do not eliminate the root cause, said Strongin. So his lab is developing a technology that uses a specific class of lipid molecules that bind to the metal sulfide, forming a hydrophobic layer that keeps water, oxygen and bacteria from causing it to decompose.
Strongin, who has been working on developing this lipid-based technology for the past eight years, said that approximately 2,400 miles of waterways in Pennsylvania are affected by the contaminated water from the abandoned mines, which is typically acidic and contains large amounts of heavy metals that are deadly to aquatic species.
“Pennsylvania spends roughly $19 million a year to address this issue, largely due to the vast number of abandoned mining areas,” he said. “I’ve read that it’s estimated that it would cost $50 billion to fix the entire problem.”
Strongin now believes that mitigating acid drainage using lipid technology could enable the mine waters to be used in the process of extracting natural gas from the Marcellus Shale formation. During hydraulic fracking, highly pressurized water is pumped into the earth to break or fracture the shale and extract the gas.
“The process requires a tremendous amount of water; essentially, in a given well you need 2-5 million gallons to fracture the rock and release the natural gas,” he said. “As you might expect, people don't want to waste fresh water on that process.”
Strongin said a panel commissioned by the governor of Pennsylvania has recently recommended using water from abandoned mining areas for hydro-fracking the Marcellus Shale.
“It is my belief that our lipid technology could be used to stop acid mine drainage, or the root cause of acid mine drainage, in such a way that the waters emanating from these abandoned mining areas would be more usable in the hydro-fracking process,” he said.
Strongin said there is a cost incentive to remediate abandoned mining areas — which are often in close proximity to the drilling areas — and the contaminated water emanating from those mines for use in the natural gas drilling.
“It cuts down on the costs to transport water to the wells, and you’re not using fresh water resources for the drilling.”
In addition to cleaning the acid mine drainage for use in drilling, Strongin also believes the lipid technology may be useful for cleaning the flow-back water that is a result of the hydro-fracking.
“A lot of the same chemistry that these lipids carry out on the acid mine drainage may be applicable to these contaminated flow-back waters, which carry a lot of dissolved solids and particulate matter,” he said.
Initially funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, Strongin’s research is currently being supported by the Nanotechnology Institute.
Preston M. Moretz | Newswise Science News
Organic-inorganic heterostructures with programmable electronic properties
30.03.2017 | Technische Universität Dresden
Researchers use light to remotely control curvature of plastics
23.03.2017 | North Carolina State University
The Institute of Semiconductor Technology and the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, both members of the Laboratory for Emerging Nanometrology (LENA), at Technische Universität Braunschweig are partners in a new European research project entitled ChipScope, which aims to develop a completely new and extremely small optical microscope capable of observing the interior of living cells in real time. A consortium of 7 partners from 5 countries will tackle this issue with very ambitious objectives during a four-year research program.
To demonstrate the usefulness of this new scientific tool, at the end of the project the developed chip-sized microscope will be used to observe in real-time...
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
30.03.2017 | Health and Medicine
30.03.2017 | Health and Medicine
30.03.2017 | Medical Engineering