While investigating ways of cleaning up groundwater contamination, scientists examined how microbes break down contaminants under the soil’s surface and found that subsurface temperatures associated with microbial degradation can become too hot for the microbes to grow and consume the groundwater contaminants.
This can slow down the clean up of the groundwater and even continue the spread of contamination.
The new findings mean that researchers now have to rethink the way groundwater remediation systems are designed.
“Although increasing the flow of air would reduce temperatures and overcome these limitations a fine balance needs to be struck as the injected air can generate hazardous vapours that overwhelm the micro-organisms leading to unwanted atmospheric emissions at the ground surface,” Mr Johnston said.CSIRO Water for a Healthy Country Flagship scientist Mr Colin Johnston, who is based in Perth, Western Australia, said the researchers were investigating how temperatures below the soil’s surface could be used as an indicator of the microbial degradation process associated with biosparging.
Biosparging is a technique that injects air into polluted groundwater to enhance the degradation of contaminants.
The contaminants are ‘food’ to the microbes and the oxygen in the air helps the microbes unlock the energy in the food so that they metabolise and grow, consuming more contaminants and stopping the spread of the contamination.
“Observations of diesel fuel contamination showed that, at 3.5 metres below the ground surface, temperatures reached as high as 47 °C,” Mr Johnston said.
“This is close to the 52 °C maximum temperature tolerated by the community of micro-organisms that naturally live in the soil at this depth and within the range where the growth of the community was suppressed.”
The growth of the soil’s micro-organism community can also be helped by adding nutrients.
However computer modelling confirmed that any attempts to further increase degradation of the contamination through the addition of nutrients had the potential to raise temperatures above the maximum for growth.
“Although increasing the flow of air would reduce temperatures and overcome these limitations a fine balance needs to be struck as the injected air can generate hazardous vapours that overwhelm the micro-organisms leading to unwanted atmospheric emissions at the ground surface,” Mr Johnston said.
“This would be particularly so for highly volatile compounds such as gasoline.
“It appears that prudent manipulation of operating conditions and appropriate timing of nutrient addition may help limit temperature increases.”
Mr Johnston said further research was required to better understand the thermal properties in the subsurface as well as the seasonal effects of rainfall infiltration and surface soil heating.
Anne McKenzie | EurekAlert!
Dispersal of Fish Eggs by Water Birds – Just a Myth?
19.02.2018 | Universität Basel
Removing fossil fuel subsidies will not reduce CO2 emissions as much as hoped
08.02.2018 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
A newly developed laser technology has enabled physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (jointly run by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics) to generate attosecond bursts of high-energy photons of unprecedented intensity. This has made it possible to observe the interaction of multiple photons in a single such pulse with electrons in the inner orbital shell of an atom.
In order to observe the ultrafast electron motion in the inner shells of atoms with short light pulses, the pulses must not only be ultrashort, but very...
A group of researchers led by Andrea Cavalleri at the Max Planck Institute for Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) in Hamburg has demonstrated a new method enabling precise measurements of the interatomic forces that hold crystalline solids together. The paper Probing the Interatomic Potential of Solids by Strong-Field Nonlinear Phononics, published online in Nature, explains how a terahertz-frequency laser pulse can drive very large deformations of the crystal.
By measuring the highly unusual atomic trajectories under extreme electromagnetic transients, the MPSD group could reconstruct how rigid the atomic bonds are...
Quantum computers may one day solve algorithmic problems which even the biggest supercomputers today can’t manage. But how do you test a quantum computer to...
For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.
In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...
Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale
Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...
15.02.2018 | Event News
13.02.2018 | Event News
12.02.2018 | Event News
23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
23.02.2018 | Health and Medicine
23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy