Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Cleaning up contaminated soil, groundwater

20.05.2003


In the same way dishwashing detergents clean greasy dishes, scientists are using detergent-like surfactants to clean contaminated regions underground.



Cleaning up contaminated soil and groundwater is estimated to cost trillions of dollars in North America. The problem requires many different approaches because there are hundreds of different types of contaminants and the soils and geology differ from place to place. One approach that has shown promise for some situations can be viewed as "washing dirt".

In the same way dishwashing detergents clean greasy dishes, scientists studying groundwater contamination are using detergent-like surfactants to clean contaminated regions underground. Surfactants aid in soil and groundwater clean up by dissolving contaminants, such as oil or dry cleaning fluids. Surfactants make the removal of contaminants easier and faster.


The beneficial effects of surfactants on soil and groundwater clean-up efforts come at the cost of complicating our ability to use computer models to predict the behavior of contaminant and water flow. That is especially true in soil and rocks in the vadose zone, which is a lower water content zone above the water table.

Scientists Eric Henry, University of North Carolina at Wilmington, and James Smith, McMaster University, authored an article in the May issue of Vadose Zone Journal, published by the Soil Science Society of America, that summarizes the current state of knowledge on the effects of surfactants on water flow in the vadose zone.

Among the findings that Henry and Smith discuss are data from their research that shows surfactants can cause contaminants to move more rapidly through the vadose zone and reach the water table more quickly than if no surfactant was present. This behavior needs to be considered when deciding how, when, and where to use soil-washing systems. Despite this seemingly adverse effect caused by surfactant use in the vadose zone, the authors are not discouraged.

"This type of information advances our knowledge of unsaturated flow processes and will allow us to design more effective clean-up systems. For example, groundwater extraction wells could be installed to capture the contaminants as they reach the water table," said Henry.

Based on the work summarized in their article, Henry and Smith acknowledge that research over the last decade has generated advances in our knowledge of these complicated systems, but much remains unknown. They suggest that improved computer models to simulate these complex systems will be highly useful for developing better designs for cleaning contaminated soil and groundwater. Ongoing research into the effect of surfactants on the flow of contaminants within the vadose zone holds real promise to help reduce the time and money associated with cleaning the subsurface environment.



Vadose Zone Journal, www.vadosezonejournal.org, is an electronic, peer-reviewed, international publication published by the Soil Science Society of America (SSSA), with the Geological Society of America as cooperator. The research and assessment needs of the vadose zone have grown in response to the pressure of increasing human impacts, prompting this new publication for a diverse range of scientists and engineers. The mission of the Vadose Zone Journal is to disseminate information about the physical, chemical, and biological processes operating in this zone and to facilitate science-based decision making and sustainable management of the vadose zone.

The American Society of Agronomy (ASA) www.agronomy.org, the Crop Science Society of America (CSSA) www.crops.org and the Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) www.soils.org are educational organizations helping their 10,000+ members advance the disciplines and practices of agronomy, crop and soil sciences by supporting professional growth and science policy initiatives, and by providing quality, research-based publications and a variety of member services.

Sara Uttech | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.asa-cssa-sssa.org/
http://www.vadosezonejournal.org
http://www.agronomy.org

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Reducing household waste with less energy
18.01.2017 | FIZ Karlsruhe – Leibniz-Institut für Informationsinfrastruktur GmbH

nachricht Joint research project on wastewater for reuse examines pond system in Namibia
19.12.2016 | Technische Universität Darmstadt

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

Im Focus: How to inflate a hardened concrete shell with a weight of 80 t

At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).

Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

Nothing will happen without batteries making it happen!

05.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A big nano boost for solar cells

18.01.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Glass's off-kilter harmonies

18.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

Toward a 'smart' patch that automatically delivers insulin when needed

18.01.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>