Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

U of T technique put to use to test clean up of contaminated groundwater

02.02.2009
Cleaning up the dangerous contaminants — dry-cleaning fluids, solvents and petroleum hydrocarbons — found in underground water presents one of the most urgent challenges facing environmental science. A report issued today by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sheds light on a new way to monitor and improve the success of clean-up efforts using a technique developed at the University of Toronto.

"The most common method to clean-up groundwater is biodegradation — using microbes to consume the contaminants and break them down into more benign end products that are not harmful to the environment," says U of T geochemist Barbara Sherwood Lollar, the scientist who initiated the concept and goals for the EPA report and is one of its five international authors.

The report outlines how this can be done using a novel technique called Compound Specific Isotope Analysis, developed in U of T's Stable Isotope Laboratory. The elements of carbon that form the basis for the hydrocarbon contaminants actually come in two types called isotopes, explains Sherwood Lollar. "When microbes degrade contaminants, they prefer the lighter isotope carbon 12 over the heavier isotope carbon 13. The resulting change in the ratio of these isotopes in the contaminant itself is a dramatic and definitive indicator that the biodegradation is successfully taking place."

Beginning in the 1990s, U of T's Stable Isotope Laboratory has been an international pioneer in discovering how different carbon isotopes can be used to identify whether or not biodegradation is taking place. "Today, dozens of students in Canada have been trained in this method, drawn in by the fascinating combination of fundamental research that has important applications such as the clean-up of drinking water," says Sherwood Lollar. Over the past decade, as the new technique has become more widespread, centres for research and education —- and even private companies — have blossomed worldwide.

"Much of the research on new methods of analyzing groundwater contamination has been published in scientific and professional journals but this report — written specifically for the practitioners in accessible language with clear procedural information and decision-making strategies — is a milestone," says Sherwood Lollar.

"It is particularly gratifying to be able to take a technique out of the lab and to put it into the hands of the people working on this issue every day around the world," she says.

The report can be found on the EPA website. It was funded by the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, Austria, the EPA and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. The leadership of Dr. John Wilson, a leading figure at the EPA, was critical to its completion and publication by the agency.

Christine Elias | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.utoronto.ca

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Listening in: Acoustic monitoring devices detect illegal hunting and logging
14.12.2017 | Gesellschaft für Ökologie e.V.

nachricht How fires are changing the tundra’s face
12.12.2017 | Gesellschaft für Ökologie e.V.

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: First-of-its-kind chemical oscillator offers new level of molecular control

DNA molecules that follow specific instructions could offer more precise molecular control of synthetic chemical systems, a discovery that opens the door for engineers to create molecular machines with new and complex behaviors.

Researchers have created chemical amplifiers and a chemical oscillator using a systematic method that has the potential to embed sophisticated circuit...

Im Focus: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Engineers program tiny robots to move, think like insects

15.12.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

One in 5 materials chemistry papers may be wrong, study suggests

15.12.2017 | Materials Sciences

New antbird species discovered in Peru by LSU ornithologists

15.12.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>