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 Safeguarding sustainability through forest certification mapping
27.06.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

nachricht Dune ecosystem modelling
26.06.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

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: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Ultra-compact phase modulators based on graphene plasmons

27.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

For a chimpanzee, one good turn deserves another

27.06.2017 | Life Sciences

Collapse of the European ice sheet caused chaos

27.06.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>