Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Carnegie Mellon University researchers create nanoparticles to clean up contaminated sites

01.04.2004


Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and the U.S. Department of Energy are developing "smart" nanoparticles to clean up environmental toxins that resist conventional remediation methods. This research is being presented by Greg Lowry on Wednesday, March 31, at the 227th annual meeting of the American Chemical Society in Anaheim, Cal. (ENVR 52, Marriott-Grand Ballroom D).



Pollutants in the ground that do not easily mix with water, such as organic solvents, are a continued source of groundwater pollution until they are removed.

"These subsurface pollutants are a particularly difficult problem because there are few reliable technologies to locate and destroy them," said Lowry, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Carnegie Mellon. "Our team of environmental engineers, chemical engineers, chemists and physicists is developing a process very similar to a targeted drug delivery system to target and destroy these dangerous groundwater toxins," he said.


A team of investigators, including Lowry, Sara Majetich, Krysztof Matyjaszewski, David Sholl and Robert Tilton of Carnegie Mellon and Paul Meakin, George Redden and Harry Rollins of the Energy Department, designed nanoparticles with the potential to reach underground pockets of chlorinated organic solvent called trichloroethylene (TCE). This chemical is still used extensively to remove grease from metal parts. Approximately 60 percent of the 1,400 contaminated sites on the National Priorities List, the nation’s most hazardous waste sites, are contaminated with this suspected carcinogen, according to Lowry.

TCE separates out from water as droplets, much like oil or water. But underground pockets of this chemical can steadily release droplets into porous soil layers called aquifers, which supply 50 percent of the nation’s drinking water. Left untreated, billions of gallons of groundwater stand to be contaminated by TCE, Lowry said.

To make the nanoparticles used in the current research, the investigators started with a core reactive iron that quickly breaks down chlorinated organic solvents into harmless byproducts. The research group of Matyjaszewski, a professor of chemistry and director of the Center for Macromolecular Engineering at the Mellon College of Science, coated these iron molecules with two polymer shells. An outer, "water-loving" shell would enable particles to travel through an aquifer. Once it reached a water-TCE interface, an inner "water-hating" shell would make the particles stick there and allow the particle’s reactive core to break down this toxic residue.

The nanoparticles were created by atom transfer radical polymerization (ATRP). This synthetic method was developed by Matyjaszewski to precisely control the formation of polymers at the nanoscale level. Using ATRP, scientists can mass produce high quality materials that combine very different structural and functional properties.

Nanoparticles are ideal agents to treat underground pockets of chlorinated organic solvents because they can move easily through even the smallest pores within soil. The current study is focused on developing particles with field testing as the next segment. This nanoparticle technology also could be adapted to clean up spills of other chlorinated solvents.

It has been estimated that the cost of cleaning up the many U.S. groundwater sites contaminated by TCE could reach $1 trillion, according to the Department of Energy. Current technologies are limited in their effectiveness. Typically, they involve containing the problem by treating a steady plume of organic solvent as it is slowly released from the source. Taking the targeted nanoparticles directly to the source of the contamination would remove it and solve the problem faster, Lowry said. This step would significantly lower cleanup costs. This research also will provide a better understanding of how small particles transport in a subsurface. Researchers from Carnegie Mellon and the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory received $1.7 million from the Department of Energy for the three-year study.


An illustration of these nanoparticles is available by contacting either Chriss Swaney at 412-268- 5776 or Lauren Ward at 412-268-7761.

Chriss Swaney | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.cmu.edu/

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Project provides information on energy recovery from agricultural residues in Germany and China
13.02.2020 | Deutsches Biomasseforschungszentrum

nachricht New exhaust gas measurement registers ultrafine pollutant particles for the first time
21.01.2020 | Technische Universität Graz

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: Freiburg researcher investigate the origins of surface texture

Most natural and artificial surfaces are rough: metals and even glasses that appear smooth to the naked eye can look like jagged mountain ranges under the microscope. There is currently no uniform theory about the origin of this roughness despite it being observed on all scales, from the atomic to the tectonic. Scientists suspect that the rough surface is formed by irreversible plastic deformation that occurs in many processes of mechanical machining of components such as milling.

Prof. Dr. Lars Pastewka from the Simulation group at the Department of Microsystems Engineering at the University of Freiburg and his team have simulated such...

Im Focus: Skyrmions like it hot: Spin structures are controllable even at high temperatures

Investigation of the temperature dependence of the skyrmion Hall effect reveals further insights into possible new data storage devices

The joint research project of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) that had previously demonstrated...

Im Focus: Making the internet more energy efficient through systemic optimization

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, recently completed a 5-year research project looking at how to make fibre optic communications systems more energy efficient. Among their proposals are smart, error-correcting data chip circuits, which they refined to be 10 times less energy consumptive. The project has yielded several scientific articles, in publications including Nature Communications.

Streaming films and music, scrolling through social media, and using cloud-based storage services are everyday activities now.

Im Focus: New synthesis methods enhance 3D chemical space for drug discovery

After helping develop a new approach for organic synthesis -- carbon-hydrogen functionalization -- scientists at Emory University are now showing how this approach may apply to drug discovery. Nature Catalysis published their most recent work -- a streamlined process for making a three-dimensional scaffold of keen interest to the pharmaceutical industry.

"Our tools open up whole new chemical space for potential drug targets," says Huw Davies, Emory professor of organic chemistry and senior author of the paper.

Im Focus: Quantum fluctuations sustain the record superconductor

Superconductivity approaching room temperature may be possible in hydrogen-rich compounds at much lower pressures than previously expected

Reaching room-temperature superconductivity is one of the biggest dreams in physics. Its discovery would bring a technological revolution by providing...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

70th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting: Around 70 Laureates set to meet with young scientists from approx. 100 countries

12.02.2020 | Event News

11th Advanced Battery Power Conference, March 24-25, 2020 in Münster/Germany

16.01.2020 | Event News

Laser Colloquium Hydrogen LKH2: fast and reliable fuel cell manufacturing

15.01.2020 | Event News

 
Latest News

Movement of a liquid droplet generates over 5 volts of electricity

18.02.2020 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Powering the future: Smallest all-digital circuit opens doors to 5 nm next-gen semiconductor

18.02.2020 | Information Technology

Studying electrons, bridging two realms of physics: connecting solids and soft matter

18.02.2020 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>