Sudipta Seal and Larry Hench are developing a novel process for treating fly ash--a by-product of burning coal--to absorb oil. Fly ash contains a mix of calcium, silicon and aluminum, along with traces of other elements. Although fly ash can be used to make bricks, concrete and road-building materials, millions of tons of the material end up in disposal ponds, mine pits or landfills, where it has the potential to contaminate groundwater. Find out more in this discovery.
Credit: S. Seal, L. L. Hench, David Reid (G), Ian Goldstein, University of Central Florida
Paul Edmiston, a chemistry professor at the College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio, has created a swellable, organically-modified silica, or glass, called "Osorb." It is capable of extracting pollutants like dissolved petroleum and other contaminants from water. See more in this Science Nation video.
Credit: Science Nation, National Science Foundation
The Division of Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental and Transport (CBET) Systems of the Directorate for Engineering supports research and education in the rapidly evolving fields of bioengineering and environmental engineering and in areas that involve the transformation and/or transport of matter and energy by chemical, thermal or mechanical means.
More than 12 million Chinese rely on Lake Taihu for drinking water, but about 20 years ago, the once pristine lake turned pea green. Two researchers from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, are teaming with international group of researchers and students to combine molecular biology, ecological analysis and environmental remediation. The work could offer lessons to safeguarding America’s water supply.
University of Michigan ecologist Bradley Cardinale has uncovered the long-sought mechanism that explains why biologically diverse streams are better at cleaning up pollutants than less-rich waterways.
August 12, 2013
Cactus "flesh" cleans up toxic water
Prickly pear cacti may be natural, cheaper answer to water cleanup
University of South Florida engineering professor Norma Alcantar and her team are using the "flesh" from Prickly Pear cacti, called mucilage, to clean up oil and other toxins from water. With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Alcantar has spent the last few years confirming something that her grandmother told her years ago--that cacti can purify water.
"This research is a good example of NSF's investment in sustainable chemistry which promotes the replacement of expensive and/or toxic chemicals with Earth-abundant, inexpensive and benign chemicals," says Debra Reinhart, program director in the Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental and Transport Systems Division of the NSF's Engineering Directorate. The research is currently funded by the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GOMRI) through the Consortium of Molecular Engineering of Dispersant Systems (C-MEDS).
The objectives of this research are to develop a water purification system based on an economically feasible method of water purification using cactus mucilage for low-income inhabitants of rural communities that are sensitive to existing economic, social and cultural patterns. The project transcends national boundaries as it includes collaborations among investigators at the University of South Florida, two leading Mexican public universities, and the National Institute of the Environment in Mexico.
The cactus project has been assessed for the rural communities of Temamatla in central Mexico, for Port-au-Prince, Haiti, after the 2010 earthquake, and for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2011. Temamatla is located 25 miles (40 kilometers) southeast of Mexico City and was critical for this study owing to its proximity to volcanic soils where the concentration of heavy metals such as cobalt, mercury, nickel, copper, zinc, iron, manganese, chromium, iodine, arsenic, molybdenum and lead in local water supplies may be higher than recommended values. In Haiti, the outcomes of the project were to determine the ground water quality after the earthquake and evaluate the feasibility of implementing a low cost technology for disaster relief based on cactus mucilage. The cactus mucilage is also able to disperse crude oil efficiently at much lower concentrations than synthetic dispersants.
The broader implications of this project include the multidisciplinary participation of American and Mexican researchers in issues that are relevant to both countries owing to their proximity and preexisting ties. Such collaboration will promote mutual opportunities and infrastructure for research, education, training, networking and future partnerships. Most importantly, the proposed technology will improve current water-related issues and problems in areas of extreme need.
Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations presented in this material are only those of the presenter grantee/researcher, author, or agency employee; and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.