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Environmental Factor, December 2012

SRP patents licensed for water applications

By Sara Mishamandani

Dibakar Bhattacharyya, Ph.D.

Bhattacharyya leads the NIEHS-funded UK SRP project that focuses on the degradation of chlorinated organic contaminants in water. (Photo courtesy of The University of Kentucky)

SRP Membrane Diagram

This illustration depicts an example of the method used by Bhattacharyya for water purification, using stacked functionalized synthetic membranes. (Photo courtesy of The University of Kentucky)

Patents from the NIEHS-funded University of Kentucky (UK) Superfund Research Program (SRP) center have been licensed by Sepro Membranes Inc. in Oceanside, Calif. The functional membrane technology, described in three patents, degrades waterborne contaminants, including toxic organic compounds; sequesters heavy metals at very high capacity; and uses synthesized nanoparticles, all within the membrane pore structure.

Dibakar Bhattacharyya, Ph.D., university alumni professor of chemical and materials engineering at UK, serves as principal investigator on the projects. Bhattacharyya and his SRP team developed the dual membrane system to remove chlorinated organic contaminants from water, including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and trichloroethylene (TCE).

PCBs and TCE are present at Superfund sites in Kentucky and nationwide. TCE, a degreasing agent, is the most frequently reported organic contaminant in groundwater. PCBs are a class of hazardous chemicals used in coatings for electronics, sealants, adhesives, paint, and flame retardants that were banned in the 1970s, but still linger in groundwater and soil.

Innovative water detoxification technology

Bhattacharyya’s membrane system uses enzymes to generate hydrogen peroxide, which are needed for free radical production. The system uses the free radicals, along with iron-based nanoparticles, synthesized by Bhattacharyya’s group, for the oxidative dechlorination of the contaminants.

Bhattacharyya’s group pioneered the synthesis of iron-based nanoparticles for toxic organic dechlorination, providing a green method for the remediation of groundwater. The device may offer an inexpensive way to provide clean drinking water in areas of the world where chemical contamination is prevalent.

"The integration of nanotechnology and membrane provides a novel approach for water detoxification technologies, through the use of non-toxic nanoparticles and green chemistry approaches," said Bhattacharyya. " Sepro (http://www.sepromembranes.com/index.html)  manufactures large-scale systems. Their goal will be to integrate our membrane functionalization approaches, through the licensing of three new patents and five previous patents, for new and untapped water technology markets."

(Sara Mishamandani is a research and communication specialist for MDB Inc., a contractor for the NIEHS Superfund Research Program, Worker Education and Training Program, and Division of Extramural Research and Training.)




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