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Your Environment. Your Health.

Utilizing Innovative Materials Science Approaches to Enhance Bioremediation

Superfund Research Program

This SRP Progress in Research webinar series will showcase new breakthroughs to advance sustainable solutions for hazardous substances in the environment. The three-part series will feature SRP individual research projects funded in 2020, who are incorporating new advances in materials science to optimize bioremediation of contaminants in soil, sediment, or water. Bioremediation is a cost-effective, energy efficient approach involving bacteria, fungi, and plants to break down and remove hazardous substances from the environment.

These awards were made as part of a special grant opportunity - RFA-ES-20-004, Optimizing Natural Systems for Remediation: Utilizing Innovative Materials Science Approaches to Enhance Bioremediation (R01). In each session, awardees will describe their research projects, accomplishments, and next steps. 

To learn more about these research projects, see this  SRP fact sheet (674KB).

Session I - Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances

April 15, from 1-3 p.m. EDT

To view a recorded archive, visit the EPA's CLU-IN Training & Events Session I Registration webpage.

The first session highlighted sustainable technologies to break down and remove per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) from the environment.

Speakers:

  • Yujie Men, Ph.D., University of California, Riverside
  • Peter Jaffe, Ph.D., Princeton University
  • Diana Aga, Ph.D., and Nirupam Aich, Ph.D., State University of New York at Buffalo; Carla Ng, Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh 
  • Moderator: Heather Henry, Ph.D., NIEHS Superfund Research Program

Yujie Men, Ph.D., discussed work by researchers who are exploring how nanomaterials powered by solar electricity can accelerate the activity of bacteria used to clean up halogenated contaminants, such as PFAS and 1,4-dioxane in groundwater. The scientists are using advanced analytical tools to understand how solar electricity can allow bacteria to degrade halogenated contaminants faster, more deeply, and under more realistic conditions. For more information, see the University of California, Riverside’s project description.

Peter Jaffe, Ph.D., talked about how investigators are developing ferrihydrite nanoparticles to stimulate the activity of bacteria to break down PFAS in contaminated drinking water. The team is using laboratory studies to enhance the transport of their nanoparticles in groundwater. For more information, see the Princeton University’s project description.

Diana Aga, Ph.D., Nirupam Aich, Ph.D., and Carla Ng, Ph.D., explained how their team is developing a two-step approach to eliminate PFAS in the environment. First, graphene-metal nanoparticles are used to break down PFAS into biodegradable forms, and then enriched bacterial cultures are used to complete the degradation process. For more information, see the State University of New York at Buffalo’s project description.

Session II - Chlorinated Compounds

April 29, from 1-3 p.m. EDT

To view a recorded archive, visit the EPA's CLU-IN Training & Events Session II Registration webpage.

The second session showcased novel tools and improved techniques to clean up sites contaminated with chlorinated compounds.

Speakers:

  • Youneng Tang, Ph.D., Florida State University; Yuexiao Shen, Ph.D., Texas Tech University
  • Lewis Semprini, Ph.D., Oregon State University
  • Tim Mattes, Ph.D., University of Iowa
  • Wenqing Xu, Ph.D., Villanova University
  • Upal Ghosh, Ph.D., University of Maryland, Baltimore County
  • Moderator: Cindy Frickle, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Youneng Tang, Ph.D., and Yuexiao Shen, Ph.D., presented on work to design sorbents to clean up groundwater contaminated with 1,4-dioxane and chlorinated volatile organic contaminants (VOCs). Consisting of a set of repeating cyclic macromolecules with unique geometry and internal chemistry, the sorbents can form specific microbe-contaminant complexes with only selected molecules, such as 1,4-dioxane. For more information, see the Florida State University’s project description.

Lewis Semprini, Ph.D., highlighted work by investigators developing a strategy to use bacteria encapsulated with a slow-release compound in hydrogel beads to break down complex mixtures of contaminants, such as VOCs and 1,4-dioxane. Using materials science and laboratory studies, the team aims to inform long-term bioremediation solutions to treat a broad range of contaminants. For more information, see Oregon State University’s project description.

Tim Mattes, Ph.D., and Wenqing Xu, Ph.D., discussed how researchers are investigating how activated carbon can be used to enhance the performance of bacteria used to break down halogenated pollutants, such as chlorinated ethenes. By re-engineering carbon materials, they hope to influence the composition of the degrading microbial community and increase their ability to break down mixtures of halogenated contaminants. For more information, see the University of Iowa’s project description.

Upal Ghosh, Ph.D., explained research focused on developing carbon-based sorbent materials to enhance the ability of bacteria to break down mixtures of chlorinated organic contaminants, such as chloroethene and polychlorinated biphenyls, in groundwater and sediments. They hope to integrate their laboratory findings with advanced site models to assess field-scale remedial applications. For more information, see the University of Maryland, Baltimore County’s project description.

Session III - Plant and Fungal-based Bioremediation

May 13, from 1-3 p.m. EDT

To register, visit the EPA's CLU-IN Training & Events Session III Registration webpage.

The third and final session will focus on strategies to improve how plant and fungi remove hazardous substances from soil.

Speakers:

  • Susie Dai, Ph.D., Texas A&M Agrilife Research
  • Om Parkash Dhanker, Ph.D., University of Massachusetts Amherst
  • Christy Haynes, Ph.D., and Riley Lewis, University of Minnesota; Sara Nason, Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station
  • Moderator: Anthony Danko, Ph.D., Naval Facilities Engineering and Expeditionary Warfare Center

Susie Dai, Ph.D., will discuss how scientists are designing an integrated system using nanotechnology to enhance the capacity of fungi to break down persistent organic pollutants, such as PFAS. They seek to understand how modifying their nanomaterials can improve chemical adsorption and favor fungal growth. Laboratory tests are using samples collected from the Randolph Air Force Base in Texas. For more information, see Texas A&M Agrilife Research’s project description.

Om Parkash Dhanker, Ph.D., will present on work to genetically engineer plants to take up arsenic from soil and store it in their tissues. They are modifying the expression of genes that control the binding of arsenic and adding nanosulfur to the plant to improve its growth arsenic storage capacity. For more information, see the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s project description.

Christy Haynes, Ph.D., Riley Lewis, and Sara Nason, Ph.D., will talk about how researchers are designing nanomaterials customized to bind and take up PFAS from contaminated soil and water into hemp plants. Their nanomaterials are based on silica nanoparticles with high porosity and surface area, and on carbon dots known for their small size and fluorescence, which will allow the team to visually track the PFAS movement into and throughout the plants. For more information, see Yale University’s project description.

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