SBRP investigators design innovative remediation strategies:
Trichloroethylene (TCE) is the most prevalent groundwater contaminant in the United States and is found at most hazardous waste sites. Researchers across the country are working to develop and optimize biological and chemical remediation strategies to degrade this ubiquitous contaminant.
Investigators at the University of Kentucky SBRP are designing and testing methods using nanostructured metals to degrade TCE. Because nanoscale metals have significantly more surface area per unit mass than bulk-scale metals and have enhanced reactive sites, theoretically, reaction rates with nanoscale metals can be several orders of magnitude higher than with bulk-scale metals. They have tested this hypothesis and demonstrated a 75% reduction in TCE levels in 4.2 hours with cellulose-acetate containing nanoparticles, and complete destruction (formation of ethane only) within 2 hours was obtained with bimetallic iron/nickel systems. This corresponds to about 100 times higher reaction rates than bulk iron metals. Furthermore, only minimal leaching of the metal into the solution was observed and harmful byproducts of TCE degradations were not generated. This research may have significant impact on remediation of chlorinated organics with potential application in improving water quality.