Project #5: Chloro-Organic Degradation by Polymer Membrane Immobilized Iron-Based Particle Systems

The contamination of groundwater aquifers and soil in various Superfund sites by toxic chlorinated organic compounds, e.g., polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and trichloroethylene (TCE) continues to be a pervasive problem preventing use of these potentially potable sources for drinking water. Despite decades of cleanup efforts, these types of organic compounds continue to be Superfund contaminants of national concern due to their high toxicity, persistence, and wide spread occurrence in the environment. Of the 14 active National Priority List sites in Kentucky, 6 are contaminated with either PCBs or TCE, including the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant. The development of technologies based on the use of non-toxic chemicals and the integration of well-established polymer membrane technologies is expected to bring solutions to remediate toxic organics. Chlorine containing organics, such as TCE (used as degreasing solvents and even in dry cleaning) and PCB (used in transformers) are known to have high toxicity. Oxidative and reductive detoxification techniques can be used either separately or in tandem to break down these pollutants by utilizing reactive iron nanoparticles.

Researchers with the University of Kentucky Superfund Research Center are currently working to overcome the
obstacles of nanoparticle-based pollutant degradation by integrating particles in high throughput membranes to provide an elegant solution for remediation. This approach not only prevents clumping of particles but also eliminates particle release. UK researchers are also working with a membrane manufacturing company (Nanostone Water) to make full scale membrane filters (see picture) containing iron particles. These membranes can be rolled up (in spiral form) and placed in plastic pipes through which contaminated groundwater can then be pumped and cleaned before
being pumped back into the groundwater or released to a nearby stream.


  • Bhattacharyya, D. and T. Schafer (Editors), Book on “Responsive Membrane and Materials”, John Wiley Publisher (Jan 2013).
  • Xiao, Li,  A. Isner, J. Z. Hilt and D. Bhattacharyya, Temperature Responsive Hydrogel with Reactive Nanoparticles”, J. Applied Polymer Science, 128, 1804-1814 (2013)
  • Zahran, E., Bhattacharyya, D., Bachas, L.,” Reactivity of Pd/Fe Bimetallic Nanotubes in Dechlorination of Coplanar Polychlorinated Biphenyls”, Chemosphere, 91, 165-171 (April 2013).
  • Gui, M., Ormsbee, L., Bhattacharyya, D., "Reactive Functionalized Membranes for Polychlorinated Biphenyl Degradation", Invited manuscript, IEC Research (ACS) special issue honoring Dr. Enrico Drioli, DOI: 10.1021/ie400507c, ASAP Online( May 2013)
  • Smuleac,V., Xiao, Li., and Bhattacharyya, D., “Greener and other approaches to synthesize Fe and Pd nanoparticles in functionalized membranes and hydrogel”, in ACS Book on Green Nanotechnology and the Environment, American Chemical Society, IN PRESS (2013).

Posters and Presentations



Three Patents were issued 2014. See Information here


Dibakar Bhattacharyya
(Project Leader)

Lindell Ormsbee


Sebastian Hernandez
(Postdoctoral Trainee)

Ashish Aher
(Graduate Trainee)

Mohammad Saiful Islam
(Graduate Trainee)

Anthony Saad
(Graduate Trainee)

Hongyi (Derek) Wan
(Graduate Trainee)