Project #4: Biomimetic Magnetic Nanocomposites as a Platform Technology for the Capture and Sensing of PCBs

Despite a production ban in 1979 and decades of remediation efforts, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) remain a persistent environmental contaminant. Their continued presence in the environment has resulted in multiple potential human exposure routes, e.g., soil, riverbeds, groundwater and milk. Gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GC-MS) remains the current standard for sensitivity and specificity in detecting PCBs in the environment. However, GC-MS requires intricate, time-consuming extraction and sample purification techniques. Alternatively, affinity-based methods typically require less processing and can even be coupled to remediation strategies for a single-step purification process, but current technologies also have limitations. There remains a need for a stable system that selectively binds and captures PCBs for sensing and remediation technologies.

We hypothesize that synthetic, biomimetic PCB binding domains can be synthesized by incorporating phenolic and related moieties into polymeric coatings on magnetic nanoparticles, which can greatly enhance the ability to detect and remove/remediate PCB contamination. Polyphenols (e.g., plant derived flavonoids) and related chemistries offer an intriguing precursor for creating biomimetic affinity domains. Recently, we developed a novel strategy to synthesize polymeric networks that incorporate phenolic moieties, and in preliminary studies, we showed that PCB binding was increased through the incorporation of phenolic moieties in our polymeric coatings.

The overall goal of this project is to develop a magnetic nanocomposite platform that allows for the selective capture of PCB congeners with a range of affinities and selectivities.

Development of Composite Nanoparticles for the Capture and Sensing of Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)



J. Zach Hilt
(Project Leader)

Thomas D.Dziubla


 Molly Frazar 
(Graduate Trainee)

 Angela Gutiérrez 
(Postdoctoral Trainee)

 Dustin Savage 
(Graduate Trainee)

 Rishabh Shah 
(Graduate Trainee)