PROTECT and University of Kentucky SRC Collaborative Study on Water Remediation

At the 2016 Annual Superfund Research Program Meeting, researchers from PROTECT and the University of Kentucky SRC discovered their respective research on water remediation overlapped in interesting and potentially significant ways. PROTECT’s Project 5 developed a technology that uses both palladium powder catalyst and electrolysis to remove contaminants from groundwater through a process called electro-Fenton. UK SRC Project 5 develops membrane filters for groundwater remediation, including a palladized membrane. The two centers collaborated on a study to assess the impact of the palladium form—powder or membrane—on the electrochemical remediation process.

Graphical Abstract

Graphical abstract from PROTECT and UK SRP collaborative study

Their results were published in October 2018 by Chemosphere. The teams compared palladium on alumina powder and palladized polyacrylic acid (PAA) in a polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) membrane in an electro-Fenton system to degrade chlorobenzene in groundwater. They found both powder and membrane forms were effective, degrading 96% and 88% of chlorobenzene, respectively. Based on the high efficiency but also the low-maintenance of the palladium membrane versus the palladium powder, which requires separation steps after treatment, this study indicates that palladium immobilized on a membrane is a promising innovative groundwater remediation technology.

The paper was co-written by several current and former trainees from PROTECT and UK SRC, as well as project leaders Akram Alshawabkeh (PROTECT Project 5) and Dibakar Bhattacharyya (UK SRC Project 5). Trainees and researchers involved include Roya Nazari, former PROTECT trainee, currently a Postdoctoral Associate at Rutgers University; Ljiljana Rajic, former PROTECT trainee and later Associate Research Scientist, now Chief Science Officer at the Pioneer Valley Coral & Natural Science Institute; Ali Ciblak, former PROTECT trainee, currently Remediation Engineer at Geosyntec Consultants; and Sebastián Hernández, currently UK SRC trainee.