brian wang writes "Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and the U.S. Department of Energy are developing 'smart' nanoparticles to clean up environmental toxins that resist conventional remediation methods. Carnegie Mellon University researchers create nanoparticles to clean up contaminated sites"
This research [was] presented by Greg Lowry on Wednesday, March 31, at the 227th annual meeting of the American Chemical Society in Anaheim, Cal. (ENVR 52, Marriott-Grand Ballroom D).
Pollutants in the ground that do not easily mix with water, such as organic solvents, are a continued source of groundwater pollution until they are removed.
New nanoparticles were created by atom transfer radical polymerization (ATRP). This synthetic method was developed by Matyjaszewski to precisely control the formation of polymers at the nanoscale level. Using ATRP, scientists can mass produce high quality materials that combine very different structural and functional properties.
Nanoparticles are ideal agents to treat underground pockets of chlorinated organic solvents because they can move easily through even the smallest pores within soil. The current study is focused on developing particles with field testing as the next segment. This nanoparticle technology also could be adapted to clean up spills of other chlorinated solvents.
It has been estimated that the cost of cleaning up the many U.S. groundwater sites contaminated by TCE could reach $1 trillion, according to the Department of Energy. Current technologies are limited in their effectiveness. Typically, they involve containing the problem by treating a steady plume of organic solvent as it is slowly released from the source. Taking the targeted nanoparticles directly to the source of the contamination would remove it and solve the problem faster, Lowry said. This step would significantly lower cleanup costs.