Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2015DC172B

Water Pollution Prevention and Removal Using Nanostructured Smart Fluid with Switchable Surfactants

Institute: District of Columbia
Year Established: 2015 Start Date: 2015-03-01 End Date: 2016-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $10,000 Total Non-Federal Funds: $34,400

Principal Investigators: Jiajun Xu

Abstract: To restore and maintain the physical chemical and biological integrity of water bodies in the United States, there is an urgent need of developing effective and economical feasible solution for the prevention and treatment of contamination of water supplies caused by industrial wastes and storm water[1]. In the last decade, many new techniques and methodologies have been proposed to remedy contaminated water which includes using micro/nanostructured membrane/filtration, nanoparticle catalytic, and chemical reaction [1-12] etc. However, these methods are still evolving and often times, further cleaning/removal of the nanomaterials/surfactants added inside are needed which usually is time-consuming and expensive [9-11]. So the proposal research will explore and characterize a new nanostructured smart fluid system with switchable surfactants, which can smartly remove the pollutants along with itself under certain external stimulus. More importantly, those methods are more focused on restoration rather than prevention of wastes in water[1, 2]. The broader goal of this research project is to assist in exploring a new water pollution prevention and restoration solution which can change the way industry operate the cleaning, manufacturing, oil recovery and other processes by providing a more feasible and efficient approach. Especially the surfactant, which is widely used in most industrial applications to enhance stability or reduce heat and mass transport limitations, rarely is an integral component of the final product. In these cases, surfactant removal and the breaking of the emulsion usually entails addition of heat, mechanical agitation, or chemical interfacial modification with the addition of an emulsion neutralizing agent[1]. These treatments are not only costly; they often lead to product contamination and produce large volumes of surfactant-contaminated aqueous wastes. Via developing a smart switchable surfactant which can replace existing surfactant used in various industrial processes and perform self-clean process under external stimulus after finish its job, it is not only economically appealing, but also environmentally sustainable. Our approach comprises two components: 1) Preparation of smart fluid system using selected switchable surfactants, and 2) Characterization and optimization of the pollutant removal efficiency (e.g. phosphorus, pesticide). One smart switchable surfactant responsive to UV light has been developed by one of the PIs, and it will serve as a template system for water pollutant removal. Common chemicals used for pesticide and phosphorus removal will be integrated into the switchable surfactant the PI developed to remove these targeted pollutants from aqueous solution. The efficiency of the new system will be evaluated using chromatography before and after test. The system will then be optimized to maximize the efficiency while minimize the amount of surfactant. Further comparison to existing techniques used in Blue Plains Wastewater Treatment Plant will be carried out. The proposed research is very much useful for the District of Columbia because it can help improve the efficiency and capacity of wastewater treatment to meet the increasing volume of wastewater, especially in metropolitan area