Ion exchange is an important pollution-control technology for ionic contaminants, such as hardness and heavy metals. However, ion exchange materials have a whole new array of potential uses when they are pre-treated with a surfactant material (i.e. soap or detergent). The surfactant on the surface of the ion exchanger allows it to pick up organic molecules, and it could be used to extract a whole host of organics from the environment, such as pesticides, pharmaceuticals, petroleum products, solvents, and other dangerous pollutants. The system is also completely reusable, and may be able to be regenerated with carbon dioxide from flue gas. It could therefore be beneficial in controlling carbon emissions as well.
We are investigating surfactant-loaded ion exchange fibers at the lab scale. Students working on this project will design and run experiments for fiber loading, contaminant removal, and regeneration. They will also learn how to use some different analytical equipment.
Advisors: Professor Greenleaf