IRON-CARBON COMPOSITES FOR THE REMEDIATION OF CHLORINATED HYDROCARBONS
This research is focused on engineering submicron spherical carbon particles as effective carriers/supports for nanoscale zerovalent iron (NZVI) particles to address the in situ remediation of soil and groundwater chlorinated contaminants. Chlorinated hydrocarbons such as trichloroethylene (TCE) and tetrachloroethylene (PCE) form a class of dense non-aqueous phase liquid (DNAPL) toxic contaminants in soil and groundwater. The in situ injection of NZVI particles to reduce DNAPLs is a potentially simple, cost-effective, and environmentally benign technology that has become a preferred method in the remediation of these compounds. However, unsupported NZVI particles exhibit ferromagnetism leading to particle aggregation and loss in mobility through the subsurface. This work demonstrates two approaches to prepare carbon supported NZVI (iron-carbon composites) particles. The objective is to establish these iron-carbon composites as extremely useful materials for the environmental remediation of chlorinated hydrocarbons and suitable materials for the in situ injection technology. This research also demonstrates that it is possible to vary the placement of iron nanoparticles either on the external surface or within the interior of carbon microspheres using a one-step aerosol-based process. The simple process of modifying iron placement has significant potential applications in heterogeneous catalysis as both the iron and carbon are widely used catalysts and catalyst supports. Furthermore, the aerosol-based process is applied to prepare new class of supported catalytic materials such as carbon-supported palladium nanoparticles for ex situ remediation of contaminated water. The iron-carbon composites developed in this research have multiple functionalities (a) they are reactive and function effectively in reductive dehalogenation (b) they are highly adsorptive thereby bringing the chlorinated compound to the proximity of the reactive sites and also serving as adsorption materials for decontamination (c) they are of the optimal size for transport through sediments (d) they have amphiphilic chemical functionalities that help stabilize them when they reach the DNAPL target zones. Finally, the iron-carbon composite microspheres prepared through aerosol-based process can used for in situ injection technology as the process is conductive to scale-up and the materials are environmentally benign.