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Your Environment. Your Health.

Brown University

Superfund Research Program

Development of Novel Electrochemical Techniques for Heavy Metals Removal and Remediation

Project Leader: Joseph M. Calo
Grant Number: P42ES013660
Funding Period: 2009-2014
View this project in the NIH Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tools (RePORT)

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Project Summary (2009-2014)

Most of the heavy metals are included among the 275 substances on the 2007 CERCLA Priority List of Hazardous Substances. Thus, the effective remediation of contaminated sites must invariably address the effective removal of heavy metals from contaminated water and aqueous leachates. The goal of this project is the development of new heavy metal removal/remediation/recovery technologies based on electrochemical techniques. Work has included the use of spouted particulate electrodes with circulating conductive particles for electrowinning (i.e., direct metal reduction) of heavy metals from solution. This has been applied to the development of the Cyclic Electrowinning/Precipitation (CEP) System that combines electrowinning with precipitation/redissolution to remove heavy metals from aqueous mixtures onto solid particles in a cyclic process, producing no precipitate sludges external to the process. The spouted particulate electrode is also being used as a contacting device for electrosorption/electrodesorption (ES/ED) processes on adsorbents in an electric field (SBED). Laboratory-scale electrochemical cell results have demonstrated effective performance of ES/ED methods on the removal of As, Cr, and their mixtures at ug/L levels. The SBED approach will also be used for the enhancement of zerovalent iron (ZVI) techniques for the removal of heavy metals, both with and without applied potentials. Work on this project has also identified other heavy metal contamination, purification, and analysis problems that can be effectively addressed using novel electrochemical techniques.

The project goal will be achieved by fulfilling the following three main objectives:

  1. Electrowinning. This objective is focused primarily on the development of the CEP System, as noted above. This system has been constructed, is operational, and is currently in the test phase.
  2. Electrosorption/Electrodesorption. This objective is focused on the development of ES/ED techniques, including electrochemical cycling, to enhance the uptake of heavy metals from complex mixtures onto adsorbents, and their subsequent regeneration in the SBED system. The latter will also be used for the enhancement of zero-valent iron (ZVI) techniques for the removal of heavy metals, both with and without an applied potential. In the first two objectives, data are being obtained on the removal of heavy metals from complex synthetic mixtures, and then on mixtures derived from contaminated field samples identified in collaboration with RIDEM.
  3. Electrochemical Methods for Other Heavy Metals Contamination Problems. This objective focused on the development and application of electrochemical techniques, such as cyclic electrosorption, electrochemical potential cycling for purification of heavy metal-contaminated materials, electro-deposition of modifiers for the improvement of electrosorption/adsorption performance on adsorbent materials, and the development of electrochemical methods, such as anodic stripping voltammetry (ASV), for more rapid and facile heavy metal analyses.
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