Superfund Research Program
Nano-Micro Hybrid Fibrous Materials for Contaminant Removal and Site Remediation
Project Summary (2020-2025)
Historic air, water, and soil pollution in North Birmingham from complex industrial processes resulted in surface and air contamination with heavy metals and other toxic compounds. Resuspension of particulate matter due to weathering, traffic, industrial, and other human activities containing some of the heavy metal particles from soil could pose high health risks in the neighborhood. It has been determined that soil in some of the properties contains high levels of metals, such as Cd, As, Mn, etc. On the other hand, continuous open pit mining operations, including large piles of waste and ash, represent permanent sources of the pollutant emissions, and measures of site isolation and remediation are necessary. The goal of this project is to fabricate and field-test a number of affordable high surface area carbonaceous / meso-micro porous hybrid materials made from natural-fibers, industrial carbon fiber waste, and carbon fiber derived from textile grade precursor, which would be effective for removal of contaminants from soil and for air filtration in households. The target contaminants are heavy metals such as Cd, Mn, and As, which are usually attached to / present in particulate matter in air and soil. Activated carbon fibers (ACF) derived from low-cost sources will have high surface area and surface functionalities to synergistically combine filtration and adsorption of heavy metals (HM) with affordability and sustainability of multiscale mat/adsorbent. The multidisciplinary University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and University of Tennessee, Knoxville / Oak Ridge National Laboratory manufacturing team provides a unique platform for collaboration for the successful execution of the project. Accordingly, the researchers chemically and physically functionalize the natural fiber-derived carbon fibers for effective adsorption/filtration of HM. The researchers are also studying the feasibility of producing controlled material forms for filtration and field testing for remediation. They are working closely with the other projects and cores (specifically the Data Management and Analysis Core and the Administrative and Research Translation Core) to translate research findings to expedite the use of project outcomes by end users focused on risk assessment and remediation management of exposure to hazardous substances (Cd, As, Mn).