September 24, 2009
The swelling of Osorb upon the drop-wise addition of a solvent. The swelling is reversible and energetic, capable of lifting 20,000 it's own weight.
WOOSTER, Ohio - Paul Edmiston, associate professor of chemistry, biochemistry, and molecular biology at The College of Wooster, has received a $136,269 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to continue his work on the development of Osorb, a remarkable substance capable of purifying water by removing organic contaminants. The chemically inert silica-based swellable glass extracts a wide variety of pollutants from water, including pharmaceuticals, pesticides, and chlorinated solvents. The unique substance absorbs up to eight times its weight and is completely reversible, acting as a sponge that can be "wrung out" and used again. The grant will be used to further pilot studies of the new substance with embedded iron, which can be injected into the
ground to absorb and chemically destroy such toxins as trichloroethylene and perchlorethylene.
"The serendipitous discovery of swellable glass, which absorbs only organics, may fundamentally change the process of chemical separations," said Edmiston. "It is exciting to apply this discovery to build materials that on the nanoscale remove a wide range of chemicals from water. My hope is that this material can help solve some intractable problems in water remediation."
Edmiston, who discovered the absorption capability of the substance while working on another NSF-sponsored project, believes that Osorb will revolutionize water purification on an international scale. "Industrial activity, modern agricultural practices, and widespread use of various chemicals have led to contamination of water by organic pollutants," he said. "Organic solvents, pesticides, and other emerging contaminants have infiltrated watersheds, making such water
unfit for use by humans until the contaminating species are removed. Osorb expands rapidly and has the capability of absorbing large amounts of dissolved organic species, not only from water, but also from the air."
With the NSF grant, Edmiston hopes to achieve three objectives: (1) develop a fundamental understanding of absorption by these novel silica materials; (2) create composite materials that target the removal of halogenated organics and pesticides from water; and (3) develop and test deployment mechanisms in collaboration with a local engineering firm.S oil injection methods and pilot experiments will be conducted in collaboration with Frontz Drilling, which specializes in the
deployment of sub-surface treatment methodologies for aquifer remediation.
Edmiston will conduct his research in the field and on campus, where 10-15 chemistry students will participate in the project over the next few years. Some of these students will likely serve as mentors for the SEER (Summer Early Engaged Research) program, which was developed at Wooster
through a Howard Hughes Medical Institute grant to recruit pre-college minorities into the sciences. Edmiston also hopes to lead groups of junior high girls in environmental experiments as part of the B-WISER (Buckeye Women in Science, Engineering, and Research) science camp next summer.
"There is tremendous potential for Osorb-based materials as a platform technology," said Edmiston, who has founded Absorbent Materials Company to deliver the materials to users. The company opened a pilot-scale manufacturing plant in Wooster this year, which should aid in the development of the local economy. "These materials show incredible promise for water remediation
and chemical sensing.
1189 Beall Avenue, Wooster, Ohio 44691. (330) 263-2000
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