Western Kentucky University

Poster Title

Analytically Assessing the Safety of Innovative Technologies in the Future of Wastewater Treatment

Institution

Western Kentucky University

Abstract

Recent studies have shown that biologically harmful chemical pollutants are present at increasing concentrations in wastewater. Wastewater treatment facilities are highly effective in the removal of large scale and bacterial contaminants, however a variety of harmful chemical pollutants are able to make their way into drinking water. This problem is especially evident in Kentucky, where there is a great deal of pesticide pollution from farm runoff, as well as pharmaceutical waste in areas with hospitals nearby. Although there are several proposed technologies that could eliminate these organic pollutants, they rely on chemical reactions that are not well understood. Chemical reactions occur in a stepwise fashion, so even if the end products are safe, more must be learned about the nature of the intermediate species that arise over the course of a reaction for the overall safety of the process to be ensured. Our lab has shown that Raman spectroscopy is a useful tool for monitoring reactions in real time, much quicker than conventional methods of analysis, so that important short-lived intermediate species can be recognized and a comprehensive molecular mechanism can be determined. Here, work was done to expand the reach of this analytical tool, by introducing surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy, so that sparingly soluble compounds at low concentrations can be analyzed as they are broken down. Additionally, quantitative measurements in regard to concentration changes of compounds as reactions progress were made possible via the introduction of an internal standard. This work allowed for a much broader range of common pollutants to be individually studied, expanding the applicability of the tool. The ability to thoroughly study a wide range of compounds for a given reaction is essential to ensuring the safety of implementing technologies taking advantage of that reaction in the wastewater treatment process.

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Analytically Assessing the Safety of Innovative Technologies in the Future of Wastewater Treatment

Recent studies have shown that biologically harmful chemical pollutants are present at increasing concentrations in wastewater. Wastewater treatment facilities are highly effective in the removal of large scale and bacterial contaminants, however a variety of harmful chemical pollutants are able to make their way into drinking water. This problem is especially evident in Kentucky, where there is a great deal of pesticide pollution from farm runoff, as well as pharmaceutical waste in areas with hospitals nearby. Although there are several proposed technologies that could eliminate these organic pollutants, they rely on chemical reactions that are not well understood. Chemical reactions occur in a stepwise fashion, so even if the end products are safe, more must be learned about the nature of the intermediate species that arise over the course of a reaction for the overall safety of the process to be ensured. Our lab has shown that Raman spectroscopy is a useful tool for monitoring reactions in real time, much quicker than conventional methods of analysis, so that important short-lived intermediate species can be recognized and a comprehensive molecular mechanism can be determined. Here, work was done to expand the reach of this analytical tool, by introducing surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy, so that sparingly soluble compounds at low concentrations can be analyzed as they are broken down. Additionally, quantitative measurements in regard to concentration changes of compounds as reactions progress were made possible via the introduction of an internal standard. This work allowed for a much broader range of common pollutants to be individually studied, expanding the applicability of the tool. The ability to thoroughly study a wide range of compounds for a given reaction is essential to ensuring the safety of implementing technologies taking advantage of that reaction in the wastewater treatment process.