Publications by Year: 2015

R. Singh, Yoon, H., Sanford, R. A., Katz, L., Fouke, B. W., and Werth, C. J., “Metabolism-induced CaCO3 biomineralization during reactive transport in a micromodel: implications for porosity alteration,” Environmental Science & Technology, vol. 49, no. 20, pp. 12094-12104, 2015. Publisher's VersionAbstract
The ability of Pseudomonas stutzeri strain DCP-Ps1 to drive CaCO3 biomineralization has been investigated in a microfluidic flowcell (i.e., micromodel) that simulates subsurface porous media. Results indicate that CaCO3 precipitation occurs during NO3– reduction with a maximum saturation index (SIcalcite) of ∼1.56, but not when NO3– was removed, inactive biomass remained, and pH and alkalinity were adjusted to SIcalcite ∼ 1.56. CaCO3 precipitation was promoted by metabolically active cultures of strain DCP-Ps1, which at similar values of SIcalcite, have a more negative surface charge than inactive strain DCP-Ps1. A two-stage NO3– reduction (NO3– → NO2– → N2) pore-scale reactive transport model was used to evaluate denitrification kinetics, which was observed in the micromodel as upper (NO3– reduction) and lower (NO2– reduction) horizontal zones of biomass growth with CaCO3 precipitation exclusively in the lower zone. Model results are consistent with two biomass growth regions and indicate that precipitation occurred in the lower zone because the largest increase in pH and alkalinity is associated with NO2– reduction. CaCO3 precipitates typically occupied the entire vertical depth of pores and impacted porosity, permeability, and flow. This study provides a framework for incorporating microbial activity in biogeochemistry models, which often base biomineralization only on SI (caused by biotic or abiotic reactions) and, thereby, underpredict the extent of this complex process. These results have wide-ranging implications for understanding reactive transport in relevance to groundwater remediation, CO2 sequestration, and enhanced oil recovery.
J. Liu, Chen, X., Wang, Y., Strathmann, T. J., and Werth, C. J., “Mechanism and mitigation of the decomposition of an oxorhenium complex-based heterogeneous catalyst for perchlorate reduction in water,” Environmental Science & Technology, vol. 49, no. 21, pp. 12932-12940, 2015. Publisher's VersionAbstract
A biomimetic heterogeneous catalyst combining palladium nanoparticles and an organic ligand-coordinated oxorhenium complex on activated carbon, Re(hoz)2–Pd/C, was previously developed and shown to reduce aqueous perchlorate (ClO4–) with H2 at a rate ∼100 times faster than the first generation ReOx–Pd/C catalyst prepared from perrhenate (ReO4–). However, the immobilized Re(hoz)2 complex was shown to partially decompose and leach into water as ReO4–, leading to an irreversible loss of catalytic activity. In this work, the stability of the immobilized Re(hoz)2 complex is shown to depend on kinetic competition between three processes: (1) ReV(hoz)2 oxidation by ClO4– and its reduction intermediates ClOx–, (2) ReVII(hoz)2 reduction by Pd-activated hydrogen, and (3) hydrolytic ReVII(hoz)2 decomposition. When ReV(hoz)2 oxidation is faster than ReVII(hoz)2 reduction, the ReVII(hoz)2 concentration builds up and leads to hydrolytic decomposition to ReO4– and free hoz ligand. Rapid ReV(hoz)2 oxidation is mainly promoted by highly reactive ClOx– formed from the reduction of ClO4–. To mitigate Re(hoz)2 decomposition and preserve catalytic activity, ruthenium (Ru) and rhodium (Rh) were evaluated as alternative H2 activators to Pd. Rh showed superior activity for reducing the ClO3– intermediate to Cl–, thereby preventing ClOx– buildup and lowering Re complex decomposition in the Re(hoz)2–Rh/C catalyst. In contrast, Ru showed the lowest ClO3– reduction activity and resulted in the most Re(hoz)2 decomposition among the Re(hoz)2–M/C catalysts. This work highlights the importance of using mechanistic insights from kinetic and spectroscopic tests to rationally design water treatment catalysts for enhanced performance and stability.
A. Laleian, Valocchi, A. J., and Werth, C. J., “An incompressible, depth-averaged lattice Boltzmann method for liquid flow in microfluidic devices with variable aperture,” Computation, vol. 3, no. 4, pp. 600-615, 2015. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Two-dimensional (2D) pore-scale models have successfully simulated microfluidic experiments of aqueous-phase flow with mixing-controlled reactions in devices with small aperture. A standard 2D model is not generally appropriate when the presence of mineral precipitate or biomass creates complex and irregular three-dimensional (3D) pore geometries. We modify the 2D lattice Boltzmann method (LBM) to incorporate viscous drag from the top and bottom microfluidic device (micromodel) surfaces, typically excluded in a 2D model. Viscous drag from these surfaces can be approximated by uniformly scaling a steady-state 2D velocity field at low Reynolds number. We demonstrate increased accuracy by approximating the viscous drag with an analytically-derived body force which assumes a local parabolic velocity profile across the micromodel depth. Accuracy of the generated 2D velocity field and simulation permeability have not been evaluated in geometries with variable aperture. We obtain permeabilities within approximately 10% error and accurate streamlines from the proposed 2D method relative to results obtained from 3D simulations. In addition, the proposed method requires a CPU run time approximately 40 times less than a standard 3D method, representing a significant computational benefit for permeability calculations.
Y. Tang, Valocchi, A. J., and Werth, C. J., “A hybrid pore‐scale and continuum‐scale model for solute diffusion, reaction, and biofilm development in porous media,” Water Resources Research, vol. 51, no. 3, pp. 1846-1859, 2015. Publisher's VersionAbstract
It is a challenge to upscale solute transport in porous media for multispecies bio-kinetic reactions because of incomplete mixing within the elementary volume and because biofilm growth can change porosity and affect pore-scale flow and diffusion. To address this challenge, we present a hybrid model that couples pore-scale subdomains to continuum-scale subdomains. While the pore-scale subdomains involving significant biofilm growth and reaction are simulated using pore-scale equations, the other subdomains are simulated using continuum-scale equations to save computational time. The pore-scale and continuum-scale subdomains are coupled using a mortar method to ensure continuity of solute concentration and flux at the interfaces. We present results for a simplified two-dimensional system, neglect advection, and use dual Monod kinetics for solute utilization and biofilm growth. The results based on the hybrid model are consistent with the results based on a pore-scale model for three test cases that cover a wide range of Damköhler (Da = reaction rate/diffusion rate) numbers for both homogeneous (spatially periodic) and heterogeneous pore structures. We compare results from the hybrid method with an upscaled continuum model and show that the latter is valid only for cases of small Damköhler numbers, consistent with other results reported in the literature.
Y. Tang, Werth, C. J., Sanford, R. A., Singh, R., Michelson, K., Nobu, M., Liu, W. - T., and Valocchi, A. J., “Immobilization of selenite via two parallel pathways during in situ bioremediation,” Environmental Science & Technology, vol. 49, no. 7, pp. 4543-4550, 2015. Publisher's VersionAbstract
It is widely understood that selenite can be biologically reduced to elemental selenium. Limited studies have shown that selenite can also be immobilized through abiotic precipitation with sulfide, a product of biological sulfate reduction. We demonstrate that both pathways significantly contribute to selenite immobilization in a microfluidic flow cell having a transverse mixing zone between propionate and selenite that mimics the reaction zone along the margins of a selenite plume undergoing bioremediation in the presence of background sulfate. The experiment showed that red particles of amorphous elemental selenium precipitate on the selenite-rich side of the mixing zone, while long crystals of selenium sulfides precipitate on the propionate-rich side of the mixing zone. We developed a continuum-scale reactive transport model that includes both pathways. The simulated results are consistent with the experimental results, and indicate that spatial segregation of the two selenium precipitates is due to the segregation of the more thermodynamic favorable selenite reduction and the less thermodynamically favorable sulfate reduction. The improved understanding of selenite immobilization and the improved model can help to better design in situ bioremediation processes for groundwater contaminated by selenite or other contaminants (e.g., uranium(IV)) that can be immobilized via similar pathways.
Z. Gao, Zhang, Y., Li, D., Werth, C. J., Zhang, Y., and Zhou, X., “Highly active Pd–In/mesoporous alumina catalyst for nitrate reduction,” Journal of Hazardous Materials, vol. 286, pp. 425-431, 2015. Publisher's VersionAbstract
The catalytic reduction of nitrate is a promising technology for groundwater purification because it transforms nitrate into nitrogen and water. Recent studies have mainly focused on new catalysts with higher activities for the reduction of nitrate. Consequently, metal nanoparticles supported on mesoporous metal oxides have become a major research direction. However, the complex surface chemistry and porous structures of mesoporous metal oxides lead to a non-uniform distribution of metal nanoparticles, thereby resulting in a low catalytic efficiency. In this paper, a method for synthesizing the sustainable nitrate reduction catalyst Pd–In/Al2O3 with a dimensional structure is introduced. The TEM results indicated that Pd and In nanoparticles could efficiently disperse into the mesopores of the alumina. At room temperature in CO2-buffered water and under continuous H2 as the electron donor, the synthesized material (4.9 wt% Pd) was the most active at a Pd–In ratio of 4, with a first-order rate constant (kobs = 0.241 L min−1 gcata−1) that was 1.3× higher than that of conventional Pd–In/Al2O3 (5 wt% Pd; 0.19 L min−1 gcata−1). The Pd–In/mesoporous alumina is a promising catalyst for improving the catalytic reduction of nitrate.
S. U. Akki, Werth, C. J., and Silverman, S. K., “Selective aptamers for detection of estradiol and ethynylestradiol in natural waters,” Environmental Science & Technology, vol. 49, no. 16, pp. 9905-9913, 2015. Publisher's VersionAbstract
We used in vitro selection to identify new DNA aptamers for two endocrine-disrupting compounds often found in treated and natural waters, 17β-estradiol (E2) and 17α-ethynylestradiol (EE). We used equilibrium filtration to determine aptamer sensitivity/selectivity and dimethyl sulfate (DMS) probing to explore aptamer binding sites. The new E2 aptamers are at least 74-fold more sensitive for E2 than is a previously reported DNA aptamer, with dissociation constants (Kd values) of 0.6 μM. Similarly, the EE aptamers are highly sensitive for EE, with Kd of 0.5–1.0 μM. Selectivity values indicate that the E2 aptamers bind E2 and a structural analogue, estrone (E1), equally well and are up to 74-fold selective over EE. One EE aptamer is 53-fold more selective for EE over E2 or E1, but the other binds EE, E2, and E1 with similar affinity. The new aptamers do not lose sensitivity or selectivity in natural water from a local lake, despite the presence of natural organic matter (∼4 mg/L TOC). DMS probing suggests that E2 binding occurs in relatively flexible single-stranded DNA regions, an important finding for rational redesign of aptamers and their incorporation into sensing platforms. This is the first report of aptamers with strong selectivity for E2 and E1 over EE, or with strong selectivity for EE over E2 and E1. Such selectivity is important for achieving the goal of creating practically useful DNA-based sensors that can distinguish structurally similar estrogenic compounds in natural waters.
J. K. Choe, Bergquist, A. M., Jeong, S., Guest, J. S., Werth, C. J., and Strathmann, T. J., “Performance and life cycle environmental benefits of recycling spent ion exchange brines by catalytic treatment of nitrate,” Water Research, vol. 80, pp. 267-280, 2015. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Salt used to make brines for regeneration of ion exchange (IX) resins is the dominant economic and environmental liability of IX treatment systems for nitrate-contaminated drinking water sources. To reduce salt usage, the applicability and environmental benefits of using a catalytic reduction technology to treat nitrate in spent IX brines and enable their reuse for IX resin regeneration were evaluated. Hybrid IX/catalyst systems were designed and life cycle assessment of process consumables are used to set performance targets for the catalyst reactor. Nitrate reduction was measured in a typical spent brine (i.e., 5000 mg/L NO3&#x2212;">NO3− and 70,000 mg/L NaCl) using bimetallic Pd–In hydrogenation catalysts with variable Pd (0.2–2.5 wt%) and In (0.0125–0.25 wt%) loadings on pelletized activated carbon support (Pd–In/C). The highest activity of 50 mgNO3&#x2212;">NO3−/(min − gPd) was obtained with a 0.5 wt%Pd–0.1 wt%In/C catalyst. Catalyst longevity was demonstrated by observing no decrease in catalyst activity over more than 60 days in a packed-bed reactor. Based on catalyst activity measured in batch and packed-bed reactors, environmental impacts of hybrid IX/catalyst systems were evaluated for both sequencing-batch and continuous-flow packed-bed reactor designs and environmental impacts of the sequencing-batch hybrid system were found to be 38–81% of those of conventional IX. Major environmental impact contributors other than salt consumption include Pd metal, hydrogen (electron donor), and carbon dioxide (pH buffer). Sensitivity of environmental impacts of the sequencing-batch hybrid reactor system to sulfate and bicarbonate anions indicate the hybrid system is more sustainable than conventional IX when influent water contains <80 mg/L sulfate (at any bicarbonate level up to 100 mg/L) or <20 mg/L bicarbonate (at any sulfate level up to 100 mg/L) assuming 15 brine reuse cycles. The study showed that hybrid IX/catalyst reactor systems have potential to reduce resource consumption and improve environmental impacts associated with treating nitrate-contaminated water sources.