MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL (09/17/2012) Fracking, the use of hydraulic pressure to release natural gas and oil from shale, has the potential to meet energy demands with U.S. resources and stimulate the economy. However, the practice also carries possible environmental and public health risks, most notably water contamination.
A University of Minnesota research team is addressing this challenge by developing innovative biotechnology to purify fracking wastewater. Headed by Larry Wackett, a professor in the College of Biological Sciences, the team includes Alptekin Aksan, professor in the College of Science and Engineering, and Michael Sadowsky, professor in the College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences.
The effort has earned a new $600,000 grant from the National Science Foundation's Partnerships for Innovation (NSF-PFI) program, which pairs academic researchers with companies to transfer academic knowledge to the private sector and produce innovative technologies that benefit the public. This is the first NSF-PFI grant awarded in Minnesota. Wackett, Aksan and Sadowksy, as well as CBS Dean Robert Elde, are co-investigators. Elde's role is to lead interaction between the researchers and the companies. If the project is successful, the team will be eligible for additional NSF funding.
The three scientists, all members of the university's BioTechnology Institute, are using naturally-occurring bacteria embedded in porous silica materials to biodegrade contaminants in fracking wastewater, a technology they originally developed to remove agricultural pesticides from soil and water. They now have the ability to customize the technology to degrade chemicals in water used for fracking. Their goal is to make the water suitable for re-use in fracking of other wells and significantly reduce the amount of water used by industry.
The team will work with Tundra Companies of White Bear Lake, Minn. on silica encapsulation technolo
|Contact: Peggy Rinard|
University of Minnesota