Navigation Links
UMN scientists get federal grant for biotechnology development to purify fracking water
Date:9/17/2012

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 technologies, and Luca Technologies of Boulder, Colo. on a related effort -- using encapsulated microbes to recover natural gas from depleted coal beds. Neither company is involved in fracking. However, they see a business opportunity in helping the U.S. meet its energy needs domestically in an environmentally responsible fashion. The university's role is to further develop a platform technology that could be used by these and other companies.

Fracking relies on forcing millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals deep into the earth, creating fissures that allow natural gas or oil to escape and be recovered. Wastewater returns to the surface where it is treated and released into surface water, injected back into the earth, or recycled for use for fracking of other wells. Chemicals present deep below the Earth's surface, as well as chemicals used in fracking may contaminate water.

Evaporation and filtration, the current treatment methods, are expensive. Moreover, they don't eliminate chemicals, they simply reduce them to a concentrated form. Industrial scale evaporation and filtration are energy intensive, and both methods leave behind a chemical residue that presents a disposal challenge.

The research team understands public concerns about the environmental impact of fracking, as well as industry concerns about misinformation related to risks, Elde says. A leading research institution, the University of Minnesota has reached out to the business community, via its large alumni network, to work together on these issues.

"The University of Minnesota is not taking sides in the fracking debate, but as a land-grant research institution, it is uniquely positioned to carry out necessary and beneficial research," Wackett says. "There are many efforts ongoing to improve the treatment of water used in fracking and we feel that biotechnology can play a significant role in the overall effort."

Earlier this year, Wackett and his team also won a University of Minnesota Futures Grant to more broadly explore methods for mitigating the environmental impacts of fracking. For this project, they are working with a larger interdisciplinary group of co-investigators including faculty in the Humphrey Institute for Public Affairs and the School of Public Health as well as the intercollegiate BioTechnology Institute. Given to only one or two faculty teams annually, Futures Grants encourage extraordinary collaborative research deemed likely to attract substantial external funding.


'/>"/>

Contact: Peggy Rinard
rinar001@umn.edu
612-624-0774
University of Minnesota
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Scientists reveal how natural antibiotic kills tuberculosis bacterium
2. Chinese scientists discover MVK mutations associated with DSAP
3. Oil from algae closer to reality through studies by unique collaboration of scientists
4. A rare feat: 2 scientists at Salk score NIH New Innovator Awards
5. Scientists discover how the brain ages
6. UNC Lineberger scientists lead definition of key lung cancer genome
7. University of Alberta medical scientists first in the world to look at structure of vital molecule
8. Scripps Florida scientists design molecule that reverses some fragile X syndrome defects
9. A*STAR scientists discover potential drug for deadly brain cancer
10. Singapore scientists find genes associated with glaucoma, a major cause of eye blindness
11. EARTH: Antarctic trees surprise scientists
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:3/10/2016)... 10, 2016   Unisys Corporation (NYSE: UIS ... (CBP) is testing its biometric identity solution at the ... to help identify certain non-U.S. citizens leaving the country. ... designed to help determine the efficiency and accuracy of using ... and will run until May 2016. --> ...
(Date:3/9/2016)... -- Nigeria . Recently, the ... public service employees either did not exist with their ...    --> Nigeria . Recently, ... 23,000 public service employees either did not exist with ... unlawfully.    --> DERMALOG, the biometrics innovation ...
(Date:3/8/2016)... RALEIGH, N.C. , March 8, 2016 /PRNewswire/ ... biometric sensor technology, today announced it has secured ... led by GII Tech, a new venture fund ... LLC, with additional participation from existing investors TDF ... use the funds to continue its triple-digit growth ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:5/5/2016)... ... May 05, 2016 , ... American ... two additional patents, U.S. Patent Nos. 9,322,133 and 9,322,134, to API and its ... nanocellulose as well as hydrophobic nanocellulose compositions. In addition to these patents ...
(Date:5/4/2016)... ... May 04, 2016 , ... Proove Biosciences, Inc. , the commercial ... with McGill University . The partnership is designed to advance research in pain ... help patients in pain. With the new agreement, researchers at Proove Biosciences are able ...
(Date:5/4/2016)... York, NY (PRWEB) , ... May 04, 2016 ... ... has leveraged recent innovations in biotechnology to help treat hormonal and stress related ... loss, Nutrafol® has captured the hearts of key opinion leaders in the medical ...
(Date:5/3/2016)... ... 03, 2016 , ... Flagship Biosciences, the leader in ... Board of Directors. Dr. Gillett recently retired from Charles River Laboratories (CRL), where, ... Scientific Officer. A board-certified veterinary pathologist, Dr. Gillett joined Charles River in 1999 ...
Breaking Biology Technology: