Primary Investigator: Steven Sternberg, Chemical Engineering, UMD
Co-Investigators: Elayna Meyer (Undergraduate Scholar)
Industry Partners
Award Type: Seed Grant – Undergraduate Research Scholar

Problem: Mining operations in northern Minnesota demand new methods for removal of heavy metals from wastewater. Mining facilities release heavy metals at low concentrations but remain highly toxic to local ecosystems and have the potential to increase in concentration as they are incorporated into food chains.

Solution: MnDRIVE researchers in the Sternberg Lab will test the ability of duckweed, a native Minnesotan plant, to remove three different heavy metals from water. The team will test copper, nickel, and lead at varying concentrations along with anions that commonly associate with the heavy metals: chloride, nitrate, and sulfate. Researchers will use duckweed and water in a lab setting and analyze for changes to biomass, plant health, water quality, and more after exposure to heavy metals and anions.

Impact: Using a native Minnesotan plant to remove heavy metals from water surrounding mining operations would create a natural method of remediation. A successful remediation process would support the health of local ecosystems and prevent heavy metals from being incorporated into food chains.

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