Primary Investigator: Peter Kang
Co-investigators: Josh Feinberg, Michael Chen, and Sang Lee
Industry Partners: Bay West, LLC
Problem: Soil and groundwater systems, as well as many engineered remediation systems, are controlled by porous media flow. Naturally occurring biofilms often clog these systems, reducing flow rates and lowering the overall performance of a remediation system. Conversely, biofilms can consume contaminants, which may enhance existing remediation in a treatment system. To minimize clogging and fully exploit the bioremediation potential of biofilms, we need to better understand biofilms at a micro-scale within the filtration system itself.
Solution: A microfluidic visualization system can offer a better understanding of biofilms through direct observation of biofilm development in porous media. This new system will allow researchers to investigate the effects of fluid flow, water chemistry, and pore structure on the distribution and morphology of biofilms, as well as their subsequent impact on the overall remediation process. This knowledge can then be used to create optimal operating conditions for a system where bioclogging is minimized and bioremediation is maximized.
Impact: By balancing the detrimental and beneficial effects of biofilm formation in porous media, groundwater remediation system performance can be optimized. We will collaborate with the Science Museum of Minnesota to increase public awareness of bioremediation technologies, as well as the challenges associated with addressing groundwater contamination. This work will also support undergraduate internships that can facilitate entry into the workforce after graduation.