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Composite Membranes for Produced Water Clean-up

Within Ohio, hydraulic fracturing, or fracking continues to be a common method for energy production in which oil or gas is extracted from rock and shale formations by drilling and injecting high-pressure water and chemicals into wells. This process uses millions of gallons of water and leaves the wastewater produced filled with salts, proprietary industrial chemicals, radionuclides, and toxic metals. The Ohio WRC is funding Dr. Pelagia-Iren Gouma and her team at the Ohio State University to study innovative water treatment technologies that can make removal of metals and radionuclides from fracking wastewater cost effective and scalable. Dr Gouma and her team focus on filtration using cellulose acetate-amyloid fibril mats, a natural biomaterial that they derive from wheat proteins, to efficiently remove specific contaminants. 

Through our seed funding, Dr. Gouma and her team have reached three major breakthroughs. Firstly, they have come up with a cost effective way to scale the production of amyloid fibrils from common plant proteins. Next, they have successfully managed to encapsulate amyloid fibrils into non-woven mats of cellulose acetate via a single step process of electrospinning. Lastly, they have successfully utilized the electrospun mats to treat produced water. We at the Ohio WRC are excited to see what the future holds for this innovative and revolutionary technology. Due to the affordable nature of the membrane constituents and the potential for it to efficiently remove toxic metals and radionuclides via filtration, this technology could be of significant use in addressing water pollution issues, such as fracking wastewater.

If you'd like to find out more about other Ohio WRC research projects, visit: https://wrc.osu.edu/past.