remediation of heavy metal contaminated sediments, emulsified liquid membrane and zero-valent metal treatments, emulsions


Heavy metal contamination of soils, sediments and groundwater presents an ongoing source of hazardous and persistent environmental pollution. How best to remediate these contaminants is the impetus of continuing research efforts. Methods include containment, ex situ and in situ techniques. A successful in situ method utilizing a combination of emulsified liquid membranes, ELM, and zero-valent metal, ZVM, and bimetals has demonstrated impressive heavy metal reduction in 100 ppm solutions of Cd, Cu, Ni, Pb, Cr and U. This promising in situ method has been employed by the Industrial Chemistry Laboratory at the University of Central Florida and it has demonstrated considerable success in treating several environmental threats. Contaminated soils, surfaces, sediments and groundwater with offending agents such as trichloroethene, polychorobiphenyls and heavy metals have been treated utilizing emulsified liquid membrane systems containing zero-valent iron or bimetal particles. In vial studies, lead spiked sediments have shown repeatable 60% removal of lead after seven days of treatment. A persistent pattern emerged at ten days whereupon remediation levels began to drop. The current study was established to determine the reason for the decline at ten days and beyond. Questions addressed: Does the formation of an impeding oxide layer diminish the remediation capacity of the iron/magnesium system? Does the emulsion reach a maximum capacity to withdraw the contaminant? Do the soil components or the soil structure interfere with the access to the contaminant? This study has yielded insight into the reasons emulsified liquid membrane systems containing zero-valent metals achieved maximum lead removal at day seven, and thereafter begin to lose their effectiveness. A three part study was implemented to address and to answer the three questions pertaining to the consistent pattern of diminishing remediation levels exhibited at day ten and beyond. Initially, from Study I results it appeared that the formation of an impeding oxide layer on the bi-metal which was inside the emulsion droplet and which plated or precipitated with the lead was not occurring at day ten. Results indicated that the iron/magnesium was still capable of removing lead. Furthermore, from Study II results the emulsion dose injected appeared adequate to remove the lead, meaning that the emulsion had not reached its maximum capacity for remediation. The emulsion dose was not a limiting factor. Lastly, Study III results seemed to indicate that the drop in remediation after day seven pertained to the soil structure. There appeared to be some merit to the idea that with aging of the sediment, the lead was diffusing and migrating to some inaccessible interior sites within the sediment particles. Additionally, indications from day ten and day fourteen delineated that a second emulsion dose injection might restore lead removal levels to approach those first observed at day seven and consequently be a useful field application. In order to explore the effectiveness of injecting a second dose of emulsion, another vial study was implemented. The typical pattern of observing sixty percent maximum lead removal at day seven was observed. In separate groups, a second injection of emulsion was added at day five, and then for another vial series, a second dose was added at day seven. The second emulsion dose treatment for either day five or day seven did not yield any increases in percent lead removal. Another theory emerged after viewing micrographs of recovered iron/magnesium compared with fresh ball-milled bimetal. In addition, scanning electron microscopy appeared to confirm the explanation that the emulsified zero-valent metal system might be compromised after day seven. This would lead to exposure of the iron/magnesium to the air and the elements. Corrosion of the bimetal might be occurring. With time, release of the plated or precipitated lead back into the sediment mixture could follow. The results of Study I had led to the conclusion that an impeding oxide layer had not formed; however, this conclusion may have been premature because the recovered iron/magnesium was exposed to lead solution in the vial study. Perhaps if the recovered iron/magnesium was inserted back into an emulsion and injected into lead spiked sediments the percent lead removed might give a more accurate picture of the iron/magnesium's capability to continue performing remediation. Remediation of sediments contaminated with lead is a complicated task because of the complex nature of sediment components. Emulsified liquid membranes utilizing zero-valent bimetals has repeatedly demonstrated impressive results at day seven; however, this treatment method is not without its limitations. Optimal results appear to be gained at day seven after emulsion injection. The bimetal and plated or precipitated lead must be removed at that point; otherwise the effective remediation of the contaminant is progressively reversed.


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Graduation Date





Clausen, Christian


Master of Science (M.S.)


College of Sciences



Degree Program

Industrial Chemistry








Release Date

September 2007

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Masters Thesis (Open Access)

Included in

Chemistry Commons