Linear Polymer Chain and Bioengineered Chelators for Metals Remediation

EPA Grant Number: R831276C009
Subproject: this is subproject number 009 , established and managed by the Center Director under grant CR831276
(EPA does not fund or establish subprojects; EPA awards and manages the overall grant for this center).

Center: Gulf Coast HSRC (Lamar)
Center Director: Ho, Tho C.
Title: Linear Polymer Chain and Bioengineered Chelators for Metals Remediation
Investigators: Holcombe, James , Browning, Karen , Liljestrand, Howard
Current Investigators: Holcombe, James , Browning, Karen
Institution: The University of Texas at Austin
EPA Project Officer: Lasat, Mitch
Project Period: December 1, 2003 through November 30, 2004
Project Amount: Refer to main center abstract for funding details.
RFA: Gulf Coast Hazardous Substance Research Center (Lamar University) (1996) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Hazardous Waste/Remediation , Targeted Research


Metals are a recirculating problem in the environment since they cannot be degraded or decomposed like many organic contaminants. Consequently, remediation should involve not only extraction but also recovery. This proposal deals with a novel approach using immobilized linear polymer chains which permit extremely strong metal binding and easy, on-demand release using a simple change in the eluting solution pH.

These linear polymers provide strong binding to the metal of interest, which is likely a result of them "wrapping around ,the metal" to attain a free energy minimum. The linear polymers can also be "unwrapped" by altering the intramolecular interactions (e.g.. H-binding, electrostatic attractions) using simple pH adjustments, thereby providing easy, quantitative metal recovery. By selecting the side chain functionality, metal selectivity can be enhanced. The availability of various side chain functionalities has proven this technology successful for binding oxyanions (e.g. chromates, arsenates, etc.). The immobilization of the chelators makes the exchanger reusable, and while the biopolymers tested thus far have been subjected to harsh chemical environments there is no noticeable degradation. The extended lifetime of this system would result in lower long-term operating costs.

This proposal outlines the use of (i) short chain linear biopolymers, (ii) combinatorial chemistry and micro x-ray fluorescence in determination of a successful copolymer, and (iii) short chain mixed residue biopolymers which are produced using genetic engineering. These biopolymer systems are evaluated through breakthrough curves, which are generated through the use of a flow injection analysis system coupled to a flame atomic absorption spectrophotometer. The genetic engineering approach has unique long-term implications with the possible enhancement of hyperaccumulating organisms through genetic modification and the inclusion of these biopolymers that have been evaluated ex-situ.


This multidisciplinary project involves the combined efforts of a chemist with metal preconcentration and biometal binding expertise; an environmental engineer who has worked extensively with waste water remediation technologies and can evaluate the cost-benefits of the technology; and a biochemist who is experienced in recombinant techniques and can provide a means of fabricating user-designed peptides. The students will work as a team to look at all aspects of this project. It should be an excellent learning opportunity for these students as they transition out of the university environment. Additionally, collaborations are being set up with scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratories (LANL) for micro-x-ray fluorescence screening of peptide combinatorial library for binding efficiency and selectivity. We will also engage in a partnership with TCEQ, which will provide assistance in selecting regional problems when evaluation of performance on real samples will be evaluated.

Expected Results:

The 3-year GCHSRC grant of $150,000 levers financial assistance from the University ($94,500 match) as well as collaborative assistance from LANL and TCEQ in the project. Similarly, a related project supported by the Welch Foundation will likely contribute to the knowledge base that will advance this particular project. Major equipment supplied by either the University or outside funding agencies will also be used in the context of this project at no cost to GCHSRC. The novel science and technology used to attack a problem that has been on the table for decades, should produce noteworthy and publishable results throughout the duration of the project's three year funding period. While the timeline and tasks laid out in the proposal are goals that will be diligently targeted, the pioneering science rather that the application of technology may advance or retard progress beyond that noted. Obviously, we optimistically desire an accelerated timetable for our successes. Regardless, a diverse talent pool combine with major equipment and financial assets from several sources are dedicated to tackling a challenging and ongoing problem in metal remediation and reclamation.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this subproject: View all 7 publications for this subprojectView all 64 publications for this center

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this subproject: View all 3 journal articles for this subprojectView all 18 journal articles for this center

Supplemental Keywords:

RFA, Scientific Discipline, INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION, Waste, Water, TREATMENT/CONTROL, POLLUTANTS/TOXICS, Contaminated Sediments, Remediation, Environmental Chemistry, Chemicals, Technology, Hazardous Waste, Hazardous, Environmental Engineering, hazardous waste treatment, contaminated sediment, remediation technologies, bio-engineering, contaminated soil, linear polymer chain, metal chelation, biotechnology, groundwater remediation, metal extraction, contaminated groundwater, biotransformation, hazardous wate, combinatorial chemistry, metal wastes, heavy metal contamination, metal contamination, metal removal

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final

  • Main Center Abstract and Reports:

    CR831276    Gulf Coast HSRC (Lamar)

    Subprojects under this Center: (EPA does not fund or establish subprojects; EPA awards and manages the overall grant for this center).
    R831276C001 DNAPL Source Control by Reductive Dechlorination with Fe(II)
    R831276C002 Arsenic Removal and Stabilization with Synthesized Pyrite
    R831276C003 A Large-Scale Experimental Investigation of the Impact of Ethanol on Groundwater Contamination
    R831276C004 Visible-Light-Responsive Titania Modified with Aerogel/Ferroelectric Optical Materials for VOC Oxidation
    R831276C005 Development of a Microwave-Induced On-Site Regeneration Technology for Advancing the Control of Mercury and VOC Emissions Employing Activated Carbon
    R831276C006 Pollution Prevention through Functionality Tracking and Property Integration
    R831276C007 Compact Nephelometer System for On-Line Monitoring of Particulate Matter Emissions
    R831276C008 Effect of Pitting Corrosion Promoters on the Treatment of Waters Contaminated with a Nitroaromatic Compounds Using Integrated Reductive/Oxidative Processes
    R831276C009 Linear Polymer Chain and Bioengineered Chelators for Metals Remediation
    R831276C010 Treatment of Perchlorate Contaminated Water Using a Combined Biotic/Abiotic Process
    R831276C011 Rapid Determination of Microbial Pathways for Pollutant Degradation
    R831276C012 Simulations of the Emission, Transport, Chemistry and Deposition of Atmospheric Mercury in the Upper Gulf Coast Region
    R831276C013 Reduction of Environmental Impact and Improvement of Intrinsic Security in Unsteady-state
    R831276C014 Integrated Chemical Complex and Cogeneration Analysis System: Greenhouse Gas Management and Pollution Prevention Solutions
    R831276C015 Improved Combustion Catalysts for NOx Emission Reduction
    R831276C016 A Large-Scale Experimental Investigation of the Impact of Ethanol on Groundwater Contamination
    R831276C017 Minimization of Hazardous Ion-Exchange Brine Waste by Biological Treatment of Perchlorate and Nitrate to Allow Brine Recycle
    R831276C018 Integrated Chemical Complex and Cogeneration Analysis System: Greenhouse Gas Management and Pollution Prevention Solutions