Magnetic Nanocomposites for Water Remediation

EPA Grant Number: SU839449
Title: Magnetic Nanocomposites for Water Remediation
Investigators: Colvin, Vicki L. , Masterson, Caitlin , Mendoza-Garcia, Dr.Adriana , Rigby, Jennifer , Hu, Yue , Ahmed, Zahra
Current Investigators: Colvin, Vicki L. , Mendoza-Garcia, Dr.Adriana , Ahmed, Zahra , Masterson, Caitlin , Rigby, Jennifer , Hu, Yue
Institution: Brown University
EPA Project Officer: Page, Angela
Phase: I
Project Period: December 1, 2018 through November 30, 2019
Project Amount: $15,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2018) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: P3 Challenge Area - Safe and Sustainable Water Resources , P3 Awards


The main output of our research proposal will be the construction of a robust nanocomposite consisting of a magnetic support—nanomagnetite—and an active biocomponent (protein, peptide or whole-cell) that provides selectivity to arsenite, the most toxic inorganic form of arsenic present in groundwater. Our magnetic removal method after remediation supports EPA’s priorities as it could be practical for rural or impoverished settings where traditional water treatment technologies are not possible. By improving the health and, therefore, the life quality of people living in small, rural, tribal, and disadvantaged communities, we are embodying the P3 approach. The P3 approach, as well as technological details of the fabrication of our nanocomposites, will be easy to include as part of the chemistry and engineering curriculum at Brown University, which could serve as a platform to get more students engaged in this type of initiative.


Our project will address problems related to basic sanitation and drinking water for homes in tribal and disadvantaged communities. As an unprecedented solution for water remediation from heavy metals in point-of-use settings, we propose the synthesis of composites of magnetic nanoparticles bound to a biocomponent based on bacterial metalloproteins. Proteins will offer high specificity for toxic metal targets and nanoparticles will allow an easy post-treatment separation. This make our approach suitable for small, rural, tribal, and disadvantaged communities where access to energy is limited and remediation costs should be kept to a minimum.

Expected Results:

Our composites will consist of a magnetic support—nanomagnetite—and an active biocomponent. We will design and construct three classes of nanocomposites that take advantage of magnetic nanoparticle removal: 1) a semi-biosynthetic composite, in which metalloproteins are overproduced by Escherichia coli and then purified; 2) a chemical composite, in which synthetic peptides based on metalloproteins are generated; and 3) a whole-cell composite, in which freeze- dried metalloprotein-overproducing E. coli is directly attached to the NPs. To test our platform, we will focus on creating nanocomposites for arsenic remediation, a contaminant that causes a myriad of chronic and fatal illnesses. To evaluate the performance of our different nanocomposites we will use binding isotherms. After deciding which nanocomposite is the best candidate, further remediation tests will be performed using real groundwater samples.

Contribution to Pollution Prevention or Control: By constructing efficient and inexpensive nanocomposites, we will be able to provide affected communities with a very efficient platform for removing arsenic from contaminated water. Our design is in line with the Safe Drinking Water Act-Section 1442, that encourage the development of new methods of treating raw water to prepare it for drinking, so as to improve the efficiency of water treatment and to remove contaminants from water.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 2 publications for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

Drinking water; water treatment; water purification technologies; drinking water treatment technologies; groundwater remediation.

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report
  • P3 Phase II:

    One in a Billion: Living Filters for Arsenic Removal