Enhanced In Situ Extraction of Heavy Metals Using Surfactant Foams

EPA Contract Number: 68D01021
Title: Enhanced In Situ Extraction of Heavy Metals Using Surfactant Foams
Investigators: Rothmel, Randi
Current Investigators: Hatzinger, Paul B.
Small Business: Envirogen Inc.
EPA Contact: Manager, SBIR Program
Phase: I
Project Period: April 1, 2001 through September 1, 2001
Project Amount: $69,975
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase I (2001) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: SBIR - Waste , Hazardous Waste/Remediation , Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)


The Phase I objective is to assess the use of surfactant colloidal gas aphron (CGA) foams for remediation of heavy metals in contaminated aquifers. One of the most important factors limiting pump-and-treat methods for metal as well as organic pollutant remediation is poor transport of extraction solutions from injection sites to zones of contamination because of movement through preferential flow paths. Surfactant foams may be an ideal medium to improve the transport of metal extracting agents in the subsurface because foams move through aquifer sediments in a "plug flow" manner
(i.e., entering small micropores as well as preferential flow paths). The use of foams for the solubilization, mobilization, and recovery of metals (lead and mercury) will be investigated. Surfactant foams will be generated in a spinning-disc foam generator from dilute ( 0.1%) anionic, cationic, and nonionic surfactant solutions. Envirogen, Inc., will examine the potential for using surfactant CGA foams in conjunction with metal chelators and acid solutions to enhance the extraction of lead or mercury in model aquifer systems comprised of silica sand or a defined aquifer sediment spiked with a known amount of metal. Results will be compared to control columns flushed with artificial groundwater. In Phase II, work will be expanded to pilot-scale testing to investigate foam flow and mobilization of various heavy metals in heterogeneous aquifer sediments of varying permeabilities. The results from these studies will provide valuable information on the uses of surfactant foams for remediation of metal-contaminated sediments. The final goal of the Phase I and Phase II projects is to commercialize a new technology to mobilize heavy metals and radionuclides in subsurfaces using foams as a delivery vehicle for chemicals capable of extracting metals. Envirogen, Inc., knows of no previous work assessing the potential use of surfactant foams for in situ mobilization of heavy metals; thus, this project represents a completely new approach to metals remediation.

The technology developed during this project will be applicable for in situ mobilization of heavy metals in aquifers at numerous industrial and government sites that are contaminated with metals. Current technologies for metals remediation in groundwater are limited primarily to expensive, long-term, pump-and-treat systems. Use of surfactant foams to enhance the efficiency of subsurface metal extraction significantly would reduce the time and costs associated with the current pump-and-treat technology. The use of surfactant foams in treatment strategies for metals represents a completely new approach.

Supplemental Keywords:

small business, SBIR, remediation, aquifers, heavy metals, surfactant foam, in situ flushing, chelating agents, chemistry, EPA, lead, mercury, pump-and-treat systems., Scientific Discipline, Toxics, Waste, Water, National Recommended Water Quality, Chemical Engineering, Contaminated Sediments, Remediation, Environmental Chemistry, Chemistry, 33/50, Environmental Engineering, Mercury, surfactant enhanced aquifer remediation, in situ remediation, in situ flushing, contaminated sediment, lead, chelated agents, mercury & mercury compounds, contaminated aquifers, extraction of metals, heavy metal contamination, surfactant foams

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report