Justin Mehl, 2017, Chemical and Biological Engineering

This summer, I worked with the Myneni Research group on using iron oxides to adsorb arsenic from contaminated water. In countries and regions such as Bangladesh and Eastern Africa, arsenic contamination is a serious problem with no cost-effective solution. Studies have shown that iron oxide crystals can be used to adsorb arsenic from contaminated water. These filters have been used, but the commonly used substrates on which the crystals are grown, activated carbon or silica, are not widely available in areas afflicted by arsenic contamination. The goals for the summer were to study how iron oxide crystals grow on calcite surfaces in a synthetic laboratory environment and to assess how these crystals could be used for arsenic adsorption. We found that calcite has a special influence on the formation of iron oxide crystals, inducing the formation of the hematite polymorph. Although much research remains to be done, our work this summer was thoroughly rewarding not only in its own right as novel discovery, but as something that could possibly contribute toward solving water security problems in poor foreign regions. I really enjoyed the work and the multidisciplinary nature of the Geosciences Department. I decided to continue working in the Myneni lab and recently enrolled in the Environmental Studies certificate program.