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Cycle 9 (2020 Deadline)

Biochar facilitated bioremediation: a green solution for dioxin/furan pollution

PI: Dang Thuong Huyen (, Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology
U.S. Partner: Karl Rockne, University of Illinois at Chicago
Project Dates:

Project Overview:
Agent Orange was used to defoliate more than 31,000 km2 of forest in Vietnam. Polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and polychlorinated dibenzofurans formed during the manufacturing process, together with co-contamination by other chemicals and heavy metals, have resulted in widespread contamination of soils across the country. More than 35.42 million liters of Agent Orange, Agent White, and Agent Blue were transported and stored during the Vietnam War, and the most widely used of these agents was Agent Orange, resulting in dioxin hotspots at airbases where the substance was stored and transferred. This project will focus on the Bien Hoa site, given its proximity to Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology (HCMUT) and the team’s extensive experience working on bioremediation efforts at this location. High concentrations of dioxins were observed at several boreholes obtained from the site, and the results demonstrated that the greatest concentrations of 2,3,7,8-TCDD were due to defoliants in a restricted zone within a few meters of the surface. Toxic equivalency factors for some samples exceeded 1000 pg/g, primarily from high concentrations of tetra-CDDs.

The project’s goal is to address this problem through a collaboration between HCMUT and the University of Illinois at Chicago on a green, circular economy solution using plant-based biochars sourced from waste stocks. The team will achieve this goal by investigating how the beneficial properties of biochars to sequester hydrophobic pollutants and facilitate electron transfer to microbes living on/near the organic matter surface can be optimized for improved bioremediation of PCDDs/TCDDs. The research represents an interesting symmetrical approach to the problem of Agent Orange, using plant-based products to facilitate the treatment of pollution.

The scientific merit of this project will result from investigations into the sorption and biostimulation potential of biochars produced from various agricultural sources. Knowledge of the sorption potential and energy will result from a comparison of sorption isotherm data to various mechanistic sorption models. Two different pyrolysis temperatures will be used to test the hypothesis that higher temperatures produce biochars of greater graphitic content that more efficiently stimulates PCDD/F dechlorination. Thus, this research will address both an urgent national need to remediate contaminated soil while furthering fundamental knowledge of biochar-mediated dechlorination. Recently, the Vietnamese national government promulgated the circular economy in its five-year strategic plan to beneficially reuse waste products from one industry as feedstocks for others. Thus, the utilization of these types of biomass for the fabrication of efficient adsorption products is an effective and sustainable green solution with potentially great benefits to the economy and the environment.

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