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Environ Sci Technol. 2005 Mar 1;39(5):1354-8.

Engineered polymeric nanoparticles for bioremediation of hydrophobic contaminants.

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  • 1School of Civil and Environmental Engineering and School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14850, USA.


Sorption of hydrophobic organic contaminants, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), to soil has been shown to limit their solubilization rate and mobility. In addition, sequestration of contaminants by sorption to soil and by partitioning in nonaqueous phase liquids (NAPLs) reduces their bioavailability. Polymeric nano-network particles have been demonstrated to increase the "effective" solubility of a representative hydrophobic organic contaminant, phenanthrene (PHEN) and to enhance the release of PHEN from contaminated aquifer material. In this study, we investigate the usefulness of nanoparticles made from a poly(ethylene) glycol modified urethane acrylate (PMUA) precursor chain, in enhancing the bioavailability of PHEN. PMUA nanoparticles are shown to increase the mineralization rate of PHEN crystal in water, PHEN sorbed on aquifer material, and PHEN dissolved in a model NAPL (hexadecane) in the presence of aquifer media. These results show that PMUA particles not only enhance the release of sorbed and NAPL-sequestered PHEN but also increase its mineralization rate. The accessibility of contaminants in PMUA particles to bacteria also suggests that particle application may be an effective means to enhance the in-situ biodegradation rate in remediation through natural attenuation of contaminants. In pump-and-treat or soil washing remediation schemes, bioreactors could be used to recycle extracted nanoparticles. The properties of PMUA nanoparticles are shown to be stable in the presence of a heterogeneous active bacterial population, enabling them to be reused after PHEN bound to the particles has been degraded by bacteria.

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