Job announcement: Academic Hourly Research – Sustainability Technician

The Illinois Sustainable Technology Center is in search of a technician to conduct research on sustainability solutions to assist clients to improve organizational sustainability. Support and document sustainability activities associated with materials, processes, water and wastewater, energy utilization, waste minimization and recycling. Assist with research and oversight of solid waste prevention programs established by ISTC that assist companies and communities. Particular focus will be on supporting the Zero Waste Unit’s consulting projects (contracts) with commercial and industrial clients. This will involve performing waste characterization assessments at client locations.

Position Requirements and Qualifications

Education

Required: Bachelor’s degree in engineering, business, economics, environmental or related discipline. Alternate degree fields will be accepted/considered based upon the nature and depth of the experience as it relates to this position.

Experience

Required: Six months of applicable experience working in business or industrial environment. Internships may be considered as professional experience.

Training, Licenses or Certifications

Required: Must possess a valid driver’s license and access to transportation.

Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities

Required: Effective communication, personal relations, collaboration, organizational, teamwork, and leadership skills. Demonstrated ability to perform effectively in a diverse and fast-paced work environment consisting of multiple and changing priorities with stringent deadlines, under minimal supervision. Attention to detail, sound judgment, and strong conflict resolution skills. Proficiency in commonly-employed software and databases. Must possess strong interpersonal skills and ability to work collaboratively with other scientists, researchers, staff and PRI clients.

The Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) is part of the Prairie Research Institute (PRI) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which is centrally located between Chicago, St. Louis, and Indianapolis. ISTC integrates applied research, technical assistance, and information services to advance efforts in the areas of pollution prevention; water and energy conservation; and materials recycling and beneficial reuse. Learn more at go.illinois.edu/PRIjobs.

For further information, please contact Shantanu Pai at spai@illinois.edu or 217-244-4768.

The University of Illinois conducts criminal background checks on all job candidates upon acceptance of a contingent offer.

The University of Illinois is an Equal Opportunity, Affirmative Action employer.  Minorities, women, veterans, and individuals with disabilities are encourages to apply.  For more information, visit http://go.illinois.eud/EEO. To learn more about the University’s commitment to diversity, please visit http://www.inclusiveillinois.illinois.edu.

New publication: Advancing Pilot-Scale Integrated Systems for Algal Carbon Capture and Biofuel Production

In this research study, funded by ISTC’s Sponsored Research Program, Lance Schideman and his team partnered with Abbott Power Plant and the Urbana & Champaign Sanitary District to address critical challenges to practical demonstrations of biological CO2 capture systems and subsequent thermochemical conversion of biomass to biofuels.

The researchers developed the capability to harvest and store actual power plant flue gas samples in pressurized cylinders, then used these samples to study acclimation in algae cultivation systems dosed with flue gas. The project also demonstrated the use of anaerobic digestion to recover residual energy from the aqueous byproduct of hydrothermal liquefaction (HTLaq), which is generated during the conversion of algae or other organic feedstocks to biofuels.

This study showed that mixed culture algae are capable of using CO2 in flue gas, and the impact of the flue gas on algal growth rates was positive. Because higher flue gas injection rates resulted in higher productivity and lower CO2 removal efficiency, higher flue gas injection rates are preferable when the CO2 source is cheap and algae are considered the main product. Low flue gas injection rates would be preferable when the CO2 source is expensive or the CO2 removal efficiency is important. Heavy metal analysis showed that algal biomass will accumulate Zn, Pb, and Cu from flue gas, which can exceed certain animal feed regulatory limits.

This work also demonstrated that anaerobic treatment of HTLaq in combination with sewage sludge is feasible in both lab- and full-scale applications, which highlights the potential for enhancing energy recovery from sewage sludge through integration of hydrothermal liquefaction  (HTL) technology with municipal wastewater treatment. Overall, this study highlights that integrating HTL technology with existing municipal sludge anaerobic digesters could significantly improve the bioenergy production of municipal wastewater treatment systems by 50 to 70% at a cost that is favorable compared to other alternatives.

Download the full report at http://hdl.handle.net/2142/102363.

 

 

Microplastic contamination found in common source of groundwater, researchers report

by Lois Yoksoulian – Physical Sciences Editor of U of I News Bureau

Microplastics contaminate the world’s surface waters, yet scientists have only just begun to explore their presence in groundwater systems. A new study is the first to report microplastics in fractured limestone aquifers – a groundwater source that accounts for 25 percent of the global drinking water supply.

The study identified microplastic fibers, along with a variety of medicines and household contaminants, in two aquifer systems in Illinois. The findings are published in the journal Groundwater.

“Plastic in the environment breaks down into microscopic particles that can end up in the guts and gills of marine life, exposing the animals to chemicals in the plastic,” said John Scott, a researcher at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center and study co-author. “As the plastics break down, they act like sponges that soak up contaminants and microbes and can ultimately work their way into our food supply.”

ISTC Senior Analytical Chemist John W Scott loads water samples into an analytical pyroprobe that feeds into a gas chromatograph and mass spectrometer to analyze the water sample for the presence of plastic microfiber contamination. The testing work done in the labs at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has found that plastic polymers are now found in fractured limestone aquifers. Photo by Fred Zwicky, University of Illinois News Bureau
ISTC Senior Analytical Chemist John W Scott loads water samples into an analytical pyroprobe that feeds into a gas chromatograph and mass spectrometer to analyze the water sample for the presence of plastic microfiber contamination. The testing work done in the labs at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has found that plastic polymers are now found in fractured limestone aquifers. Photo by Fred Zwicky, University of Illinois News Bureau

Groundwater flows through the cracks and voids in limestone, sometimes carrying sewage and runoff from roads, landfills and agricultural areas into the aquifers below, Scott said.

The researchers collected 17 groundwater samples from wells and springs – 11 from a highly fractured limestone aquifer near the St. Louis metropolitan area and six from an aquifer containing much smaller fractures in rural northwestern Illinois.

All but one of the 17 samples contained microplastic particles, with a maximum concentration of 15.2 particles per liter from a spring in the St. Louis area, the study reports. However, deciphering what that concentration means is a challenge, Scott said. There are no published risk assessment studies or regulations.

The researchers did find, however, that concentrations from their field areas are comparable to those of surface water concentrations found in the rivers and streams in the Chicago area, said Samuel V. Panno, an Illinois State Geological Survey researcher and lead author of the study.

“The research on this topic is at a very early stage, so I am not convinced we have a frame of reference to state expectations or bounds on what is considered low or high levels,” said Tim Hoellein, a biology professor at Loyola University Chicago and study co-author. “Our questions are still basic – how much is there and where is it coming from?”

The researchers identified a variety of household and personal health contaminants along with the microplastics, a hint that the fibers may have originated from household septic systems.

“Imagine how many thousands of polyester fibers find their way into a septic system from just doing a load of laundry,” Scott said. “Then consider the potential for those fluids to leak into the groundwater supply, especially in these types of aquifers where surface water interacts so readily with groundwater.”

There is still a monumental amount of work to be done on this subject, Scott said. He anticipates that microplastic contamination in both surface water and groundwater will be a problem for years to come.

“Even if we quit plastics cold turkey today, we will still deal with this issue for years because plastic never really goes away,” Scott said. “It is estimated that 6.3 billion metric tons of plastic waste have been produced since the 1940s, and 79 percent of that is now in landfills or the natural environment. To me, it is such a weird concept that these materials are intended for single use, yet they are designed to last forever.”

ISTC Senior Analytical Chemist John W Scott, front left, is joined in the labs at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana by co-author, ISGS researcher Sam Panno, far right, and fellow research team members, back row from left, Walt Kelly, Nancy Holm and Wei Zheng. Their research documents the presence of plastic microfiber contamination in fractured limestone aquifers. Photo by Fred Zwicky, University of Illinois News Bureau
ISTC Senior Analytical Chemist John W Scott, front left, is joined in the labs at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana by co-author, ISGS researcher Sam Panno, far right, and fellow research team members, back row from left, Walt Kelly, Nancy Holm and Wei Zheng. Their research documents the presence of plastic microfiber contamination in fractured limestone aquifers. Photo by Fred Zwicky, University of Illinois News Bureau

Walton R. Kelly of the Illinois State Water SurveyWei Zhang and Nancy Holm of ISTC;  Rachel E. McNeish of California State University, Bakersfield; Timothy J. Hoellein of Loyola University, Chicago; and Elizabeth L. Baranski of the League of Women Voters of Jo Daviess County also contributed to this research. The ISGS, ISWS and ISTC are part of the Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign.

The League of Women Voters of Jo Daviess County, ISGS, ISWS, ISTC, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant of the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration and the National Science Foundation supported this research.

ISTC announces Spring 2019 sustainability seminars

ISTC has announced its schedule of sustainability seminars for Spring 2019. All seminars are held from noon-1 pm in the SJW Conference room at ISTC 1 Hazelwood Dr in Champaign. Metered parking ($1/hr) in the lot; bike parking; and yellow bus stops at Hazelwood and Oak.

The seminars are also broadcast via webinar for those who can’t attend in person. Register for each session using the links below. Archives of previous seminars are available at https://www.istc.illinois.edu/events/sustainability_seminars.

Thursday, February 7
Recent Advancements in Virus Detection and Monitoring
Speaker: Krista Rule Wigginton, Assistant Professor
University of Michigan Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Register for the free webinar

Abstract: Viruses are important pathogens that are commonly associated with contaminated water. Norovirus, for example, is a waterborne virus that is responsible for 10x more illnesses in the U.S. than the next most common waterborne pathogen. To address risks of waterborne virus illnesses, drinking water standards include enteric virus reduction requirements; however the utility of these standards is limited in the absence of methods that can demonstrate they are achieved. Viruses are very difficult to concentrate, purify, and identify. Detection typically relies on culture-based or PCR-based methods; however, most viruses are not readily cultured, and their lack of conserved genes and rapid evolution complicates PCR primer development and sequencing efforts. In this presentation, I will report on our work focused on improving virus detection and monitoring in wastewater and drinking water.

Thursday, February 21
Materials, Assembly Approaches, and Designs for Ultrahigh-Efficiency, Full-Spectrum Operation Photovoltaics and their Applications
Speaker: Ralph G. Nuzzo , G. L. Clark Professor of Chemistry, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Register for the webinar

Abstract: The production of integrated electronic circuits provides examples of the most advanced fabrication and assembly approaches that are generally characterized by large-scale integration of high-performance compact semiconductor elements that rely on rigid and essentially planar form factors. New methods of fabricating micro-scale semiconductor devices provide a set of enabling means to lift these constraints by engendering approaches to device configurations that would be impossible to realize with bulk, wafer-scale materials while retaining capacities for high (or altogether new forms of) electronic and/or optoelectronic performance. An exemplary case of interest in our work includes large-area integrated electro-optical systems for photovoltaic energy conversion that can provide a potentially transformational approach to supplant current technologies with high performance, low cost alternatives. In this talk I will highlight progress made in the collaborative research efforts that illustrate important opportunities for exploiting advances in optical and electronic materials in synergy with physical means of patterning, fabrication, and assembly to advance capabilities for photovoltaic energy conversion and highlight emerging applications for new materials and unconventional device form factors in high efficiency energy conversion technologies. Of particular interest are the materials, and new understandings of science, that will allow an efficient utilization of the full solar resource.

Thursday, March 7
Removal of Perfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) from Water Using Tailored and Highly Porous Organosilica Adsorbents
Speaker: Paul Edmiston ,Theron and Dorothy Peterson Professor of Chemistry and Analytical Chemist, The College of Wooster (Ohio)
Register for the free webinar

Abstract: Porous organosilicas with specific surface chemistries were developed as adsorbents for the selective removal of either perfluoroalkyl surfactants (PFASs) from water. Swellable organically modified silica (SOMS) materials were created that incorporated cationic and fluoroalkyl groups with the hypothesis that intermolecular interactions specific to PFASs would improve adsorption affinity and capacity. SOMS materials are useful in adsorbent design since they possess: i) the ability to swell to creates a continuous mesoporous structure, ii) a surface chemistry that can be tailored through synthesis or incorporation of polymer coatings to the pores, and iii) chemical stability to allow for regeneration in place. Adsorption kinetics, adsorption isotherms, and column breakthrough experiments were used to measure performance for a range of PFASs with variable chain length and chemical identity (PFDA, PFNA, PFOA, PFHpA, PFHxA, PFOeA, PFBA, PFOSA, PFxHs, PFOSA, and PFOSaAm). Organosilica materials show promise for allowing rational design of adsorbents used for remediation of PFAS impacted water. Adsorption mechanisms unique to SOMS will be presented in the context of treatment of wide range of water solutes for those with general interest in water purification technology.

Thursday, March 28
Modern Materials: New Methods in Manufacturing and Remediation
Speaker: Adam M. Feinberg, postdoctoral researcher, University of Illinois Autonomous Materials Systems (AMS) Group
Register for the free webinar

Abstract: This seminar will discuss topics at the beginning and the end of the material lifecycle. At the beginning of the material lifecycle, a new material manufacturing method will be discussed – morphogenic manufacturing, i.e. the generation of pattern and structure without machining or molding. Unstable reaction propagation during frontal ring-opening metathesis polymerization (FROMP) of dicyclopentadiene (DCPD) has been harnessed to generate spatially-resolved patterns in pDCPD resins. Autonomous color pattern development, pattern characterization and tunability, and applications to real-world systems will be discussed. The second section of this talk will center on the end of the material lifecycle. Cyclic poly(phthalaldehyde) (cPPA), an attractive transient material which rapidly depolymerizes upon activation, has been used to produce transient bulk materials. Topics will include advances in bulk processing of cPPA, mechanistic insights learned along the way, and the future of this stimulus-responsive polymer.

Thursday, April 18
PFAS remediation at MSU‐Fraunhofer: Electrochemical destruction in wastewater and landfill leachates using boron‐doped diamond electrodes
Speaker: Cory A. Rusinek – Scientist,  Michigan State University‐Fraunhofer USA, Inc. Center for Coatings and Diamond Technologies
Register for the free webinar

Abstract: Boron‐doped diamond (BDD) electrodes have shown promise over the last decade for contaminant degradation with a number of studies showing its ability to degrade PFASs. The BDD material provides a combination of rigidity, high oxygen over‐potential, and overall electrode lifetime, which makes it an attractive option for an electrochemical treatment system. This presentation will cover the basic and applied research findings of using electrochemical oxidation (EO) with BDD electrodes to destroy PFAS in wastewater and other complex samples such as landfill leachates and wastewaters. Various complimentary treatment technologies for PFAS remediation will also be addressed.

 

2019 Emerging Contaminants in the Environment Conference announces keynote speakers

Keynote speakers for the 2019 Emerging Contaminants in the Environment conference have been announced. The conference will be held on May 21-22, 2019, at the Hilton Garden Inn in Champaign, IL. This year the conference will expand beyond the aquatic environment to also include air and soil studies along with effects on human and animal health. Conference organizers are accepting poster presentations through February 4.

The keynote speakers are:

Getting Ahead of Emerging Contaminants with the Class Concept

Thomas Burton – PFAS Research and Policy Lead, Green Science Policy Institute

Thomas Bruton received his Ph.D. in environmental engineering at UC Berkeley, where his research focused on using in-situ chemical oxidation for remediation of chemical contaminants, including PFAS, in soil and groundwater. In 2017, Tom joined the Green Science Policy Institute, which works collaboratively with partners in academia, government, business, and the nonprofit sector to reduce the use of harmful chemicals in products.  Tom currently leads the Institute’s research and policy work on PFAS.  He is the author of several peer-reviewed papers on PFAS, and is frequently interviewed by the news media.

Microplastics: A Global, Multi-Media Concern

Robert C. Hale – Professor of Marine Science, Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Rob Hale’s research focuses on the sources, multi-media fate, bioavailability and effects of persistent, bioaccumulative & toxic (PBT) pollutants.  Recent interests include flame retardants and microplastics. Matrices of concern have ranged from local fish tissues and sediments, Antarctic wastewater sludge, plastics, to indoor & World Trade Center dust. Over the last 30 years he has published >100 journals articles, which have been cited >7000 times.

Rob was born in Detroit, MI.  He received bachelor degrees in both chemistry and biology (Wayne State University), as well as a Ph.D. in Marine Science (William & Mary). He initially worked as a Research Environmental Chemist for Mobil Corp. in Princeton, NJ, before returning to VIMS, where he is now a Professor in the Dept. of Aquatic Health Sciences.

Emerging Contaminants: State of the Art and New Discoveries

Susan D. Richardson – Arthur Sease Williams Professor of Chemistry, University of South Carolina

Biography:  Susan D. Richardson is the Arthur Sease Williams Professor of Chemistry in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of South Carolina.  Prior to coming to USC in January 2014, she was a Research Chemist for several years at the U.S. EPA’s National Exposure Research Laboratory in Athens, GA.  Susan is the recipient of the 2008 American Chemical Society Award for Creative Advancements in Environmental Science & Technology, has received an honorary doctorate from Cape Breton University in Canada (2006), and was recently recognized as an ACS Fellow (2016).  Susan was also recently elected as the Vice President/President Elect for the American Society for Mass Spectrometry.

 

ISTC seminar explores the impact of the Future Energy Jobs Act on community solar development

On January 9, ISTC brought together speakers from Illinois Environmental Council, the Coalition for Community Solar Access, and the Illinois Solar Energy Association to discuss the potential impact of the Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA) on community solar development in Illinois.

An archive of the webinar (Solar Updates for Illinois Counties, Communities, Schools, and Businesses Preparing for Solar Development), as well as slides from the presenters are available on ISTC’s web site.

Technical Assistance Program awarded $338,549 grant to assist food manufacturers

ISTC’s technical assistance program engineers have been awarded a $338,549 pollution prevention (P2) grant from U.S. EPA Region 5 to provide on-site pollution prevention technical assistance, including Economy, Energy and Environment (E3), to Illinois food and beverage manufacturers and processors. This assistance will result in reduced water and energy usage, hazardous materials generation, and reduce business costs.

This grant is part of the ongoing Illinois Conservation of Resources and Energy (ICORE) project.

Principal investigator Dan Marsch says, “Since its inception, ICORE has been a very successful program providing on-site P2 technical assistance to businesses in underserved communities across Illinois. ICORE is one of U.S. EPA Region 5’s flagship programs, delivering consistent results and leadership in sustainability within the region.”

Food and beverage manufacturers, processing facilities, and their direct suppliers and supporting industries are all eligible for assistance under through this project. Interested companies may contact:

Northern Illinois

Shantanu Pai
(630) 586-9168
spai@illinois.edu

Central Illinois

Troy Walker
(217) 300-1596
twalk@illinois.edu

Southern Illinois

Dan Marsch
(217) 300-4199
djmarsch@illinois.edu

Laura Barnes appointed to National Pollution Prevention Roundtable Board of Directors

Laura L. Barnes, ISTC’s Sustainability Information Curator, has been appointed to the National Pollution Prevention Roundtable‘s Board of Directors to fill the Region 5 seat, which represents programs in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

The National Pollution Prevention Roundtable (NPPR) is a national forum that promotes the development, implementation, and evaluation of efforts to avoid, eliminate, or reduce waste generated to air, land, and water.

Ms. Barnes will serve on NPPR’s web site team and the planning committee for the Roundtable’s upcoming Education Forum, as well as assist with the organization’s strategic communications.

U of I scientists pitch $40M carbon capture project for CWLP

Read the full story in the Springfield State Journal-Register.

A research center with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is looking for support from the Springfield City Council on a $40 million pilot project that would retrofit City Water, Light and Power’s newest power plant to capture carbon dioxide.

Kevin O’Brien, director of the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, presented their proposal to council members during Monday’s Utilities Committee meeting. The project would study whether the method of capturing carbon dioxide from CWLP’s emissions is effective and cost-efficient.