External Collaborators: Florida Institute of Technology assistant professor Toufiq Reza (PI), Ohio University associate professor Sumit Sharma
Eutrophication i.e., harmful algal bloom (HAB) is a major pollution concern for coastal areas including the Great Lakes and Indian River Lagoon in east coast of Florida. Eutrophication or HAB is caused by the nutrient (nitrogen and phosphorus) run-off going into the lakes/ocean from the agricultural fields/run-off. The more the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus, the more chances of HAB development and impacts on water quality. HAB creates several problems for aquatic organisms via several routes: the surface water gets covered with blue-green algae formation because of HAB – which uses sunlight for making food and their own growth, and also prevents the sunlight to go into the deep water making it difficult for other aquatic organisms and plants to survive. These algae also release a type of toxin – known as microcystin – that can kill fish and other aquatic species as well as can end up in drinking water. Therefore, controlling the release of nutrients (phosphorus and nitrogen) to water or the treatment technology for removing the microcystin from HAB-containing water is highly important. In this project, researchers are developing new technology to remove nutrients from agricultural runoff (or stormwater runoff) and to remove microcystin from HAB-affected water.
Aich’s group will use these carbon materials as a stormwater biofilter system to test how they can remove both nutrients and microcystin from water. His team has expertise in porous media transport of different types of contaminants. The team will use that expertise to create filtration columns with these hydrochars and grow bacterial biofilm on that hydrochar – this is known as biofiltration system or biofilter. Researchers will use these biofilters and flow through water with nutrients or microcystin. They will develop filtration columns with the hydrochars, and grow bacterial biofilm on them. This is known as biofiltration system or biofilter. The team will change a lot of parameters including the biosorbent synthesis conditions, water quality parameters, flowrate, etc and use machine learning and data science with help from Sumit Sharma – to determine which parameters has the most effect on the biofiltration performance. Aich's team will also perform techno-economic analyses to see if this process will be cost-effective.