"Environment" research area

Enzymatic Removal of Organic Contaminants from Water

Primary Investigator - Romas KazlauskasPrimary InvestigatorRomas Kazlauskas
Industry Partners: NA
Award Type: Seed Grant - Graduate Research Scholar

Problem: Organic contaminants from oil spills, fracking fluids, and gasoline leaks are difficult to clean up because of their complex mixtures and hydrophobic properties. Current technologies utilize laundry detergents but are slow and require a high pH. New remediation methods are needed to remove organic contaminants.

Solution: MnDRIVE researchers in the Kazlauskas Lab will work to engineer an enzyme to target hydrophobic, organic contaminants at a neutral pH. The lab will start with an existing enzymes called Pseudomonas fluorescens esterase because of its ability to form peracetic acid from ethyl acetate in water, a key first step in removing organic materials. The enzyme will be engineered to be more hydrophobic near the active area to increase the use of similarly hydrophobic organic contaminants. The active site of the enzyme will also be modified to expand the number of organic contaminants that can be removed. 

Impact: The Kazlauskas Lab will create around 1000 variants of the engineered enzyme and determine which are most effective at removing organic contaminants. Engineering Pseudomonas fluorescens esterase will also allow researchers to test its activity in simulated environments to determine how much of the enzyme should be applied to contaminated water.