"Environment" research area

Undergraduate Training in Encapsulation of PFAS Degrading Bacteria

Primary Investigator - AksanPrimary InvestigatorAlptekin Aksan
Co-Investigators: Sophie O'Keane (Undergraduate Research Scholar)
Industry Partners: NA
Award Type: Undergraduate Research Scholar 

Problem: More than 9,000 fluorinated chemicals are used commercially. These chemicals are of significant concern due to their negative effects on health as they are shown to harm the immune system, and even increase the severity of COVID-19. 

Solution: Minnesota alone is spending nearly one billion dollars to remediate these chemicals. PFAS chemicals have long been considered “forever chemicals” that cannot be biodegraded. However, recent evidence demonstrated that it is indeed possible to biodegrade these compounds. Our lab has previously developed a variety of encapsulation methods to utilize bacteria for bioremediation of hydrocarbons, herbicides, etc. contaminating freshwater resources. In this project, we will apply silica encapsulation technology to encapsulate bacteria that biodegrade fluorinated compounds. 

Impact: Most processes used to remediate PFAS compounds are very energy-intensive. If successful, this project will enable bioremediation of PFAs compounds with a minimum carbon footprint.