"Environment" research area

Using Fungus to Remediate "Forever Chemicals"

Primary Investigator - Jiwei ZhangPrimary Investigator Jiwei Zhang
Co-InvestigatorsCara Santelli, Jerry Cohen, Charles Ayers (Graduate Research Scholar)
Industry PartnersSKB Environmental, Wenck-Stantec
Award Type: Seed Grant - Graduate Research Scholar (with NRRI Travel Grant)

Problem: PFAS are persistent and ubiquitous environmental contaminants, and these “Forever chemicals” are amongst Minnesota’s and the world’s greatest environmental challenges. Novel and efficient remediation technologies are needed to address the problem. Bioremediation would be an attractive alternative to physio-chemical methods that are often impractical on the scale required. Despite initial successes in PFAS degradation by microbes, the mechanisms of this degradation are not yet fully understood, particularly for fungi, hindering the development of relevant bioremediation technologies.

Solution: Fungi are an attractive option for the development of biological treatment for PFAS, namely “mycoremediation”. Leveraging the Zhang lab’s expertise in fungal biology with collaborators’ expertise in bioremediation and metabolite chemistry will allow for the development of a fungal platform to concurrently develop a bioremediation application for PFAS. This interdisciplinary collaboration will also allow for elucidating the genetic and chemical pathways of fungal PFAS degradation, providing the basic information required to develop effective mycoremediation technologies.

Impact: Our work will advance the bioremediation research of PFAS and, directly, lead to the development of a fungal method for PFAS leachate control in landfills. This will facilitate industries and environmental managers to meet the goal set in Minnesota’s PFAS Blueprint, sustaining the local environments and economies. We also envision the fungal degradation of PFAS can have even broader applications in other relevant contaminated fields.