Publication Date


Document Type


Committee Members

Abinash Agrawal (Committee Chair), Mark Goltz (Committee Member), Christina Powell (Committee Member)

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Nanoscale zero valent iron (nZVI) is a remediation technology that can be used to treat chlorinated hydrocarbons (CHCs) in contaminated aquifers. Nanoparticles remain mobile in water and can be transported with groundwater flow to contaminated zones. However, due to magnetic and van der Waals forces, unstabilized nZVI agglomerates. Carboxymethylcellulose (CMC) was used as a polyelectrolyte stabilizer in this study. nZVI serves as an electron donor and can dechlorinate CHCs. nZVI reactivity with CHCs can be enhanced by addition of a secondary metal catalyst. This study evaluates the potential of copper amended nZVI (Cu-nZVI) to degrade select CHCs. The objective of this study was to characterize degradation of select CHCs in batch reactors with regard to degradation kinetics and degradation byproduct distributions. The following CHCs were studied: CF, 1,1,2,2-TeCA, 1,1,1-TCA, 1,1,2-TCA, PCE, TCE, cis-DCE, trans-DCE, and 1,2,3-TCP. Degradation kinetics were quantified using a pseudo first-order rate constant (kobs). Initial degradation of CHCs was reported separately from later degradation, which occurred after 0.5 hr. The change in reaction kinetics with time could be caused by particle aging. The effect of Cu loading and nZVI concentration was evaluated with CF degradation. Increasing Cu loading or nZVI concentrations yielded faster degradation rates. Increasing Cu loading systematically increased methane byproduct production. The loss of reactivity with CF after 0.5 hr was greater for nZVI when compared to Cu-nZVI. Degradation kinetics were faster and byproduct distribution was more favorable for Cu-nZVI than nZVI for all CHCs studied. Cu-nZVI outperformed most other bimetallic nZVI reductants reported in the literature for CF and chlorinated ethanes treatment. Cu-nZVI invokes a-elimination of CF and 1,l,1-TCA, which produces reactive carbene intermediates capable of degrading into benign products such as methane, ethane, and ethene. Cu-nZVI also showed potential for 1,2,3-TCP remediation. However, Cu-nZVI was particularly ineffective at degrading chlorinated ethenes. Chlorinated ethene degradation pathways and mechanisms induced by Cu-nZVI were not clearly identified. Particle longevity experiments showed that reactivity with 1,1,1-TCA decreases as particles age. Unstable Cu-nZVI particles showed a slow linear decline in reactivity with time, whereas CMC stabilized Cu-nZVI particles showed a rapid power function decline in reactivity with time. The unstable particles were 12-fold faster compared to stablized particles 24 hr after particle synthesis. Even with declines in reactivity, 1,1,1-TCA was rapidly degraded (over a few hours) by both stable and unstable Cu-nZVI seven days after particle synthesis. Cu-nZVI hydrogen production was minor and was limited to occurring immediately after particle synthesis. Cu-nZVI shows great potential for treating certain CHCs.

Page Count


Department or Program

Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences

Year Degree Awarded