KU lands $1.1 million in grants for research that may improve removal of toxic substances from water and soil.
The chemistry department at Kansas University cleaned up Friday in a competition for research funding to advance techniques for dealing with toxic substances in the environment.
The U.S. Department of Energy awarded KU two grants that totaled $1.1 million. The research would be directed at creating molecules that isolate and remove noxious substances such as nitrates and phosphates from soil and water.
"This is an incredible opportunity," said Kristin Bowman-James, KU chemistry department chair and primary investigator for the $775,000 grant. "The DOE recognizes that there is a need for long-term, basic research in areas related to environmental cleanup."
George Wilson, Higuchi distinguished professor of chemistry and pharmaceutical chemistry, said the goal was to design molecules that discriminate in their interactions.
"We will use these molecules to selectively remove toxic species from nuclear waste," Wilson said. "These same molecules will also be used to develop sensors capable of selectively detecting the toxic species in a complex mixture."
Wilson, Bowman-James and Krzysztof Kuczera, assistant professor of chemistry, will focus on separation technologies for negative ions.
Meanwhile, KU chemistry professors Daryle Busch and Richard Givens will use a $350,000 grant to look for methods of separating positive ions.
"We know that there are special types of molecules called ligands that bind with various positive ions," Busch said. "But there's a problem."
He said strong-binding ligands were too slow to use effectively to remove toxic substances from the soil. The challenge will be to make ligands both bind quickly and tightly, he said.