A Chemical Solution to Pollution

Katrina Bernhardt (FCLC ’17) is part of a team of students in the Fordham College Rose Hill Chemistry Department working to find a novel molecular solution to liquid pollution. Through use of organic polymers, the team is attempting to filter contaminants out of solutions, and possibly oceans or water supplies.

This research project involves the synthesis of complex polymers– organic molecules comprised of smaller repeating units– followed by tests of the polymer’s ability to eliminate impurities. Bernhardt uses various colored dyes as a substitute for pollutants in water supplies; these colored dyes can be detected by spectroscopic techniques, allowing the team to observe the polymer’s ability to remove the dye. This method also allows for variation in the structure and concentration of the polymer in order to investigate factors that affect its efficacy. Bernhardt and the other students at work on this project are currently attempting multiple different polymer structures and dye tests in the hopes of optimizing their structures.

Should this undertaking prove successful, it has the potential to be applied on a larger scale to tackle issues as large as ocean oil spills. Exposure of oil and other harmful impurities to the polymer could remove them from the natural ecosystem and significantly counteract the environmental side effects of pollution. Use of these polymers to filter contaminants is not only an interesting scientific venture, but also a possible step towards global greener practices.

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