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Cleaning Contaminated Groundwater is EZ(VI)
person using EZVI EZVI directly treats the contaminant source without mobilizing contaminants. The environmentally safe treatment method is cost-competitive, requires less treatment time than traditional methods, and produces less toxic, more easily biodegradable byproducts.
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Micrograph of nano-iron emulsion. Micrograph of nano-iron emulsion.
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image of an eagle The Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, which shares a boundary with Kennedy Space Center, is home to diverse habitats and endangered animals, including the bald eagles pictured above. It is important for Kennedy to dechlorinate dense non-aqueous phase liquid sources in polluted water to protect these animals and area habitats.
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Kennedy Space Center’s launch complexes have seen a lot. They have been the starting point for every manned NASA mission, from Mercury to Gemini, through Apollo, and are now seeing the space shuttle through its final launches. As part of the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge, Kennedy is also home to over 1,500 different plant and animal species.

To help protect nature and wildlife, NASA works to keep the area as pristine as possible. Sometimes, that involves inventing new and innovative methods for countering pollution.

During the Apollo Program, NASA launched Saturn rockets from Launch Complex 34 (LC-34), and workers used chlorinated solvents to clean rocket engine components. These solvents belong to a category of chemicals known as dense non-aqueous phase liquids (DNAPLs).

NASA environmental engineer Jacqueline Quinn and Kathleen Brooks Loftin, a NASA analytical chemist, partnered with researchers from the University of Central Florida’s chemistry and engineering programs to develop an innovative technology capable of remediating the area without great cost or further environmental damage. They called the new invention Emulsified Zero-Valent Iron (EZVI).

EZVI neutralizes the toxic chemicals using nano- or micro-sized iron particles in an environmentally friendly water and biodegradable oil emulsification. EZVI is injected deep into the soil, where the contaminants diffuse through the emulsion’s oil membrane and are then dechlorinated by the iron-water interior. The only byproduct of this process is non-toxic hydrocarbon, which diffuses into the groundwater.

Once the NASA-University team had EZVI working in the laboratory, it then contracted with GeoSyntec Inc., a small environmental remediation firm in Boca Raton, Florida, through the NASA Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program. GeoSyntec worked at LC-34 to evaluate the real-world effectiveness of EZVI. Groundwater testing showed that EZVI effectively removed the DNAPLs.

EZVI was recognized as a 2005 NASA Government Invention of the Year and 2005 NASA Commercial Invention of the Year. In 2006, the inventors won the Federal Laboratory Consortium’s Award for Excellence in Technology Transfer. In 2007, EZVI was inducted into the Space Foundation’s prestigious Space Technology Hall of Fame.

Since its development, numerous companies have licensed use of this technology from NASA. Several licenses are in the works, but currently six companies are using the NASA-developed EZVI groundwater remediation compound to clean up polluted areas all around the world, making it NASA’s most-licensed technology to date.

Licensees include Weston Solutions Inc., of Westchester, Pennsylvania, which provides environmental remediation services worldwide; and Toxicological and Environmental Associates, Inc., of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, which is offering the services through the southern and central United States. Additional licensees include Huff and Huff Inc., of Oak Brook, Illinois, which offers EZVI remediation as one of its many environmental cleanup options; Starlight Environmental Group, of Panama City Beach, Florida; Remediation and Natural Attenuation Services Inc. (RNAS), of Brooklyn Center, Minnesota; Terra Systems Inc., of Wilmington, Delaware; and Bio Blend Technologies, of Cantonment, Florida.

The licensees of NASA’s EZVI technology are cleaning contaminants from groundwater at dye, chemical, pharmaceutical, adhesive, aerosol, and paint manufacturing sites; dry cleaners; leather tanning facilities; metal cleaning and degreasing facilities; and many government-owned sites.

To learn more about this NASA spinoff, read the original articles from Spinoff 2010 and Spinoff 2005: http://www.sti.nasa.gov/tto/Spinoff2010/er_4.html and http://www.sti.nasa.gov/tto/Spinoff2005/er_2.html