Vivek on campusThis spring, Vivek Pulikkal was awarded the Graduate School Summer Fellowship (GSSF) 2020 for his research into special ways to eliminate per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (also known as PFAS) from groundwater. This past February, the Environmental Protection Agency released a Program Update to the PFAS Action Plan.

PFAS are man-made chemicals used in industrial settings and consumer products. They’ve been in use since the 1940s in things like heat-resistant and water-proofing fabrics. Many of them are carcinogenic, though, and don’t degrade naturally in the environment.

Vivek’s research is targeting PFAS used in firefighting, especially the aqueous film-forming foams or AFFF for short. The objective of Vivek’s work is to explore the effectiveness of applying an electrochemical treatment to dilute PFA concentrations in AFFF from firefighting training areas. The total award from the grad school for this work is $6000. Dr. Mei Sun is Vivek’s Ph.D. advisor.

In addition, Abhisek Manikonda (INES Ph.D. Candidate) was awarded summer funding from the UNC Charlotte Graduate School after a competitive application and review process. His GSSF proposal was titled “Assessment of Bromide Removal Performance by Formation of Layered Double Hydroxides”. Dr. Vincent Ogunro is his advisor.

His research explored the feasibility of removing halides from high-salinity wastewater brine which are byproducts of removing sulfur oxides from the smokestacks of coal-fired power plants. Halides include elements like fluoride, chloride, and bromide. These can exist in high concentrations in coal ash waste and can be harmful to humans at these levels. The high-salt content presents special challenges to cleaning the wastes. Abhisek’s work was focused on creating a simple, low-cost and effective method to treat these brines. He plans to defend his dissertation and graduate this fall. You can read more about his work here.