Susan Perez

Graduate Student, PhD


Dr. Raina Maier and Dr. Alicja Babst-Kostecka


Environmental Science


Zinc Removal from Water using Functionalized Hydrogels

This research is focused on capturing and harvesting metals from water with a system of metal-chelating hydrogels and hyperaccumulating plants (Arabidopsis halleri) as a possible alternative or addition to existing water treatment technologies. Zinc (Zn) is being used as a model metal in this study due to ease of testing metal concentrations in solution. Zn is an essential nutrient for life and important in industry but in untreated wastewater Zn becomes toxic at high concentrations.

The present research is focused on the hydrogel component of the system. We have constructed novel hydrogels that are functionalized with various metal-chelating ligands to capture Zn from aqueous solution.  These gels are being tested in a series of experiments to assess and optimize the capacity of for Zn capture.  Solution concentrations of Zn are measured using Zincon, a rapid a colorimetric indicator that can be measured spectrophotometrically.  The protocol has been modified specifically for characterization of these hydrogels. Future testing will include evaluating the performance of these hydrogels with other metals and when A. halleri is introduced into the system as a metal hyperaccumulator.  This exciting work could provide an innovative alternative water treatment for heavy metal removal and harvest.