I have worked primarily in the field of petroleum transport properties and phase behavior in the past. Research projects have involved viscosity measurement and prediction, reservoir phase behavior measurement and prediction, and enhanced oil recovery. In particular this work is aimed at understanding the phase behavior and flow properties of complex mixtures of hydrocarbons and hydrocarbon/CO2/H2O mixtures in petroleum reservoirs.
There is little difference between this environment and the porous environment encountered in groundwater contamination. In particular,contrasting with bioremediation of groundwater, the transport of nutrients, fuel sources, and cometabolites to bacteria and removal of respiration products are subject to many of the same processes encountered in petroleum applications.
My current work in bioremediation is focused on nutrient and moisture requirements for degradation of highly weathered oil field wastes. We are dealing with surface (landfarming) at this juncture. A field site is available a short drive from the University for our research. We are currently working in the laboratory, and plan on field work in the spring
I have additional research in the area of biochemical engineering looking at the production of ethanol by continuous fermentation with alcohol removal from the fermentation broth via extraction.
Ethanol is well known as an automotive fuel. It is in demand for blending with gasoline for "gasohol". Since it is produced as a bulk commodity, even minor increases in production efficiency are meaningful. One of the problems with fermentation as a production process is that alcohol is toxic to the yeast that produces it at concentrations over about 5%. If we can devise a way to remove alcohol directly from the reactor during fermentation, reactor efficiency can be increased.
We have discovered that biodiesel can be used as an extractant. It 1) forms a separate phase, 2) does extract at least some ethanol from water solution, and 3) is not toxic to yeast. It may be possible to simply market biodiesel with ethanol contained in it. If not, it is relatively easy to remove by vacuum distillation. This route may offer a way to slightly decrease the cost of ethanol production.