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University of Iowa News Release


Dec. 20, 2010

At A Glance

Engineer receives NSF grant to study interaction of metals with soil

Michelle Scherer, professor and departmental executive officer (DEO) of civil and environmental engineering in the University of Iowa College of Engineering, Robert Wheeler Faculty Fellow of Engineering and researcher in the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, recently received a three-year, $579,729 National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to analyze the molecular-level reactions of metals occurring in soils.

Vicki Grassian, professor of chemistry in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences with joint appointments in the College of Engineering and College of Public Health and director of The Nanoscience and Nanotechnology Institute at UI, is a co-investigator on the grant.

Metals, such as arsenic and mercury, are known to "stick" to the mineral surfaces in soils, but recent work by Scherer and her graduate students has shown that the metals may be reacting with more than just the surfaces of the minerals.

Surprisingly, even the interiors of the mineral particles may be accessible to interaction with the metals -- a possibility that adds a whole new dimension not previously considered. Scherer's and Grassian's NSF-funded grant is designed to see how these new mineral processes will influence the mobility of metals, such as arsenic and mercury, in the environment.


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