Commercialization of a Kenaf-Based Biosorptive Process for Use in the Treatment of Contaminated Aqueous Streams

Period of Performance: 01/01/2005 - 12/31/2005


Phase 2 SBIR

Recipient Firm

KenGro Corporation
P.O. Box 432
Charleston, MS 38921
Principal Investigator
Firm POC


The state of affairs facing engineers and scientist attempting to treat low level contaminated water using current technologies results in the selection of a process that has significant shortcomings. A technically superior, yet operationally simpler treatment process within a reduced cost bracket is needed to assist industries in meeting ever changing environmental regulations. One of KenGro¿s goals is to provide kenaf-based products as an effective biobased alternative for treating contaminated aqueous streams. The envisioned process involved the loading of a vertical contact tank to be packed with chopped kenaf. Contaminated water will be passed through the column and contaminants will adsorb onto kenaf fibers. This adsorption step will be operated much like an activated carbon column. The results of the Phase I SBIR provided a strong basis to continue efforts for commercialization of a kenaf-based biosorptive process for use in water treatment. Once the kenaf becomes spent, the fibers will be removed and place into a compost bed. The compost bed will be used to reduce the volume of the kenaf mass (the adsorbent) while concentrating the heavy metals and degrading the adsorbed biodegradable contaminants (adsorbates) via biotreatment. The envisioned compost units are easy to operate and fit nicely into a rural industry¿s capability due to realistic footprint and low-tech training requirements. The main objective of Phase I SBIR was the development of key performance inform-ation on the use of Kenaf for its ability to remove diesel fuel, zinc, and lead from aqueous solution. This was performed via preparation of adsorption isotherms for the three water contaminants using three processed forms of kenaf (stalk, core, and bast). The effect of pre-washing and/or pre-oxidizing the kenaf on the adsorption isotherms was evaluated for zinc and lead. The loadings show that kenaf fibers do have an adsorption affinity for both inorganic and organic adsorbates. Ozonation and washing appeared to provide some benefit but differences in the value of this processing step were quite dramatic indicating a need for more development of this novel approach. Another objective of Phase I was to evaluate the rate of compost degradation and track the fate of a pollutant during this degradation process. Composting of kenaf fibers were found to be a relatively straight-forward process with relatively high mass-degradation rates observed. The objective of the proposed Phase II SBIR proposal are to: (1) Study the effect of numerous washing techniques on adsorption capacity, (2) Closer evaluation of the surface benefits of surface oxidation on kenaf adsorption capacity, (3) Evaluate the impact of product storage on the kenaf product toward lead, methylisoborneol (MIB), toluene, ethylbenzene, and o-xylene. (4) Evaluate kenaf for adsorption of additional pollutant classes, (5) Examine competitive adsorption of key contaminant classes, (6) Optimized the rate of degradation observed within the composters and evaluate the impact of high levels of heavy metals on the observed compost rate. (7) Set-up a pilot system that fully mimics the envisioned full-scale system to be commercialized, and (8) Record the results of the Phase 2 effort within the form of a detailed project report. A common method to be used to conduct all necessary experimental tasks is the generation of adsorpti9on isotherm data. Chemical analyses and reactor configuration will be performed using duplicate experimentation. Analytical techniques to be employed will be those approved by the USEPA and/or published peer reviewed standard techniques. It is expected that the successful implementation of the proposed Phase II SBIR will yield the necessary information to determine the efficiency and commercialization potential of kenaf as a bioadsorbent for treating organic and inorganic contaminated waters,