Date of Award

Spring 5-2012

Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program




Major Professor

Matthew A. Tarr

Second Advisor

Edwin D. Stevens

Third Advisor

John B. Wiley

Fourth Advisor

Yang Cai


Pollution poses serious threats to both the environmental and the organisms that depend on their environment for survival. Due to the toxicity of most contaminants, there is a dire need for remediation of polluted sites. Remediation studies were conducted on two high priority pollutants: 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene (TNT) and crude oil.

TNT was the most common explosive used in the 20th century. Continuous contamination has resulted in an urgent need for remediation. Fenton reagent provides an advanced oxidation process that is capable of remediating recalcitrant explosives, such as TNT. One drawback of Fenton chemistry is that the reaction requires acidic pH to prevent precipitation of iron. Our studies have investigated Fenton degradation of TNT at near neutral pH with several modifiers present: β-cyclodextrin, carboxymethyl-β-cyclodextrin, alcohols, and polyethylene glycol (PEG, MW 200, 400, or 600 g/mol). Fenton degradation was also carried out on other nitroaromatics to better understand the reaction mechanism with PEG 400. Further mechanistic studies investigated the production of nitrate and ammonium with and without PEG 400.

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill devastated the Gulf of Mexico and the surrounding wetlands. There are several mechanisms for degradation of oil released into aquatic environments. Bioremediation is one of the most important remediation methods; however degradation becomes stagnant in low nutrient waters. Furthermore, larger molecular weight alkanes and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are not readily available for biodegradation. Transformation of these molecules often requires initial photodegradation. We have investigated the photochemical transformation of oil films with and without photocatalysts present. To better understand the photochemical transformations that occur to the Deepwater Horizon oil, we have conducted additional studies with dispersants present.


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