US Army Corps of Engineers
Engineer Research and Development Center

Environmental Chemistry Branch

Environmental Chemistry Research and Analytical Services

Published June 23, 2014
Computational Chemistry utilizes the DOD’s High Performance Computing (HPC) resources, including those available at the ERDC Distributed Shared Resource Center (DSRC).

Computational Chemistry utilizes the DOD’s High Performance Computing (HPC) resources, including those available at the ERDC Distributed Shared Resource Center (DSRC).

Nanomaterial Characterization - ECB, in partnership with other Environmental Laboratory and university researchers, has developed methods, such as field flow fractionation interfaced to inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry and single particle counter inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry, for the detection and characterization of nanomaterials in the environment, including fate and transport properties, photolytic transformations and biological interactions.

Nanomaterial Characterization - ECB, in partnership with other Environmental Laboratory and university researchers, has developed methods, such as field flow fractionation interfaced to inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry and single particle counter inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry, for the detection and characterization of nanomaterials in the environment, including fate and transport properties, photolytic transformations and biological interactions.

The Environmental Chemistry Branch (ECB) is a state-of-the-science material, analytical and computational chemistry laboratory that provides comprehensive analysis, characterization and prediction of materials of interest to the Army and the environment. Located at the ERDC Environmental Laboratory in Vicksburg, Mississippi, ECB leverages analytical geochemistry, materials analysis, and computational chemistry knowledge and expertise to deliver integrated solutions to today’s environmental challenges.

 

Exceptional Chemistry Research and Analytical Facilities

 

ECB research into degradation, sorption, mobility and transformation reactions of emerging contaminants requires a cutting-edge chemistry facility.  ECB is one of only a handful of laboratories in the world able to characterize nanoparticles in the parts per trillion range.  While environmental research is ECB’s central focus, the branch also provides analytical support services to customers in need of the highest quality chemistry data.  ECB’s analytical specialties include ultra low detection limits, non-standard matrices and emerging contaminants.

 

Areas of Expertise

  • Computational modeling
  • Analytical services and method development
  • Field analysis
  • Metals speciation and geochemistry
  • Nanomaterials characterization and investigations
  • Computational chemical approaches applied to environmental problems
  • Interfacial/Thin Film engineering/interactions
  • Surface characterization
  • Materials analysis
  • Chemical mapping

Services include

  • Method development and modifications
  • Determining low detection limits
  • Handling of complex environmental matrices
  • Quantitation of non-standard analytes
  • Synthesis and degradation mechanisms
  • Redox geochemistry and speciation
  • Computational predictions of environmentally relevant chemical/physical properties, degradation pathways, kinetics of transformation
  • Surface characterization
  • Nanomaterial sizing and transformations in complex matrices
  • Photodegradation reactions

Method Development and Experimental Research

  • The research staff has developed methodologies for the study of contaminants and geochemical processes they undergo.
  • A combination method using high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and Inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) has been developed to study metal speciation in complex media.
  • FFF (Field Flow Fractionation), a separation technique, is coupled to ICP-MS to study metal nanoparticles by size and composition.
  • ESI-MSn is used to study carbon nanoparticles, degradation reactions of munitions constituents and other emerging contaminants.
  • Traditional organic and inorganic analytical techniques have also been modified to achieve lower detection limits and higher quality data.
  • Field portable instrumentation for rapid quantitative analysis and chemical screening

 Computational Capabilities

  • Ab initio quantum chemical and molecular dynamics approaches to predicting environmental fate and transport of emerging contaminants
  • Quantitative structure activity(property) relationship (QSAR/QSPR) development to predict chemical/physical properties and toxicity of contaminants
  • Surface interactions/morphologies for proteins
  • Coarse-grained modeling

Materials Science Capabilities

  • Atomic force microscopy expertise
  • Thin film fabrication and characterization utilizing Quartz Crystal Microbalance (QCM) and ellipsometery techniques
  • UV-vis-Raman-FTIR spectroscopic techniques with mapping capabilities
  • Creation of bio-inspired films and composites for novel materials development

 Success Stories

  • Selected to evaluate and develop methods for nanoparticles in consumer products.Developed rapid field screening instrumentation: utilized to detect oil spill petroleum hydrocarbons on military installations and for USACE dredging projects.
  • Developed nanomaterial analysis techniques to detect nanoparticles at the parts per trillion level and to concurrently measure surface coating related to weathering and concomitant metals present in the nanoparticle.
  • Quantified geochemical parameters for a variety of previously ill-defined tungsten polymeric species; identified these compounds in a variety of natural matrices, including soil and biota.
  • Geochemistry of metal and organic compound transformations in complex natural systems.
  • Characterized geochemistry of dredging operations for the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Fly Ash Recovery efforts and Vineland Superfund site.
  • Studied and evaluated interactions between contaminants and mineral surfaces, including sorption of high nitrogen compounds, biding energies, and prediction of partition coefficients.
  • Studied and evaluated degradation pathways of DNT and nitrocellulose, including mechanisms for alkaline hydrolysis, thermodynamic predictions, and prediction of rates of reaction.

 

ERDC Points of Contact

Questions about ECB?
Contact: David W. Morrow
Email: David.W.Morrow@usace.army.mil
Phone: 601-634-2737