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Indu Venu Sabaraya

The University of Texas at Austin, Ph.D.
EREF Scholar 2018

Transport and Interactions of 2-Dimensional Nanomaterials through MSW Landfill LeachateProject Description:
The rise of graphene-based applications has prompted the investigation of other two-dimensional (2D) materials such as molybdenum disulfide (MoS2) which demonstrate attractive electronic, mechanical and physicochemical properties, with applications in electronics, catalysis, energy storage, and biomedical fields. As research progresses, costs related to MoS2-based technologies are expected to decrease and promote their use in commercial products and devices. It is likely that as these potential products reach the end of their life-cycle, they will be finally present in municipal solid waste (MSW) landfills. The current lack of understanding associated with MoS2 transport in solid waste environments requires careful evaluation of these materials and their interactions in the relevant environmental matrices.

A range of organic and inorganic constituents in high concentrations are present in typical MSW landfills which comprise of particulates with varying surface chemistries and sizes. The impact of natural organic matter (NOM), leachate size fractionation on some spherical and tubular nanomaterials has been previously researched. However, nano-molybdenum disulfide, MoS2, a nanomaterial with attractive properties for the electronics industry – consists of a layered structure held together by intermolecular forces. The interaction of the nanosheets of MoS2 with NOM such as humic or fulvic acids, present in mature leachate may result in increased transport of these materials through stabilization. The high surface area and surface area-to-volume ratio of MoS2, combined with chemical characteristics render it with a large capacity to adsorb materials on its surface. These interactions of MoS2 in the scenario of a complex MSW landfill matrix present very interesting research questions and also an opportunity to develop a framework for understanding the fate and transport of novel commercial nanomaterials. Understanding the interactions of MoS2 and other novel nanomaterials in the simulated MSW leachate composition and MSW mixed-media will be crucial in evaluating the best leachate treatment options and assessing the impact of their release in end-of-life environmental scenarios. Results from this research will focus on learning about the changes in MoS2 mobility in landfill-like environments and understanding the implications associated with such end-of-life conditions for novel nanomaterials. Finally, this research will aim to provide a framework to systematically evaluate the mobility of novel nanomaterials, with promising future in applications, depending on parameters such as leachate age and waste composition.

Indu Venu Sabaraya is a Civil Engineering doctoral student at the University of Texas at Austin. She studies the environmental fate and transport of novel nanomaterials that are soon poised to be at the center of low-voltage electronics. She obtained a B.E. in Chemical Engineering from Rashtreeya Vidyalaya College of Engineering, Bangalore, India in 2014 and received her M.S. in Environmental and Water Resources Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin in 2016. Indu’s research experience working with nanomaterials – synthesis through application and implications in the environment – led her to develop an interest in the end-of-life scenarios for materials that are rapidly being incorporated in devices. Her research includes multi-disciplinary collaborative projects where interactions of nanomaterials have been investigated from small-scale studies (preferential interaction of nanomaterials with viruses and biofilms) to larger-scale projects (improving low-temperature properties of asphalt by addition of nanomaterials). Over her graduate years, she has also mentored several undergraduate researchers with their independent projects.