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LEWISBURG, Pa. – The National Science Foundation recently funded two proposals by Bucknell professors related to the study of soil-bentonite cutoff walls, commonly used as barriers against groundwater pollutants.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) grants total more than $230,000, with one being for a remote-control drill rig and accessories worth nearly $134,000. The proposals were submitted by Jeffrey Evans, professor of civil and environmental engineering, and Michael Malusis, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering.

The drill rig, which should arrive in November, is the second Major Research Instrumentation grant obtained by the University this year, the first being an atomic force microscope acquired by the chemistry department.

Invaluable for research
"Usually, these drills are owned by commercial drilling companies, but this will be invaluable for the research we’re conducting," Evans said.

The cutoff wall grant is in conjunction with Louisiana State University professor Radhey Sharma, who, at one time, was a visiting professor at Bucknell.

Including graduate and undergraduate students, the team will study how cyclical wetting and drying from a fluctuating water table affects a wall's hydraulic conductivity, and, therefore, its ability to contain pollutants. There is limited research suggesting that this property may degrade over time due to wet-dry cycles.

Ground water contamination
"With the increasing reliance on these types of barriers to contain pollutants and prevent ground water contamination, it is important to examine their long-term performance," Malusis said.

The partnership with LSU, a Research I institution, allows both schools to accomplish a larger body of work, while encouraging students to engage in high-level research and to consider pursuing advanced degrees.

In addition to being used in the soil-bentonite cutoff wall research, the new drill rig will be available for undergraduate research, and the professors have arranged to hold field demonstrations for local high school students.

Contact: Office of Communications

Posted Sept. 27, 2007

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