Auburn faculty awarded Department of Energy grant

Published: Jul 11, 2006 1:56:45 PM
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Mark Barnett and Prabhakar Clement, faculty members in the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, have been awarded a grant from the Department of Energy's Environmental Remediation Science Program. The proposal, "Development of modeling methods and tools for predicting reactive transport processes in porous media under multiple scales," is aimed at conducting laboratory tests to understand the nature of contaminants at Department of Energy sites where the processing of nuclear fuels and materials occurred. Research will also go towards developing a new software program that can be used to forecast results in the future.

"The main goal of our project is to help the Department of Energy make better cleanup decisions by finding how quickly these materials move through the subsurface and groundwater," said Barnett.

The main contaminants the research will focus on are arsenic and uranium, both elements used in the processing of nuclear fuels and materials. The sites of primary concern are the Savannah River in Georgia, Oak Ridge, Tenn., Idaho Falls, Idaho, and Hanford, Wash.

"The DoE spends billions of dollars towards the clean-up of these sites each year," Barnett said. "This research will help us better understand their needs by finding out how quickly the sites actually need cleaning up, as well as how to more efficiently monitor those needs in the future."

The grant received by Barnett and Clement was for more than $949,000 and will continue through December 2008. It will include work by not only the two Auburn faculty, but by professors Chunmiao Zheng from the University of Alabama and Norm Jones from Brigham Young University as well.

"It is definitely an honor to be chosen for this award," Clement said. "Well over 200 applicants entered the process initially, and only about 15 were chosen, which indicates what a competitive program this is."

Barnett is an associate professor and Brassfield & Gorrie Scholar in the Department of Civil Engineering at Auburn University. He has more than 10 years of environmental science and engineering experience with metals and radionculides at Department of Defense and DOE sites, including six years as a research associate at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Clement is an associate professor in the Department of Civil Engineering. Prior to joining Auburn, he worked as a senior research engineer at the Battelle Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. His research interests include groundwater management, reactive transport modeling and design of remediation systems.