Plata Desiree L.

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Desiree L.

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  • Thesis
    Carbon nanotube synthesis and detection : limiting the environmental impact of novel technologies
    (Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, 2009-06) Plata, Desiree L.
    Driven by commercial promise, the carbon nanotube (CNT) industry is growing rapidly, yet little is known about the potential environmental impacts of these novel materials. In particular, there are no methods to detect CNTs in environmental matrices (e.g., sediment) and thus, there is no way to study their transport or gauge ecological exposure. Thermal methods were developed to quantify CNTs in coastal sediments down to 10 ug per sample, which is sufficient to for CNTs in laboratory air, but not sufficient to measure contemporary levels of CNTs in the environment (which were estimated to be present at pg g-1 sediment levels using a dynamic mass balance model). In addition to the CNTs themselves, potential impacts of CNT production were assessed by monitoring emissions from a representative synthesis. An ethene-fed chemical vapor deposition process generated several compounds of environmental concern, including the greenhouse gas, methane, the hazardous pollutants, benzene and 1,3-butadiene, and toxic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. By identifying critical CNT precursors (alkynes), I delivered these compounds without thermal pre-treatment and achieved rapid CNT growth. This approach reduced carbonaceous emissions by more than an order of magnitude, and lowered initial feedstock requirements and energetic demands by at least 20%, without sacrificing CNT yield.
  • Preprint
    Polyparameter linear free energy relationship for wood char–water sorption coefficients of organic sorbates
    ( 2015-01) Plata, Desiree L. ; Hemingway, Jordon D. ; Gschwend, Philip M.
    Black carbons (BCs), including soots, chars, activated carbons, and engineered nanocarbons, have different surface properties, but we do not know to what extent these affect their sorbent properties. To evaluate this for an environmentally ubiquitous form of BC, biomass char, we probed the surface of a well-studied wood char using 14 sorbates exhibiting diverse functional groups and then fit the data with a polyparameter linear free energy relationship (ppLFER) to assess the importance of the various possible sorbate-char surface interactions. Sorption from water to water-wet char evolved with the sorbate's degree of surface saturation and depended on only a few sorbate parameters: log Kd(L/kg) = [(4.03 ± 0.14) + (-0.15 ± 0.04) log ai)] V + [(-0.28 ± 0.04) log ai)] S + (-5.20 ± 0.21) B where ai is the aqueous saturation of the sorbate i, V is McGowan’s characteristic volume, S reflects polarity, and B represents the electron-donation basicity. As generally observed for activated carbon, the sorbate’s size encouraged sorption from water to the char, while its electron donation/proton acceptance discouraged sorption from water. However, the magnitude and saturation dependence differed significantly from what has been seen for activated carbons, presumably reflecting the unique surface chemistries of these two BC materials and suggesting BC-specific sorption coefficients will yield more accurate assessments of contaminant mobility and bioavailability and evaluation of a site's response to remediation.
  • Preprint
    Elevated levels of diesel range organic compounds in groundwater near Marcellus gas operations are derived from surface activities
    ( 2015-08) Drollette, Brian D. ; Hoelzer, Kathrin ; Warner, Nathaniel R. ; Darrah, Thomas H. ; Karatum, Osman ; O’Connor, Megan P. ; Nelson, Robert K. ; Fernandez, Loretta A. ; Reddy, Christopher M. ; Vengosh, Avner ; Jackson, Robert B. ; Elsner, Martin ; Plata, Desiree L.
    Hundreds of organic chemicals are utilized during natural gas extraction via high volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF). However, it is unclear if these chemicals, injected into deep shale horizons, reach shallow groundwater aquifers and impact local water quality, either from deep underground injection sites or from the surface or shallow subsurface. Here, we report detectable levels of organic compounds in shallow groundwater samples from private residential wells overlying the Marcellus Shale in northeastern Pennsylvania. Analyses of purgeable and extractable organic compounds from 64 groundwater samples revealed trace levels of volatile organic compounds, well below the Environmental Protection Agency’s maximum contaminant levels, and low levels of both gasoline range (GRO; 0-8 ppb) and diesel range organic compounds (DRO; 0-157 ppb). A compound-specific analysis revealed the presence of bis(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate, which is a disclosed HVHF additive, that was notably absent in a representative geogenic water sample and field blanks. Pairing these analyses with 1) inorganic chemical fingerprinting of deep saline groundwater, 2) characteristic noble gas isotopes, and 3) spatial relationships between active shale gas extraction wells and wells with disclosed environmental health and safety (EHS) violations, we differentiate between a chemical signature associated with naturally occurring saline groundwater and a one associated with alternative anthropogenic routes from the surface (e.g., accidental spills or leaks). The data support a transport mechanism of DRO to groundwater via accidental release of fracturing fluid chemicals derived from the surface rather than subsurface flow of these fluids from the underlying shale formation.