Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Alex DiIorio, Committee Member

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Daniel G. Gibson III, Committee Member

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Theodore C. Crusberg, Advisor




"Excessive discharge of heavy metals has been one of the major causes of water pollution worldwide. Various traditional methods of heavy metal removal have been devised but certain drawbacks like high cost, high energy requirement, and the production of toxic sludge have limited their use. Hence, biosorption is one of the alternative methodologies. This study combined biosorption and diafiltration in an attempt to optimize Polymer Enhanced Diafiltration to study copper removal from aqueous solutions by the use of a biopolymer, lambda-carrageenan. Lambda-carrageenan was studied as a biosorbent owing to properties such as low cost, good water solubility, non-gelling nature and the presence of sulfate groups which can sequester cations. Conditions for binding such as pH, temperature and concentration of copper and lambda-carrageenan were studied. Equilibrium dialysis experiments were performed to study the metal ion membrane transport kinetics and to determine the metal ion binding capacity and strength of the copper-biopolymer association. Rheological measurements were performed to determine how the viscosity of lambda-carrageenan changes with increase in shear stress and with increase in metal concentration. The solution was found to be shear thinning. However, with increase in metal concentration, viscosity was found to increase when high concentrations of polymer (8 g/L and 12 g/L) were used. Solution viscosity was found to decrease with increase in metal concentration when 4 g/L of polymer was used. Polymer Enhanced Diafiltration studies showed no leakage of the polymer through the membrane and no significant binding elsewhere in the PEDF system. It also showed an impressive retention of copper inspite of a rather high metal ion-polymer dissociation constant suggesting a yet not understood series of events occurring on the membrane of the PEDF system. Lambda-carrageenan is a linear polysaccharide, which might be stacking up on the membrane after forming layers, and not allowing any free metal ion to escape. Other reasons could be the sieving effect, degradation of the polymer due to shear and compaction of molecule on metal binding such that the polymer is not itself escaping through the membrane, but also not allowing the free metal ion to escape. Hence, this study suggests the need for more information on the metal-polymer interactions on the surface of the membrane by designing a direct observation experiment with a mini-tangential flow filtration system."


Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Degree Name



Biology & Biotechnology

Project Type


Date Accepted





Rheology, Equilibrium dialysis, Tangential Flow Filtration