Ben Gurtler, M.B.A.
Education: Bachelor of Science in chemical engineering (May 2008)
Master of Business Administration from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln
McNair Project: Combining Reverse Osmosis and Pulsed Electrical Current Electrodialysis for Improved Recovery of Dissolved Organic Matter from Seawater (2007)
Mentor: Peter Pfromm, Ph.D.
Dissolved organic carbon (DOC) in the oceans is one of the largest dynamic carbon reservoirs on earth. The composition and fate of this carbon reservoir is of great interest to earth scientists, atmospheric scientists, and biologists who study global biogeochemical cycles and global warming. A recently introduced method for the retention and purification of dissolved organic matter (DOM) from seawater for research purposes provides recoveries exceeding 60%, by using a system combining electrodialysis and reverse osmosis. In the current study, this new method for the recovery of DOM from seawater has been refined by utilizing a pulsed electrical current during the final phase of electrodialysis, as part of the electrodialysis and reverse osmosis process. DOC recoveries for the two methods are approximately equal, but the pulsed electrical current electrodialysis method is able to retain the DOC to a significantly lower conductivity and thereby lower salt content. Low electrical conductivity of the final concentrated DOC sample is very desirable to allow simple post-processing by freeze drying. The shipboard results presented here demonstrate the usefulness of the new method employing pulsed electrodialysis and a physical explanation is proposed to rationalize the results.