Numerous industries use hydrazine fuels on a daily basis. The U.S. Air Force (USAF) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) utilize the fuels as a high energy missile and rocket propellant. However, hydrazine usage is not isolated to the Department of Defense (DoD) and NASA. Numerous civilian companies use hydrazine in boiler rooms as a corrosion inhibitor, in the manufacture of agricultural chemicals, and in the development of pharmaceuticals. The primary objective of this project was to discover, develop, and optimize a cost-effective environmentally conscious, and biologically mediated process for the remediation of hydrazine disposal and spill response techniques/options.
The biocatalyst, diazoluminomelanin (DALM), has been selected for the remediation of hydrazine. DALM is a synthetic melanin, humic substance isolated from bacterial cell walls. The material, which is resistant to breakdown, is a free radical generator. The free radicals will be utilized in the destruction of residual hydrazine following a hydrazine spill. Toxicology and transport studies were completed in FY97 to ensure that degradation products are not harmful to the environment and to determine on a risk basis the effective range of biocatalyst that can be used during cleanup.
The patent application covering the genetically engineered bacterium that produces the catalyst was filed in August 1997. The biocatalyst is now being supplied to Foster-Miller, Inc., that is developing a supersorbent gel containing the catalyst in order to take up spilled hydrazine so that it may be broken down by the contained catalyst. Foster-Miller is now in a Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) that should have a field demonstration of the technology in the summer of 1998.
As a result of this research and development endeavor, a biologically mediated process for the in-situ remediation of hydrazine contamination will be developed. The technique will fully satisfy the USAF's need for a cost-effective and environmentally sound hydrazine degradation process. The remediation technique can potentially be applied to the remediation of other environmental contaminants. (Project Completed - 1997)