Master of Science (MS)


Geology and Geophysics

Document Type



Hydroxypropyl-β-cyclodextrin (HPβCD) has been tested successfully in the laboratory and in the field for enhanced flushing of low-polarity contaminants from aquifers. The cyclodextrin molecule forms a toroidal structure, which has a hydrophobic cavity. Within this cavity, organic compounds of appropriate shape and size can form inclusion complexes, which is the basis for the use of cyclodextrin in groundwater remediation. The hydrophilic exterior of the molecule makes cyclodextrin highly water-soluble. The solubility of cyclodextrins can be further enhanced by adding functional groups, such as hydroxypropyl groups, to the cyclodextrin core. The aqueous solubility of HPβCD exceeds 950 g/L. These high solubilities are advantageous for field applications because they permit relatively high concentrations of the flushing agent. In order for cyclodextrin to become a feasible remediative alternative, it must be demonstrate a short term resistance to biodegradation during field application, but ultimately biodegrade so as not to pose a long term presence in the aquifer. The potential for degradation of cyclodextrin as well as changes in the chlorinated solvents and groundwater geochemistry were examined during the post monitoring of a field demonstration in a shallow aquifer at Little Creek Naval Amphibious Base in Virginia. It was found that a portion of the cyclodextrin remaining in the aquifer after the cessation of field activities biodegraded during the 425 days of post monitoring. This degradation also led to the degradation of the chlorinated solvents trichloroethylene and 1,1-trichloroethane through both biological and chemical processes. The aquifer remained anaerobic with average dissolved oxygen levels below 0.5 mg/L. Dissolved nitrate and sulfate concentrations within the cyclodextrin plume decreased due their being used as terminal electron acceptors during the degradation of the cyclodextrin. The concentrations of total iron at the field site showed no change over time. It can be concluded from this research that cyclodextrin remaining in the subsurface after cessation of active remediation will degrade due to microbial processes. The chlorinated solvents will also degrade through both chemical and biological processes to their daughter products. The terminal electron acceptors present within the cyclodextrin plume will also be used for energy during the degradation processes.



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Committee Chair

William Blanford