Dr. Mark Hernandez won a $117,669 grant from CU’s Technology Transfer Office (TTO) as part of the first annual Lab Venture Challenge (LVC). He was chosen, along with six other winners, from a pool of fourteen finalists representing the physical sciences and biosciences. Dr. Hernandez was recognized for the admixture he developed that helps mitigate the effects of microbially induced concrete corrosion (MICC).
Systemic corrosion is a major issue with subterranean utility networks, including concrete sewers. It is has be very difficult for civil engineers to control this phenomenon, which threatens trillions of dollars worth of wastewater infrastructure. Many of these sewage systems are degrading rapidly due to MICC. Most current corrosion prevention methods target the acids found in wastewater, but ignore the various microbes that are destroying pipes. As director of the Environmental Engineering Microbiology Lab, Dr. Hernandez has been researching methods of reducing MICC using genetic and toxicological surveys to understand MICC sensitivity to different mixtures of nano-metallic transition elements. The data from these surveys has been used to develop new concrete admixtures which can be added to wet concrete to both increase its strength and also help it to resist microbes. The admixtures developed by Dr. Hernandez are currently being tested in the Denver metropolitan wastewater collection system. Dr. Hernandez is hoping that these admixtures will help save cities billions of dollars in repairs and improve the public perception of wastewater treatment.
The Lab Venture Challenge awards research and innovations that have great potential commercial value. The winning innovations receive funding that can help them become successful industrial ventures. The TTO uses the LVC to encourage research projects that offer opportunity for industry partners to solve important problems. Dr. Hernandez’s research with MICC was chosen as it has the potential for widespread use and helps to solve the very important issue of infrastructure degradation.