Robin Gerlach is an Associate Professor in the Department
of Chemical and Biological Engineering
in the College of Engineering
at Montana State University-Bozeman
He is associated with the Center for
Biofilm Engineering a National Science
Foundation Engineering Research Center, the Thermal Biology Institute a multidisciplinary team of
scientists studying the unique thermal environment within Yellowstone National Park, and the Molecular BioSciences Program at
Dr. Gerlach is also the director of the Environmental
and Biofilm Mass Spectrometry Facility in the of College Engineering.
My research investigates the use of biofilms for beneficial purposes.
A few examples are:
- the control and cleanup of contaminated soils and water (bioremediation, biofilm remediation, biofilm barriers)
- sequestration of carbon dioxide (CO2)
- water and wastewater treatment
- the development of bio- and biofilm-based processing technology (biofilm technology) for the production of chemicals, fuels, and biomaterials
More specifically, we have focused our research on the development of Subsurface Biofilm Barriers
that can be used to manipulate the hydraulic conductivity (permeability) of soils. Such biofilm barriers enable us to decrease or direct the flow of groundwater (towards a treatment zone for instance). Therefore, we are investigating the hydrodynamics in biofilm affected porous media
in the laboratory using different reactors and analytical techniques.
By improving our ability to transport bacteria and nutrients in the subsurface and designing biofilm barriers to be reactive (e.g. contaminant degrading) or non-reactive (exclusively for hydraulic control) we are intending to improve existing subsurface bioremediation technologies.
We are investigating the transformation of nitroaromatics (e.g. the explosive TNT - 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene), chlorinated aliphatic compounds (e.g. trichloroethylene – TCE and carbon tetrachloride – CT), heavy metals (e.g. chromate and dichromate), and radionuclides (e.g. uranium).
The influence of natural organic matter, minerals, and co-contaminants is of specific interest to my research along with the development of strategies to establish biogeochemical conditions (pH, redox potential, oxygen concentration, etc.) ideal for the safe removal of these contaminants from contaminated groundwater or their immobilization in contaminated soils.
More recently we have begun to investigate the possible use of extremophilic microorganisms for improved bioprocessing of lignocellulosic materials.