Fellow

Sarah Gustitus

Peter and Crisler Quick Jefferson Fellow
Class: 2022
Hometown: Margate, Florida
Degrees:
B.S. University of Florida (2016)
School:
School of Engineering and Applied Science
Department:
Civil and Environmental Engineering

Sarah Gustitus is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Her research focus and passion is in solid waste containment systems. She received her B.S. in environmental engineering sciences from the University of Florida and an M.S. in civil engineering from Auburn University.

Thesis Description

Service-Life Prediction of Bentonite Polymer Geosynthetic Clay Liners
The goal of this research is to develop new techniques to predict the service life of bentonite-polymer geosynthetic clay liners (BP GCLs) for use in solid waste containment. BP GCLs contain a mixture of polymer and bentonite that is designed to maintain low permeability, even in the presence of aggressive leachates which would adversely affect traditional bentonite GCLs. When a BP GCL comes into contact with leachate, the polymer swells to create a hydrogel which retains leachate and clogs pore paths so that the liner can maintain low hydraulic conductivity, even in situations where the bentonite has minimal swell. The resilience of B-P GCLs has made them desirable for use in industries such as coal-fired power production, mining, or aluminum processing, for which the process wastes produce aggressive leachates. In order to prevent aggressive leachates from contaminating subgrade soils and groundwater, it is necessary that BP GCLs maintain low hydraulic conductivity for extended periods of time. However, the polymer component of BP GCLs will degrade and be eluted out of the liner over time. The degradation mechanisms and the time-scales over which they occur are currently unclear, making it difficult to estimate the service life expectancy of BP GCLs. The objective of this research is to develop and implement an accelerated test protocol which utilizes elevated temperature test conditions and Arrhenius modeling to predict the service life of BP GCLs used with different waste streams. This research will specifically focus on the compatibility of a specific set of commercially available BP GCL products with low pH, high pH and high ionic strength leachates. Through this effort, guidance will be developed for the future testing of any BP GCL product with any leachate of interest in order to expedite the determination of appropriate liner technologies for many industrial applications. In order to prevent aggressive leachates from contaminating subgrade soils and groundwater, it is necessary that BP GCLs maintain low hydraulic conductivity for extended periods of time. However, the polymer component of BP GCLs will degrade and be eluted out of the liner over time. The degradation mechanisms and the time-scales over which they occur are currently unclear, making it difficult to estimate the service life expectancy of BP GCLs. The objective of this research is to develop and implement an accelerated test protocol which utilizes elevated temperature test conditions and Arrhenius modeling to predict the service life of BP GCLs used with different waste streams. This research will specifically focus on the compatibility of a specific set of commercially available BP GCL products with low pH, high pH and high ionic strength leachates. Through this effort, guidance will be developed for the future testing of any BP GCL product with any leachate of interest in order to expedite the determination of appropriate liner technologies for many industrial applications.

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