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Meet our students: Jian Shen

Meet our students profile of Jian Shen

Jian Shen is a University of Regina PhD student in the Institute for Energy, Environment and Sustainable Communities.

1. When did you start your PhD?

 I started my PhD program in September 2017

2. How did you know that you wanted to attend graduate school?

During my undergraduate program, I found that I was most interested in the fields of environmental engineering and chemistry. Thus, I decided to continue to pursue my Master’s degree and then my PhD degree with a focus on pyrolysis and interfacial chemistry.

3. Tell us about your research.

My study is focused on the fate and transport of organic pollutants on pyrolyzed materials such as biochar and charcoal, and considers the different micro-forms and interactions between subjects, environmental access of transforming pollutants, and pollution control methods. Using the synchrotron at the Canada Light Source, I looked at the functionality and surface interactions between pyrolyzed materials and brominated flame retardants. The results of this analysis demonstrated the interactions between natural carbon and ionizable organic compounds, and showed that it could be used in agriculture for remediation and soil fertilization.

My research combines multiple methods to investigate other future engineering applications. These include using biochar for reducing brine pollution (a common occurance in the mineral extraction process) and using specific carbon materials to remove ionizable organic pollutants in wastewater treatment. My study’s findings can also be used in mathematical modeling and simulations to explore the fate and transport of contaminants in forests, wetlands, grasslands, and various cultivated agricultural systems. Moreover, considering the biogeochemical fate and transport of pollutants, the study on naturally occurring pyrolyzed materials can tell us more about natural charcoals and their behaviours under long-term environment processes.

4. What do you find most interesting about your research topic?

My research has revealed that the specific transportation and transformation mechanisms were found from organic pollutants on pyrolysis materials, suggesting both microscope observations and applications are ideal for understanding environmental behaviours, estimations and availabilities for organic pollution control in air, soil and water. Inspired by this work, the pyrolysis materials are potentially a novel, cost-effective method for soil remediation, pollutant removal and water purification. It can be applied to agriculture for improving soil nutrition where the use of modified biochar can not only help to maintain the soil’s nitrogen, phosphorus, and ammonium matter, but also cause a slow-release process to help the growth of local vegetation.

5. Tell us about your experience with IEESC and Regina. What have you learned that is most valuable?

IEESC is the perfect place for academic study and communication. With the support of Dr. Huang, our students are enthusiastic in their pursuit of innovative research. Faculty members of IEESC are friendly and sociable. Students are diligent and attentive. We are a big group and we help each other if someone runs into difficulties.

I have learned that discovery and innovation are of great significance in doing research. A teamwork spirit is also important, because thoughts and ideas can come from discussions or debates with others.

6. What advice would you give to a student considering a visit to IEESC?

I would recommend him/her visit IEESC. We have broad research interests such as optimization, energy, climate, hydrology, and experiments. Our lab group has various instruments for most laboratory experiments, including adsorption, freeze-thaw modification, and phototoxicity analysis. Meanwhile, lab equipment such as the HPLC, BET, AFM, and GCMS can be used to characterize the samples. Also, for data analysis, various mathematical approaches can be employed with the help of our friendly group members.

7. Where do you find your inspiration?

I find my inspiration through studying and exploring pollutant fate and transport in our environmental system. However, given to the lack of literature in both environmental interaction and pollutant migration in a macro-scope, I found it was very hard to find a specific point to investigate such problems. Fortunately, through discussions with Dr. Huang and others in the group, I gradually found my research interest. My chemistry knowledge also comes in handy when running climate models on large servers.

8. What are your goals and future plans?

I will continue my research on pyrolysis and corresponding environmental impacts, looking forward to exploring the natural occurrence of pyrolysis and its impacts on local ecosystems, as well as the influences on pollutant fate and transport. After graduation I hope to continue my pyrolysis-related studies in a research institution.

Thanks for your time, Jian. Best wishes for your research!

For more information on Jian Shen’s research, please see the following publications:

J. Shen, G. Huang, C. An, Y. Yao X. Xin, S. Rosendahl, Immobilization of TBBPA on Pyrogenic Carbon subjected to Natural Organic Matters and Freeze-Thawing Conditions: Insight into Surface Functionalization, Coverage Process and Binding Affinity, Environmental Science: Nano, doi: 10.1039/C9EN00819E

J. Shen, G. H. Huang, C. J. An, S. Zhao, S. Rosendahl, Immobilization of Tetrabromobisphenol A by Pinecone-Derived Biochars at Solid-Liquid Interface: Synchrotron-Assisted Analysis and Role of Inorganic Fertilizer Ions, Chemical Engineering Journal, doi:10.1016/j.cej.2017.03.138

This figure shows the behaviors of TBBPA (a brominated flame retardant) on long-term pyrolyzed carbonaceous materials can have different adsorption mechanisms (with natural organic matters/pure water), indicating the involvement of natural organic matters cause variations in adsorption behaviors on aged/non-aged pyrolyzed carbonaceous materials.

This figure shows that the main adsorption mechanism between TBBPA on pyrolyzed carbonaceous matherials is caused by the interaction of hydrogen bond, from the hydroxyle groups on both carbon surface and pollutants. This process can also be assisted by high surface areas and dense aromatic structures.


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