Meet Michael McGuire ’19

Experiments in Green Chemistry

Senior’s lab work tests how wastewater can be recycled

Understanding how the molecules of a liquid adhere to the surface of a solid could help industry become greener. That’s the premise of a research project by Michael McGuire ’19, “Green, clean physical chemistry via adsorption.”

Working with chemistry professor Kimberly Lawler-Sagarin, McGuire mixes various concentrations of acetic acid—the basic component of vinegar—with solids whose molecules have a large surface area, such as activated charcoal. That chemical reaction has big implications for environmental remediation, Lawler-Sagarin said.

For example, if you could sequester acid from wastewater, that water could be recycled and reused. “It’s too easy to pour liquids [with harmful chemicals] down the drain,” McGuire added.

McGuire’s research is funded under the Creative and Scholarly Endeavors (CASE) program through a grant from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations. CASE fellows work on a scholarly or creative project under the supervision of a faculty mentor; juniors and seniors earn a stipend of $3,000.

“By measuring the loss of acid in the solution, we can find out how easily and often a contaminant can stick to each of these special solids,” McGuire said.

A chemistry major from Elmhurst, McGuire said he always has been interested in materials science. “Why doesn’t Drano eat the Drano bottle?” is one question that’s perplexed him. This research is applicable to a number of environmental career fields such as chemical safety, hazard investigation and recycling, he added.

I love putting on my safety glasses and working with new and interesting chemicals. I love getting to work in the lab.

Michael McGuire ’19

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