Erica Pensini

Headshot of Erica Pensini
Assistant Professor
School of Engineering
Email: 
epensini@uoguelph.ca
Phone number: 
(519) 824-4120 ext. 56746
Office: 
THRN 2525
Seeking academic or industry partnerships in the area(s) of: 
Soil remediation, Bio-bases materials
Available positions for grads/undergrads/postdoctoral fellows: 
Inquire by email

Education and Employment Background

Dr. Erica Pensini received her PhD in Environmental Engineering from the University of Toronto in 2012. Between 2012 and 2014, she held a position as a Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Alberta. She then worked as a Research Associate for SANJEL in Calgary, Alberta, and a Scientist for SABIC in Geleen, Netherlands. Pensini joined the School of Engineering at the University of Guelph in 2017 where she is currently an Assistant Professor.


Research Themes

Pensini’s research lies at the crossroads between oil and gas and environmental and chemical engineering. Her work includes green process engineering; soil remediation; water treatment; and colloid, polymer, emulsion, and interface science. Key areas of focus include:

  1. Reactive Gels for Soil/Groundwater Remediation. Soil and groundwater contamination are significant issues in Canada, where there are over 10,000 contaminated sites (Treasury Board of Canada). Most of the existing remediation technologies do not allow simultaneously treating and immobilizing the contaminants, thus preventing their migration during the treatment. Pensini seeks to fill this gap by simultaneously immobilizing and treating subsurface contaminants. Pensini and her research team are working on the development of reactive polymeric gels with tunable viscosity. The low viscosity of the gel in the clean zones facilitates its transport, while their high viscosity around the contaminated areas impedes contaminant migration. Reactive species embedded in the gel favour the degradation of the immobilized contaminants, allowing their remediation in situ.
  2. Precision in Soil Remediation: Emulsions and Capsules for the Targeted Delivery of Reactive Species. Many in situ soil remediation technologies rely on adequate delivery of reactive species to the polluted zones and on the fact that the functionality of the reagents remains intact when they migrate in the subsurface. However, reactive species may undergo undesired reactions before the polluted zones are reached, losing their ability to degrade the contaminants. The scope of the project is to emulsify or encapsulate the reactive species to promote their migration in the clean zones and allow them to be released on demand in the contaminated areas.
  3. Phosphorus Removal from Agricultural Runoff Water. Natural sobents are being developed to remove phosphorus from agricultural run-off water collected in ditches, with the goal of mitigating the ingress of nutrients to Lake Erie. Following phosphorus sorption, phosphorus can be recovered from these sorbent materials and applied on the agricultural fields, hence offsetting the costs of the phosphorus removal technology.
  4. Bio-based materials as alternatives to plastics. Bio-based materials are being developed using natural materials, to substitute agricultural plastics (e.g., bale and silage wrap) and plastic based packaging.

Highlights

  • OMAFRA Alliance (awarded three times: 2018-2021, 2020-2023 and 2021-2024)
  • NSERC Discovery Grant, 2018
  • Ontario Centres of Excellence grant, 2017
  • NSERC Engage Grant, 2017
  • BFO and DFO joint funding, 2020

Media Coverage

Grants and Funding