Groups and Projects

Oxidation research group
The main objective of the research in the Oxidation sub-project is the development of oxidative degradation methods for the removal of chlorophenols and other compounds of environmental, medicinal or physiological significance (dopamine and derivatives, tryptophan and derivatives, apomorphine, isoniazid and other TBC drugs) from waste waters. These oxidative methods will be developed taking the requirements of modern environmental chemistry into account and optimized based on reaction kinetic and mechanistic measurements. An important supplementary objective will be to develop analytical methods for the detection of the studied compounds mainly based on capillary electrophoresis and high performance liquid chromatography. The mechanistic investigations on the investigated processes will mostly be carried out by spectrophotometry, stopped flow and flash photolysis techniques also supported by nuclear magnetic resonance and mass spectrometric experiments to assess the stoichiometries of the reactions.

Reduction research group
One of the aims of the Reduction sub-project is development, characterization and anchoring on solid supports of new catalysts for hydrogenolysis of C-X and C-O bonds under mild conditions. In addition to metal complexes nanosize metal colloids will also be applied as catalysts. Photosensibilized systems, alone or coupled to metal complex catalysis will be developed for decomposition of chlorophenols by making use of the energy of sunlight and that of cheap reducing agents. Transport of pollutants such as organic halides or heavy metal ions to cells will be studied as a function of the physical state of the cell membranes. The understood relations will serve as basis for purposeful biotechnological modification of bacterial cells previously found active for decomposition of halogenated organic compounds.

Environmental chemistry research group
The Environmental chemistrysub-project deals with metal ions, metal complexes and metal- containing nanoparticles in the environment. There are two tasks. On one hand, to remove metal ions from places where they are present as pollutants, on the other hand to introduce them to places where we need their catalytic activity. In the frame of the project, we study the appearance and speciation of gadolinium and manganese complexes (important diagnostic tools in medicine) considered as pollutants in the environment, and we are going to develop new methods for recycling or replacing. We also investigate the oxidative decomposition of hydrocarbons catalyzed by macromolecular metal complexes. These nanosize catalysts can easily be eliminated from the environment after the reaction. We prepare and test carbon based nanoparticles as promising adsorbents and metal doped carbon aerogels which are expected to be good catalysts in environmental oxidation reactions.

Bioinorganic chemistry research group
The accumulation of toxic heavy metals represents one of the major risk for the future of human society. In the last few centuries the industrialization and worldwide civilization significantly enhanced the use of these elements and this was accompanied by a dramatic increase of their concentration in the living systems. The beneficial properties of heavy metals will be important in the future, too. In parallel, appropriate steps are required to avoid further contaminations and reduce their harmful effects. New and selective chelating agents will be designed in the frame of the project. The range of metal ions includes the well-known toxic metals like lead and cadmium and also nickel and platinum metals which are increasingly used in modern equipments and represent a new challenge for the environment. These elements are generally bonded to proteins and their fragments under natural conditions and this principle will be followed during the development of new complexing agents. The studies performed in the frame of the project include the design and synthesis of new derivatives of amino acids, peptides and hydroxamic acids and systematic comparison of their metal binding affinities.

Biotechnology research group
The Biotechnology sub-project seeks answers to three scientific questions: (1) Are there any easily recognizable microbial phenotypes within the microbial community living in oil-contaminated soil that indicate the increased potential of carbohydrate biodegradation? We are going to test the hypothesis that mineral oils stimulate the cyanide-resistant alternative respiration and, conversely, the oil-degrading potential correlates with the capacity of the alternative respiratory pathway.  (2) Is it possible to increase the metabolic activity of microorganisms by nutrient supplementation in situ? We intend to test commercially available fertilizers as nutrient supplements. (3) Could transport of halogenic hydrocarbons into the cell be the bottleneck during biodegradation? Pseudomonas putida, a bacterium frequently employed in bioremediation techniques would be used to see how chlorinated hydrocarbons enter the cell.

Toxicology and perniciosity research group
The research group intends to analyze the effects of essential metals (zinc, copper) and metallic pollutants imitating essential metals (e.g. cadmium) on different groups of organisms (algae, fish, macroscopic invertebrates). Furthermore we investigate the metal tolerance and the metal absorbing ability of algae, in order to produce data on how to possibly use them as a bioindicators or for bioremediation purposes. Our goal is the toxicological and ecotoxicological analysis of various components of the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) using producent (photosynthetizing) model organisms and frequently studied algae communities (mesocosm study). Additionally we examine some photolitotrophic and heterotrophic organisms isolated by us so that we can explore their role and metabolic activities concerning the disposal of the studied NSAID medicaments.

MTA ATOMKI HEKAL research group
The subproject contributes to the successful performance of the project in three subjects. To eliminate chlorinated hydrocarbons in the environment in situ biodegradation can be used. In contrast with laboratory experiments, environmental processes are extremely complex, therefore one of the most efficient way of their investigation is compound-specific stable isotope analysis. Since during biodegradation stable isotope fractionation occurs, the measurement of stable carbon isotope ratios (δ13C) can supply a most important and useful indicator. The researchers of the subproject have been applying state-of-the-art methods to analyse 14C in various material for decades. Due to their long time experience in radiocarbon measurements, as well as to their up-to-date radioanalytical facilities, the team participates in the development and elaboration of biological and chemical labeling and tracing experiments according to the need of chemical and biological research within the project. Moreover, hydrological properties of a field-study area will be revealed using isotope-analysis methods.