Student Research Projects

Eco-Friendly Carwash, or Ammonium Adversary?

Student Eric Lange, ‘13
Faculty Mentor(s)
Department Chemistry
Course CHEM 480: Instrumental Methods of Analysis


Free ammonium within the environment can lead to numerous problems, including causing hazardous conditions for some fish within water environments. To test a local carwash’s claims that it is a green company and that its methods, machines, and chemicals are environmentally safe, an analysis of ammonium ion concentration in its water and chemicals was undertaken. Samples were taken from each of these sources, brought to a pH between 3-5, and then analyzed via ion chromatography. Samples were also taken to test the possibility that there was a leak within one of the system's valves used for the transportation of ammonia. Results show no significant difference between the city water sources at the carwash and the source with the potentially leaky valve. Also, the results taken from the water outside of the carwash area show low ammonium concentrations, indicating that no significant amount of ammonium was escaping from the wash containment area and escaping into the surrounding environment. This demonstrates that companies are able to have environmentally friendly products and chemicals while still providing effective service. Actual numbers for the concentrations of ammonium present within the samples will be forthcoming. Ammonium analysis can be a complex process, and this method of ion chromatography shows how it can become much more simplified using this technique as opposed to more traditional methods.