New material strips radioactive contaminants from drinking water

Mix forest byproducts together with crustacean shells and get a new material that can clean radioactive contaminants from drinking water.
Written by Boonsri Dickinson, Contributing Editor

Researchers at North Carolina State University have developed a new material that can remove radioactive contaminants from drinking water, a discovery that could help Japan deal with its unfolding water crisis.

The new material is made up of forest byproducts and crustaceans shells, according to a statement released by North Carolina State University.

The material works like a foam: It absorbs water and can soak up contaminants in water and salt from seawater. In the future, the new material could be packaged in a small bag or it can be used as a filter to clean up large areas.

NC State researcher Joel Pawlak said in a statement:

“As we’re currently seeing in Japan, one of the major health risks posed by nuclear accidents is radioactive iodide that dissolves into drinking water. Because it is chemically identical to non-radioactive iodide, the human body cannot distinguish it – which is what allows it to accumulate in the thyroid and eventually lead to cancer. The material that we’ve developed binds iodide in water and traps it, which can then be properly disposed of without risk to humans or the environment.”

Not only can it remove radioactive iodine, it can strip heavy metals like arsenic from drinking water. If the material is eventually used in disaster situations, this material could help clean water when there's no electricity source to tap. The situation is Japan is a good example of how this material might help clean up the water supply.

I have written about ways to clean drinking water before. For instance, LifeGivingForce's water machine delivered clean water to Haiti in times of crisis. Researchers figured out how to use nanomembrane filters to keep bacteria out of the water supply. And NASA researchers created a system that can recycle water from the loo, so there's always clean drinking water available. One of the most radical ideas I've encountered is an entrepreneur's dream of shipping water by boat. The water guys always are thinking outside the box: My colleague Christina Hernandez just wrote about reclaiming water from diesel fuel.

Photo: flickr/Not Trivial

via North Carolina State University

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