“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,” says Dr. Joel Pawlak, associate professor of forest biomaterials. “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.”
The new material – a combination of hemicellulose, a byproduct of forest materials, and chitosan, crustacean shells that have been crushed into a powder – not only absorbs water, but can actually extract contaminates, such as radioactive iodide, from the water itself. This material, which forms a solid foam, has applications beyond radioactive materials. Pawlak and fellow researchers found that it has the ability to remove heavy metals – such as arsenic – from water or salt from sea water to make clean drinking water.
“In disaster situations with limited-to-no power source, desalinating drinking water is difficult, if not impossible. This foam could be brought along in such situations to clean the water without the need for electricity,” Pawlak says. “This material could completely change the way we safeguard the world’s drinking water supply.”
The foam, which is coated on wood fibers, is used like a sponge that is immersed in water. For smaller-scale applications, the foam could be used in something like a tea bag. Or on a larger scale, water could be poured through it like a filter.
Pawlak worked with NC State professor Dr. Richard Venditti on the research, which was funded by the Consortium for Plant Biotechnology Research, the N.C. Forestry Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy. Additional research into how the material can be used on a larger scale is currently being conducted.
NC State’s Department of Forest Biomaterials is part of NC State’s College of Natural Resources.
Caroline Barnhill | EurekAlert!
New design improves performance of flexible wearable electronics
23.06.2017 | North Carolina State University
Plant inspiration could lead to flexible electronics
22.06.2017 | American Chemical Society
An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.
Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...
Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.
Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...
Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.
As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...
Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.
With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...
Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine
Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...
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