Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Los Alamos flips the mercury ’off’ switch

25.03.2003


Mercury, that silvery liquid metal ubiquitous in switches, pressure gauges and thermometers, is an environmental bad-boy and toxic to humans through inhalation, skin contact and ingestion. It is easily spilled and can go unnoticed in aging lab equipment.



However, with new technology, mercury can be practically erased from the typical laboratory setting, reducing and even eliminating the environmental and health hazards, according to researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory who present their findings Monday at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society.

"We make the case," said Michael Cournoyer of the Laboratory’s Nuclear Materials Technology Division, "that aside from certain high-accuracy pressure-testing and calibration devices, there is no reason to buy new lab equipment that contains mercury."


Cournoyer’s talk will take place at 2 p.m. in room 222 of the Morial Convention Center, 900 Convention Center Boulevard, New Orleans, La.

This is a lesson learned, according to Cournoyer, from a clean up of the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research facility at Los Alamos. During a 2000 waste disposal program, two separate small mercury spills took place at CMR as a result of removing old electrical equipment. Although no direct evidence was uncovered, it was assumed that the mercury came from broken switches or other electrical devices. The spills were fully cleaned, but the events showed that more needed to be done to avoid or prevent mercury contamination.

"The Laboratory needed to better characterize old equipment before its removal, to make sure what possible hazards were present, mercury-specific spill kits needed to be on hand for 100 milliliter or smaller spills, and a waste avoidance program needed to be implemented to reduce or eliminate mercury-laden mixed wastes," said Cournoyer.

After the experiences of 2000, the Laboratory began an aggressive mercury waste avoidance program, according to Cournoyer. Mercury-free alternatives for pressure gauges, electronic relays, switches and thermometers were identified and used to replace mercury-containing devices with an eye toward environmentally preferable products.

"There are several mercury-free barometers and vacuum gauges, liquid-filled bourdon gauges and electronic thermometers and pressure gauges available," said Cournoyer. "The overall reduction in mercury-dependent instruments is significant, there are fewer risks of spills and compared to the costs associated with mercury disposal and clean-up the use of alternatives is also less expensive."

In addition to alternative instruments, the Laboratory’s mercury waste avoidance program considers disposal options such as manufacturer take-back and recycling policies, the use of specialized mercury vacuums and amalgamating kits to quickly, safely and cost-effectively respond to mercury spills, and clearly defined disposal pathways that could include a system of mercury distillation to remove the metal from certain mixed wastes.

Pollution prevention issues continue to be at the forefront of planning and design as the Laboratory seeks to build new or replacement nuclear facilities, with a focus on worker safety, use of environmentally friendly materials and future clean-up requirements, according to Cournoyer. "Pollution prevention and waste minimization initiatives are a major part of our risk management strategy with the goal of contributing to the scientific and operational excellence of the Laboratory by decreasing the hazards, risks and waste volume across the board, not just for mercury."


Los Alamos National Laboratory is operated by the University of California for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) of the U.S. Department of Energy and works in partnership with NNSA’s Sandia and Lawrence Livermore national laboratories to support NNSA in its mission.

Los Alamos enhances global security by ensuring the safety and reliability of the U.S. nuclear stockpile, developing technologies to reduce threats from weapons of mass destruction, and solving problems related to energy, environment, infrastructure, health and national security concerns.

Kevin Roark | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.lanl.gov

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht A new indicator for marine ecosystem changes: the diatom/dinoflagellate index
21.08.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Ostseeforschung Warnemünde

nachricht Value from wastewater
16.08.2017 | Hochschule Landshut

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

What the world's tiniest 'monster truck' reveals

23.08.2017 | Life Sciences

Treating arthritis with algae

23.08.2017 | Life Sciences

Witnessing turbulent motion in the atmosphere of a distant star

23.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>