Mercury removal made easy in toxic environments

industrial waste

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Mercury pollution is a global problem in water, air, and soil near gold mines, cement, some metal production, and other heavy industries that burn fossil fuels — with removal very expensive or difficult in some of the world’s poorest countries.

Flinders University experts have now expanded testing of a sustainable extractor capable of absorbing mercury almost completely polluted water In minutes – itself made entirely from low-cost waste petroleum, citrus, and agricultural production.

In fact, tests showed nearly total mercury uptake within minutes under the conditions of the experiment, senior author Professor Justin Chalker and his fellow scientists say in a new press article published by the Royal Society of Chemistry.

“It is clear from the study that this mercury-binding substance, which was invented at Flinders University, is super fast in its ability to remove mercury from water. In some cases, more than 99% of the mercury is captured within a few minutes,” says Professor Chalker.

Dr Max Worthington, co-author of the Challenger Lab, says the test was done on a new material Created by coating silica with sulfur and limonene – a new chemical formula that has already been proven to effectively absorb mercury waste.

“This ultra-thin poly(Sr-limonene) coated silica, using residual sulfur in petroleum production and orange oil from orange peel discarded by the citrus industry, has been extensively tested at various pH and salt concentrations,” he said.

“Not only is this new mercury adsorbent capable of rapidly adhering to mercury in water, but it is also selective in absorbing mercury but not other metal pollutants such as iron, copper, cadmium, lead, zinc and aluminum.”

Importantly, this means that only mercury sticks to the sulfur-absorbent orange, aiding safety after inorganic mercury is captured, adds co-author Dr. Max Mann of Flinders University Chalker Lab.

“Particles in just 27 grams of this free-flowing orange powder have the approx area of ​​a football field, and can be produced quickly in sizes large enough to suit pollution levels,” he says.

Schalker Lab Ph.D. Candidate Alfrets Tekoalu says silica obtained from agricultural waste, such as the production of wheat or rice, can also be used to make the material more sustainable.

“This mercury processing technology could be an economic, circular solution for a more sustainable world because this value-added material is made entirely from waste,” he says.

To support the results, mathematical modeling was used to qualitatively understand the rate of mercury uptake—critical data for measuring and optimizing the new sorbent in real-world processing.

Applied mathematician Dr. Tony Miller, another co-author of the publication, says: Physics, Chemistry and Physics.

The project is “an excellent example of collaboration across chemicals and physics and mathematics to understand the rate of mercury uptake by our new and innovative sorbents,” says Professor Chalker.

The article, “Modeling Mercury The absorption of a polysulfide coating made of sulfur and limonene was published in Physics, chemistry and physics.


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more information:
Max JH Worthington et al, Mercury adsorption modeling of a polysulfide coating made of sulfur and limonene, physical chemistry chemical physics (2022). DOI: 10.1039 / D2CP01903E

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