Science

Australian Researchers Safely Remove Mercury

More than 1000 tonnes of mercury released annually into the atmosphere. The liquid heavy metal accumulates in waters and soils, so that it is absorbed by animals. Thus it becomes a danger for the people. Of sulfur and waste of the juice processing industry, researchers have developed a kind of sponge which absorbs the poison and are no longer manufactured.

If one bends the peel of citrus fruits a liquid comes out which will light up when your goal is a candle flame, a popular game not only by children. Exactly this fluid will in future help to solve one of the biggest environmental problems: the increasing contamination of water and soil by mercury.

German Researchers Safely Remove Mercury
A child shows his hands in gold mine (Poushgin in Zorgho, Burkina Faso, australia). The children try to protect the skin, which are strongly affected by working with mercury. Photo: Jens Kalaene

Researchers at Flinders University in South Australia have a kind of sponge developed, which absorbs the poison and no longer even exists here, when water flows in. Second part of the material is sulphur. Both are waste that must be disposed of in the juice processing industry and refineries. Each year, thousands tons of shells of citrus fruit and millions of tonnes fall sulphur must largely be removed from fuels.

Mercury Remover is similar to a pencil eraser – Australian Researchers Safely Remove Mercury

Justin Chalker, lecturer in chemistry at Flinders University, who heads the research team, called the material after its ingredients sulphur lime Polysulasulfid (sulfur-limonene-Polysilfid, short SLP). With the liquid from the peels of citrus fruits limonene. “To make SLP we melt the sulphur and add the essential oil from lime peels”, says Chalker. The liquid that has a minimum temperature of 115 ° C, can be in forms pour or spray on documents. After cooling, it has the consistency of an eraser.

For the storage of mercury atoms discolored the material, which is red, down to yellow. This is a sign that it is saturated and must be replaced by fresh SLP. Due to the significant change in color, the material can be used also to check suspicious soils and waters on mercury contamination.

Water contaminated with mercury is there especially in emerging and developing countries

Team has tested SLP on water from rivers and lakes. Also it examined soil samples, which were offset with water. That SLP saturated with mercury must be as hazardous waste are stored. Currently, Australians are looking for an industrial partner, they can keep SLP for series production.

Australian Researchers Safely Remove Mercury_
The Australian chemist Chalker (left.) and his associate Max Worthington present a substance that binds to mercury.

Mercury-contaminated water is there especially in emerging and developing countries. But also in Germany is it every now and again alarm, for example, in the Lake Constance region. The liquid metal that destroys organs and attacks the brain, is released mainly by burning coal. In Germany, it was 2012 around seven tons. It was 1960 tons, a number in 2010 worldwide according to the United Nations.

Gold Mines and Power Plants are major contributors to pollution.

Major contributors are small commercial gold prospector with 37%. Wash the precious metal with mercury from the rock. Once the poison is evaporates, getS into the atmosphere. Like this gold is purified. Second most important polluter pays are power plants mainly in China and India, which burns the most coal.