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Capsule removes radioactive substances from beverages

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March 29, 2012

Radioactive material in water and beverages may soon be removed with a disposable scrubber...

Radioactive material in water and beverages may soon be removed with a disposable scrubber capsule (Photo: Shutterstock )

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With airborne radioactivity from Fukushima's still-critical damaged reactors circling the globe and more likely on the way from the mass incineration of earthquake debris, individuals are certainly justified in wanting to shield themselves from the fallout, especially when it shows up in their food and drink. Now, to address concerns about nuclear contamination in juice, milk and even water, a team of researchers led by Allen Apblett from Oklahoma State University (OSU) has announced development of a capsule that, when dropped in liquid, can easily and effectively remove numerous radioactive substances and thus prevent the consumer from ingesting them.

The latest radioactive danger symbol illustrates the hazards of ionizing radiation

The nuclear industry-proven radionuclide-busting technology is already well on its way to commercialization and can be sized up to accommodate large industrial food processors or scaled down for use at home in the kitchen.

"We repurposed and repackaged for radioactive decontamination of water and beverages a tried-and-true process that originally was developed to mine the oceans for uranium and remove uranium and heavy metals from heavily contaminated water," Apblett said. "The accident at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan and ongoing concerns about possible terrorist use of nuclear materials that may contaminate food and water led us to shift the focus of this technology," he added.

A major component of the OSU team's process is metal oxide nanoparticles which bind or react with radioactive substances and other heavy metals and effectively remove them from solution. Metal oxides form when metals combine with oxygen, rust being a perfect example. By loading a porous capsule with nanoparticles and stirring it around in contaminated liquid, it acts as a sort of "reverse tea bag" and absorbs actinide metals such as uranium and plutonium (see bottom row of periodic table below) along with heavy metals like lead and arsenic to (in the lab, at least) undetectable levels. The capsule can then be discarded, and the liquid safely consumed.

Periodic chart of the elements showing the actinide group of radioactive elements

Within months after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan last year, the Nuclear Engineering department at UC Berkeley detected elevated levels of radioactive cesium (wind-blown from Fukushima) in milk produced around the San Francisco area, so it would seem that OSU's nanoparticle solution for radiation-laced beverages has a ready and willing market. Let's just hope they get their capsules to us before too much more time passes. The big question is, what do we do with them after they've done their job?

The OSU team presented their findings at the 243rd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society in San Diego, California.

Source: American Chemical Society

About the Author
Randolph Jonsson A native San Franciscan, Randolph attended the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland before finding his way to the film business. Eventually, he landed a job at George Lucas' Industrial Light + Magic, where he worked on many top-grossing films in both the camera and computer graphics departments. A proud member of MENSA, he's passionate about technology, optimal health, photography, marine biology, writing, world travel and the occasional, well-crafted gin and tonic!   All articles by Randolph Jonsson
7 Comments

Sounds like a basic form of Rad-X, awesome! I hope it somehow progresses to pill form eventually :D

Joel Detrow
29th March, 2012 @ 04:38 pm PDT

I usually find this site to be well written for fast tech info and the occasional science blurb, a good jumping off point for finding out more. I really thought your writers were better than this, though. A pill that removes potentially toxic substances (including the radioactive ones)? That's great! I can see the usefulness. Insinuating that Fukushima is cause for alarm for the average person is, well, alarmist and reminiscent of the myths about radiation propagated since WWII.

Nathan Woody
29th March, 2012 @ 05:57 pm PDT

Joel, my thoughts exactly! lol

Ross William Mcewen-Page
29th March, 2012 @ 06:22 pm PDT

Airborne radioactivity circling the globe far far beyond sanitarian tresholds !

The 1 msev threshold is non sense scientifically, the 100 msev (one hundred times more), appears to be a sanitarian treshold, but not for everybody, thanksgod.

The real true problem for japanese is the decontamination of forests around Fukushima.

Other contaminations-except within the nuclear factory and especially very few parts of it (reactors...)- will be "easily" done away, but during a long time !

Anyway, good news !

watersworm
30th March, 2012 @ 08:55 am PDT

And then you end up with a radioactive pill? Well that sounds just great. A real winner.

teeduke
30th March, 2012 @ 09:38 am PDT

So do you get to turn in your pills for reward? And do the pills get recycled back into reactor pellets? ^^

Larry Hooten
30th March, 2012 @ 10:38 am PDT

the nuclear war next year will make this useful. I believe that spirula is advertised to help

Stewart Mitchell
30th March, 2012 @ 11:55 am PDT
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