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Intelligent absorbent removes radioactive material from water


November 1, 2011

Professor Huai-Yong Zhu from QUT Chemistry with the titanate nanofiber that can remove radioactive material from contaminated water

Professor Huai-Yong Zhu from QUT Chemistry with the titanate nanofiber that can remove radioactive material from contaminated water

Nuclear power plants are located close to sources of water, which is used as a coolant to handle the waste heat discharged by the plants. This means that water contaminated with radioactive material is often one of the problems to arise after a nuclear disaster. Researchers at Australia's Queensland University of Technology (QUT) have now developed what they say is a world-first intelligent absorbent that is capable of removing radioactive material from large amounts of contaminated water, resulting in clean water and concentrated waste that can be stored more efficiently.

The new absorbent, which was developed by a QUT research team led by Professor Huai-Yong Zhu working in collaboration with the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) and Pennsylvania State University, uses titanate nanofiber and nanotube technology. Unlike current clean-up methods, such as a layered clays and zeolites, the new material is able to efficiently lock in deadly radioactive material from contaminated water and the used absorbents can then be safely disposed of without the risk of leakage - even if the material were to become wet.

When the contaminated water is run through the fine nanotubes and fibers, the radioactive Cesium (Cs+) ions are trapped through a structural change. Additionally, by adding silver oxide nanocrystals to the outer surface, the nanostructures are able to capture and immobilize radioactive iodine (I-) ions used in treatments for thyroid cancer, in probes and markers for medical diagnosis, and also found in leaks of nuclear accidents.

"One gram of the nanofibres can effectively purify at least one ton of polluted water," Professor Zhu said. "This saves large amounts of dangerous water needing to be stored somewhere and also prevents the risk of contaminated products leaking into the soil."

"Australia is one of the largest producers of titania that are the raw materials used for fabricating the absorbents of titanate nanofibres and nanotubes. Now with the knowledge to produce the adsorbents, we have the technology to do the cleaning up for the world," added Professor Zhu.

Source: QUT

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag. All articles by Darren Quick

Well done Australia,your neighbor to the NW will need this in abundance and NOW

Mike Thompson

So, in addition to purifying water, you could give this stuff airborne dispersal to \"scrub\" radiation out of the atmosphere after a nuclear exchange. I know I\'ve seen this before...in \"Ghost in the Shell Standalone Complex\", it was called the \"Japanese Miracle\" & made Japan an economic superpower in a post-nuclear worldwar world.

Alex Angel

Has this been put into use yet? If no. why not?? We need this NOW! Not in 10 years, 5 years or even 1 year!

Sondra Oppedisano

While the radioactive Cesium is well worth paying the price to remove from the water. it can be done by vapor distilling the water, but given the energy that involves the filter is probably a lot cheaper, unless you are using waste heat for the distillation.

Iodine 129 the only radioiodine that does not decay to nothing in a couple of months is normally produced in such small quantities and emits at such low energy as to be harmless. But if you do have significant quantities of Iodine 129 that you do want remove it before releasing the water you should still store the water long enough to thoroughly decay before filtering out the Iodine 129.

Good tech especially if it is the most cost effective way to concentrate the contaminates for easy storage.

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