Material cleans water of nuclear waste

Jan. 8, 2013 at 6:20 PM   |   Comments

HOUSTON, Jan. 8 (UPI) -- Graphene oxide can quickly remove radioactive material from contaminated water, U.S. and Russian researchers say they've discovered.

Rice University chemist James Tour and Stepan Kalmykov of Lomonosov Moscow State University have found that microscopic, atom-thick flakes of graphene oxide can bind quickly to natural and human-made radionuclides and condense them into solids for easy removal from contaminated water.

The discovery could be an aid in the cleanup of contaminated sites like the Fukushima nuclear plants damaged by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, Tour said in a Rice release Tuesday.

Graphene oxide's capacity to adsorb radioactive material is down to its large surface area, Kalmykov said.

"So the high retention properties are not surprising to us," he said. "What is astonishing is the very fast kinetics of sorption, which is key."

Because of that speed graphene oxide has proved far better than the clays and granulated activated carbon commonly used in nuclear cleanup, the researchers said.

"Though [radioactive wastes] don't really like water all that much, they can and do hide out there," said Steven Winston, an expert in nuclear power and remediation who is working with the researchers. "From a human health and environment point of view, that's where they're least welcome."

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
Most Popular
Dinosaurs shrank for 50 million years before becoming birds
Music helps cows relax, produce more milk
Five-minute video visualizes history of human culture
Cape Cod scientists tag first great white shark of season
Thousands of velellas wash up on the shores of San Francisco
Trending News