Nov. 21 (UPI) -- Researchers have developed a new method to remove mercury from drinking water, according to a new study.
Scientists from Swedish-based Chalmers University of Technology have created an electrochemical process that can "reduce the mercury content in a liquid by more than 99 percent," making the water safe for humans to drink.
Their findings are published in the journal Nature Communications.
"Today, cleaning away the low, yet harmful, levels of mercury from large amounts of water is a major challenge. Industries need better methods to reduce the risk of mercury being released in nature," Björn Wickman, a professor at Chalmers University and study co-author, said in a statement.
Their method uses a noble metal platinum electrode that pulls the mercury from the water, which then creates an alloy between the two. The researchers say this electrode has a high capacity that can grab four atoms, which a user can safely clean off to make the electrode reusable.
"Another great thing with our technique is that it is very selective. Even though there may be many different types of substance in the water, it just removes the mercury. Therefore, the electrode doesn't waste capacity by unnecessarily taking away other substances from the water," Wickman said.
Mercury can damage the human nervous system, brain development and other human functions, but it poses particular harm to children, according to the World Health Organization. Mercury transmission can occur during pregnancy from mother to child and also through different food sources. Swordfish, shark, king mackerel and tilefish all contain high levels of mercury.
Strict regulations surrounding the handling of toxic heavy metals have helped curb the spread of mercury in nature. However, the dangerous substance can still be spread through the air and in rain, allowing the dangerous substance to eventually enter waterways used for eating and drinking.
For now, the Chalmers University researchers are working on getting a patent to hopefully get the water cleaning method to market.
"We have already had positive interactions with a number of interested parties, who are keen to test the method. Right now, we are working on a prototype which can be tested outside the lab under real-world conditions," the statement read.