Nano-metals break down water pollution

Feb. 23, 2005 at 11:42 PM
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HOUSTON, Feb. 23 (UPI) -- Tiny particles of gold and palladium may be the key to cleaning up trichloroethene, a troublesome groundwater pollutant, U.S. researchers report.

Trichloroethene or TCE has been linked to liver damage, impaired pregnancies and cancer. An industrial solvent, it is found at 60 percent of the contaminated waste sites on the Superfund National Priorities List. Clean up of the toxic chemical is ultimately expected to cost billions of dollars.

Now researchers at Rice University in Houston and the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta have found gold and palladium to be the most effective catalysts yet for breaking down TCE. Moreover, unlike some catalysts which produce other toxic by-products, palladium converts TCE directly into non-toxic ethane.

"We've documented the efficiency of these catalysts in breaking down TCE, and the next step is engineering a system that will allow us to get at the polluted groundwater," said Joe Hughes, one of the researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

A report on the research will appear next month in the journal Environmental Science and Technology

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