A recent study by scientists at the Rice University – in co-operation with their peers at the Moscow State University – demonstrated the ability of graphene oxide to quickly absorb and condense radioactive waste in polluted water.
Tiny flakes of this material – soluble in liquids and easily produced in large quantities – can, in fact, trap radionuclides, both natural and artificial, and change them to the solid state.
This allows to easily segregate, handle, and thus remove toxic substances from water. According to the authors of the study, this finding could provide invaluable support for reclaiming polluted sites, including the areas around the nuclear power plant of Fukushima struck by the earthquake and tsunami of March 2011, where radioactive water leaks are still recorded – the latest warning is quite recent.
The researchers tested the graphene oxide synthesized at Rice with simulated nuclear waste containing uranium, plutonium, and other substances like sodium or calcium, which could negatively affect absorption. Notwithstanding this, graphene oxide turned out by far more effective than bentonitic clays and activated carbons, generally used to reclaim polluted areas. Graphene oxide, in fact, coagulated the waste substances within few minutes, quickly aggregating the most harmful polluting agents.
“The broad surface of graphene oxide results into its ability to absorb toxins,” said Stepan Kalmykov, one of the coordinators of the study. “Therefore, we are not surprised about its high retention capacity. What surprises is rather such a quick absorption kinetics – the true key to the whole process.”
The results of the study were published in the review of the Royal Society of Chemistry "Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics". Click here to read the abstract.-
The Editorial Staff
Published on Wednesday, September 11, 2013