New material removes radioactive contaminants from drinking water

April 14, 2011
Apr. 14, 2011 -- Researchers from North Carolina State University have found that a combination of forest byproducts and crustacean shells may be the key to removing radioactive materials from drinking water...

Apr. 14, 2011 -- Researchers from North Carolina State University have found that a combination of forest byproducts and crustacean shells may be the key to removing radioactive materials from drinking water.

The powdery material absorbs water and extracts contaminants, such as radioactive iodide, from it.

Dr. Joel Pawlak, associate professor of forest biomaterials, explained that because radioactive iodide is chemically identical to non-radioactive iodide, the human body cannot distinguish it -- which is what allows it to accumulate in the thyroid and eventually lead to cancer. "The material that we've developed binds iodide in water and traps it, which can then be properly disposed of without risk to humans or the environment," he said

The material forms a solid foam and, according to Pawlak, is also able to remove heavy metals, like arsenic, from water. It can even remove salt from seawater.

"This foam could be brought along in [disaster] situations to clean the water without the need for electricity," Pawlak says. "This material could completely change the way we safeguard the world's drinking water supply."

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