Chemists at Flinders University stumbled upon a way to remove poisonous mercury from the water using an industrial waste and orange peel combination.
A synthetic chemist, Dr. Justin Chalker and his colleagues originally set out to create a useful plastic or polymer from industrial waste products that were widely available.
Settling on the common element of sulphur, produced in the millions of tons by the petroleum industry, and limonene, a byproduct of the citrus industry, they created a plastic-like substance and gave it the appearance of a leggo block.
Dr Chalker said, “We take sulphur, which is a by-product of the petroleum industry, and we take limonene, which is the main component of orange oil, so is produced in large quantities by the citrus industry, and we’re able to react them together to form a type of soft red rubber, and what this material does is that it can grab mercury out of the water.”
The astounding discovery is supplanted by the idea that the components needed to make the new polymer are in large quantities and cheap to recover.
Chalker added, “So we are taking waste material and making a polymer from it that can remove mercury from water.”
With that idea in mind, the researchers from the University based in Adelaide, Australia, have concluded that mercury-contaminated waterways could easily have large amounts of the new mercury-absorbing material positioned on site in lakes and rivers due to its low cost.
Since toxicity studies determined that the polymer itself is not environmentally dangerous, Dr. Chalker has said that the hope now is to make the substance on a large scale.
Mercury can be a very hazardous chemical, especially to young people, and the potential of eliminating it from waterways and possible exposure to children has proven to be an obvious reason to be optimistic.