Sunday, April 4, 2010

A Glass That Can Remove Toxins From Water?

Photo courtesy: reinerschubert via flickr/Creative Commons

Contamination is rampant in our oceans, our rivers, our groundwater and every other source of water on the face of the planet. We all need water to survive; and, most of us can only go 3 days without it before dehydration finally claims us. Lack of clean drinking water threatens huge numbers of people already; and, will threaten every living being on the planet within the next decade.

There is a new discovery that just may help to solve the clean water water and might also make the College of Wooster a household name. Dr. Paul L. Edmiston, from the College, has developed a silica-based "glass" that absorbs toxins in water. Both scientists and environmental advocates are excited and hopeful about the possibilities this discovery promises.

Dr. Edmiston, patented the glass under the name of Obsorb and formed a new company, Absorbent Materials, in order to market the new glass. The glass is being tested at various sites across the United States. Possibly, the major attraction is that it will not be only the industrialized, wealthy countries that can take advantage of this discovery; but, its unique properties make it accessible for low-tech, low-budget cleanups in developing countries is well.

CleanTechnica has this to say:
Patented under the name “Obsorb,” this space-age glass binds with gasoline and other pollutants containing volatile organic compounds but it does not bind with water, so it acts like a “smart” sponge, capable of picking and choosing from contaminated groundwater.

When Obsorb comes in contact with VOCs (volatile organic compounds) in water, the glass absorbs them within its compound without reacting with the water. The glass has a nano-matrix structure which means it can unfold to absorb the contaminants up to eight times its own weight. Added to this is the fact that the glass can be cleaned and reused hundreds of times making it very environmentally friendly. At the present time, there are three variations of the material available to reclamation firms and government agencies involved in the clean-up and/or remedial toxic groundwater contamination sites.

This swelling glass could have huge practical and financial implications for the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) as well as the Department of Energy, which currently lists 4,000 priority contamination sites representing around $250 to $350 billion in potential remediation costs.

At a recent pilot demonstration in Ohio, Obsorb was used in the form of a white powder to suck up a plume of TCE (a volatile organic compound). TCE is incredibly difficult and expensive to clean up using the methods we have developed to date. For this reason some contaminated sites are simply shut down allowing the vapors to dissipate naturally. Not very environmentally friendly; and, totally unsatisfactory, if you ask me. The process takes decades, so Obsorb's potential to provide a low-cost means of recovering sites becomes apparent.

When utilized at a contamination site, once the Obsorb has reached its maximum capacity, it floats to the surface. A filter or skimmer can then be used to scoop up the glass which is cleaned and returned to the site.

Via greenUpgrader and

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