Rice University researcher and chemist James Tour and Ayrat Dimiev a current research professor at Kazan Federal University (formerly a postdoctoral researcher at a Rice lab) have developed a technique to extract radioactive materials from water. Their method’s advantage is that the cost effectiveness would allow for application to large quantities of contaminated water such as the water stored at the Fukashima nuclear plant. If the reader can recall, March 11, 2011 an earthquake, subsequent tsunamis and aftershocks rocked Japan and the foundations of the coastal Fukashima nuclear plant causing great damage to the plant and vast contamination of the environment. Furthermore the method developed allows for a more simple and safe disposal and storage of the contaminants once extracted.
Through the oxidization of two types of carbon (OMCs), a modified carbon particles from “coke-derived powder,” C-seal F and shungite (a natural mineral with a heavy carbon presence) the researchers were able to take advantage of the expanded, porous and oxygen molecule covered surface of the particles to test its effectiveness is absorbing harmful radionuclides(放射性核素) from water. Previous research by Tour in conjunction with researchers at Lomonosov Moscow State University tested this method using oxidized graphene but it proved to be both more expensive to synthesize and less effective at removing cesium though it was able to remove strontium. Cesium has so far been the hardest toxic element to remove from the waters at Fukashima. The OMCs though comparatively excelled at removing cesium from the tested water samples.
They tested the materials by using spring water with particles of nonradioactive isotopes of strontium and cesium then added OMC and stirred for two hours. They would then filter out the OMC and measured the presence of those isotopes in the water. OMC derived from coke proved the superior material to use for removing both cesium and strontium with an 83% and 68% removal respectively in a test of 100 milliliters of water. In greater quantities of contaminated water (1,400 milliliters) where it passed though and OMC filter in 100 milliliter amounts, a single filtration removed 93% of cesium and 92 % of strontium.
To dispose of the OMCs saturated with the radioactive waste a nuclear incinerator burns the carbon leaving a small amount of radioactive ash. Other methods of radioactive material removal require that the materials used be stored with the waste removed.
For more information about co-authors on the published paper released in Carbon, please click on the source link.