The new flexible polymer membrane absorbs nearly 100% of metals such as mercury, copper, or iron during desalination, as well as salt. The result is pure freshwater.
Chemists at the University of California, Berkeley have found a way to make it easier to remove toxic metals such as mercury and boron from water.
Desalination or salt removal is only one step in the process of producing drinking water, for example, for agriculture. Before or after salt removal, the water is purified from boron, heavy metals such as arsenic and mercury. Often this process leaves behind toxins that are difficult to dispose of.
The new membrane-based method removes nearly 100% of toxic metals and recovers valuable metals for later use or disposal. According to the authors, the membrane is easy to integrate into current water treatment systems.
During the development process, chemists at the University of California, Berkeley synthesized flexible polymer membranes with nanoparticles that can be tuned to absorb specific metal ions, such as gold or uranium.
The membrane can be tuned to a specific type of particles that it will absorb.
The researchers hope they can tune the nanoparticles to remove other types of toxic chemicals, including the common groundwater pollutant PFAS, or polyfluoroalkyls found in plastics or, for example, radioactive isotopes from nuclear wastewater.