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Japanese scientists use nanocarbons to cleanse water of toxic metals

The presence of toxic metals in water stemming from industrial sources makes treatment a tall order, with these polluted liquids capable of contaminating groundwater supplies for years or even decades thereafter. Scientists at Japan’s Nagoya University have come up with a new technology that may help stem the tide, using electrically charged nanocarbons to more effectively filter heavy metal ions from the mix.

Over the years we’ve seen a number of inventive approaches to removing trace amounts of toxic metals, such as arsenic, iron mercury, tin, and lead, from industrial water sources. These have involved self-propelled microbots that wade through the samples to collect metal ions, filters made from quartz, and even onion and garlic waste.

Naturally, this attraction is weak, so the Nagoya University scientists are looking to supercharge things by tweaking the production process. This involves doping the nanocarbons with molecules such as amino groups that create stronger chemical bonds with the metals. 

After finding the right combinations of metals and amino groups, the scientists found these electrically-charged nanocarbons were incredibly good at removing toxic pollutants from water. They also found that the nanocarbons have a high degree of reusability. According to materials scientist Nagahiro Saito of Nagoya University, the new process “could help reduce the costs of water purification and bring us closer to achieving universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all by 2030.”

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