Nanofibre to clean water of radioactive waste

November 1st, 2011 - 3:29 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Nov 1 (IANS) Researchers have developed a technology capable of ridding contaminated water of radioactive waste and aiding clean-up efforts after nuclear disasters.

The innovation could also solve the problem of how to clean up millions of tonnes of water contaminated by dangerous radioactive material and safely store the concentrated waste.

Huai-Yong Zhu, chemistry professor at the Queensland University of Technology, said the world’s first intelligent absorbent, which uses titanate nanofibre and nanotube technology, firmly locks-in deadly radioactive material from contaminated water, unlike current methods.

The used absorbents can then be safely disposed without the risk of leakage, even if the material became wet, according to a university statement.

“Every year we hear of at least one nuclear accident. Not only is there a risk of contamination where human error is concerned, but there is also a risk from natural disasters such as what we saw in Japan this year,” Zhu said.

“One gram of the nanofibres can effectively purify at least one tonne of polluted water. This saves large amounts of dangerous water needing to be stored somewhere and also prevents the risk of contaminated products leaking into the soil,” he added.

The technology, which was developed with Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) and the Pennsylvania State University, US, works by running contaminated water through the fine nanotubes and fibres, which trap the radioactive Cesium (Cs+) ions through a structural change.

Zhu and his research team believed the technology would also benefit industries as diverse as mining and medicine.

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