American scientists have created a new porous substance that can soak up heavy metals. The material could potentially be used to remove pollutants such as mercury or lead from water.
The compound, developed by a team at the University of Illinois, is a new type of aerogel. Aerogels, which are a rigid foam in which the water has been replaced with air, are usually used to make superconductors. This areogel, however, was made using chalcogenides rather than silica or carbon.
It works in a similar way to sponge, removing heavy metals from a solution. It ‘soaks up’ the larger (and very toxic) heavy metal ions by allowing them to bond with sulphur particles on the surface of the material. Scientists hope it will be useful in heavy industry.