Mercury in water can damage food and water supplies and in the worst cases even kill. Now, a team of Australian researchers has stumbled across a material made from industrial waste and orange peel that can suck the metal right out of H20.
Synthetic chemists from South Australia’s Flinders University have created a polymer that can be synthesised entirely from industrial by-products. Called sulphur-limonene polysulfide, it’s made up of… just sulphur and limonene, actually. Justin Chalker, one of the researchers, explains to The New Daily:
“We take sulphur, which is a by-product of the petroleum industry, and we take limonene, which is the main component of orange oil, so is produced in large quantities by the citrus industry, and we’re able to react them together to form a type of soft red rubber.”
That soft red rubber happily absorbs mercury, making it easy to clean up contaminated water. The good news is that both sulphur and limonene are in relatively high supply — 70 million tonnes of sulphur and 70,000 tonnes of limonene are produced as industrial by-products every year — and low demand. The results are published in the German journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition.
Now, the team is working out how to create the material at a commercial scale.
Image by Flinders University