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New Solution for Heavy Metals in Wastewater

Scientists from Germany, Ireland, and the U.K. have developed a new method of removing heavy metals from wastewater resulting from industrial processes.

The cleaning method is expected to find a use in a variety of industries, enabling a greater quantity of heavy-metal contaminated wastewater to be cleaned and recycled. It was pioneered under the EU-funded BRITE/EURAM 3 program, which promotes collaborative work between EU countries with the aim of developing new industrial technologies.

If it is commercialized, the technique could clean wastewater at a much lower cost than existing methods, the scientists say. Wastewater containing heavy metals is produced on a large scale by the electricity, steel, glass, and ceramics industries.

The technology uses extra-small superparamagentic composite particles, which are embedded with iron oxide nano-particles that do not lose their magnetic properties in the presence of a magnetic field.

These particles are then added to the wastewater supply, attracting heavy metals such as arsenic, mercury, and lead, which are highly toxic to humans. The particles and the attached heavy metals are then removed from the water, which can then be reused or returned to the water supply.

The particles and the heavy metals are separated by a second process, enabling the metals to the disposed of in a concentrated sludge, or even recovered and reused in other processes.

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