Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Technology
Networks
Scientific Communities
 
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article
  News
Return

Graphene Oxide Soaks Up Radioactive Waste

Published: Tuesday, January 15, 2013
Last Updated: Tuesday, January 15, 2013
Bookmark and Share
Rice, Moscow State universities collaborate on solution to toxic groundwater woes.

Graphene oxide has a remarkable ability to quickly remove radioactive material from contaminated water, researchers at Rice University and Lomonosov Moscow State University have found.

A collaborative effort by the Rice lab of chemist James Tour and the Moscow lab of chemist Stepan Kalmykov determined that microscopic, atom-thick flakes of graphene oxide bind quickly to natural and human-made radionuclides and condense them into solids. The flakes are soluble in liquids and easily produced in bulk.

The experimental results were reported in the Royal Society of Chemistry journal Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics.

The discovery, Tour said, could be a boon in the cleanup of contaminated sites like the Fukushima nuclear plants damaged by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. It could also cut the cost of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) for oil and gas recovery and help reboot American mining of rare earth metals, he said.

Graphene oxide’s large surface area defines its capacity to adsorb toxins, Kalmykov said. “So the high retention properties are not surprising to us,” he said. “What is astonishing is the very fast kinetics of sorption, which is key.”

“In the probabilistic world of chemical reactions where scarce stuff (low concentrations) infrequently bumps into something with which it can react, there is a greater likelihood that the ‘magic’ will happen with graphene oxide than with a big old hunk of bentonite,” said Steven Winston, a former vice president of Lockheed Martin and Parsons Engineering and an expert in nuclear power and remediation who is working with the researchers. “In short, fast is good.”

Determining how fast was the object of experiments by the Kalmykov group. The lab tested graphene oxide synthesized at Rice with simulated nuclear wastes containing uranium, plutonium and substances like sodium and calcium that could negatively affect their adsorption. Even so, graphene oxide proved far better than the bentonite clays and granulated activated carbon commonly used in nuclear cleanup.

Graphene oxide introduced to simulated wastes coagulated within minutes, quickly clumping the worst toxins, Kalmykov said. The process worked across a range of pH values.

“To see Stepan’s amazement at how well this worked was a good confirmation,” Tour said. He noted that the collaboration took root when Alexander Slesarev, a graduate student in his group, and Anna Yu. Romanchuk, a graduate student in Kalmykov’s group, met at a conference several years ago.

The researchers focused on removing radioactive isotopes of the actinides and lanthanides – the 30 rare earth elements in the periodic table – from liquids, rather than solids or gases. “Though they don’t really like water all that much, they can and do hide out there,” Winston said. “From a human health and environment point of view, that’s where they’re least welcome.”

Naturally occurring radionuclides are also unwelcome in fracking fluids that bring them to the surface in drilling operations, Tour said. “When groundwater comes out of a well and it’s radioactive above a certain level, they can’t put it back into the ground,” he said. “It’s too hot. Companies have to ship contaminated water to repository sites around the country at very large expense.” The ability to quickly filter out contaminants on-site would save a great deal of money, he said.

He sees even greater potential benefits for the mining industry. Environmental requirements have “essentially shut down U.S. mining of rare earth metals, which are needed for cell phones,” Tour said. “China owns the market because they’re not subject to the same environmental standards. So if this technology offers the chance to revive mining here, it could be huge.”

Tour said that capturing radionuclides does not make them less radioactive, just easier to handle. “Where you have huge pools of radioactive material, like at Fukushima, you add graphene oxide and get back a solid material from what were just ions in a solution,” he said. “Then you can skim it off and burn it. Graphene oxide burns very rapidly and leaves a cake of radioactive material you can then reuse.”

The low cost and biodegradable qualities of graphene oxide should make it appropriate for use in permeable reactive barriers, a fairly new technology for in situ groundwater remediation, he said.

Romanchuk, Slesarev, Kalmykov and Tour are co-authors of the paper with Dmitry Kosynkin, a former postdoctoral researcher at Rice, now with Saudi Aramco. Kalmykov is radiochemistry division head and a professor at Lomonosov Moscow State University. Tour is the T.T. and W.F. Chao Chair in Chemistry as well as a professor of mechanical engineering and materials science and of computer science at Rice.

The Office of Naval Research Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative, M-I SWACO and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research funded work at Rice. The Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation, a Russian Federation President stipend to Romanchuk and the Russian Basic Research Foundation funded research at Moscow State.


Further Information

Join For Free

Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,900+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More Than 4,200+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters


Sign In



Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into TechnologyNetworks.com you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

DNA Analysis in the Fast Lane
Rice bioengineers' method should lead to better database of thermal behaviors.
Thursday, January 21, 2016
Bacteria Attack Lignin with Enzymatic Tag Team
Team from Rice, University of Wisconsin-Madison shows how nature handles lignin.
Tuesday, January 12, 2016
Obstacles Not Always a Hindrance to Proteins
Rice researchers’ theory finds blocked path sometimes speeds DNA sequence search.
Friday, December 11, 2015
Red Means ‘Go’ to Therapeutic Viruses
Rice University scientists use light to switch viral activity and deliver cargoes to cells.
Thursday, December 03, 2015
Chemical Design Made Easier
Rice University scientists prepare elusive organocatalysts for drug and fine chemical synthesis.
Wednesday, November 25, 2015
Biomarker Finder Adjusts On the Fly
Rice University scientists build better tool to find signs of disease.
Thursday, October 22, 2015
Gene On-Off Switch Works Like Backpack Strap
Texas Medical Center-based team unravels how loops form in genome.
Thursday, October 22, 2015
Structure of Protein at Root of Muscular Disease Decoded
Researchers at Rice University and Baylor College of Medicine have unlocked the structural details of a protein seen as key to treating a neuromuscular disease.
Thursday, October 01, 2015
Researchers Find New Clue to Halting Leukemia Relapse
A protein domain once considered of little importance may be key to helping patients who are fighting acute myeloid leukemia (AML) avoid a relapse.
Friday, September 11, 2015
Imaging Software Could Speed Breast Cancer Diagnosis
Technology could improve access to diagnostic services in developing countries.
Wednesday, August 26, 2015
Researchers Strategize to Outsmart Bacteria
Rice University lab identifies mutations that allow bacteria to resist antibiotics.
Thursday, August 06, 2015
Cancer Treatment Models get Real
Researchers at Rice Univ. and Univ. of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center have developed a way to mimic the conditions under which cancer tumors grow in bones.
Thursday, August 06, 2015
Bacteria Use DNA Replication to Time Key Decision
Rice University researchers have found that in spore-forming bacteria, chromosomal locations of genes can couple the DNA replication cycle to critical decisions about whether to reproduce or form spores.
Monday, July 13, 2015
Massive Genome Shift in one Generation
A team of biologists has discovered that an agricultural pest that began plaguing U.S. apple growers in the 1850s likely did so after undergoing extensive and genome-wide changes in a single generation.
Tuesday, June 16, 2015
DNA Mutations get Harder to Hide
Rice University researchers have developed a method to detect rare DNA mutations with an approach hundreds of times more powerful than current methods.
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
Scientific News
Microdroplet Reactors Mimic Living Systems
Researchers use microdroplets to study non-equilibrium reactions like those in living organisms.
NIH Researchers Identify Striking Genomic Signature for Cancer
Institute has identified striking signature shared by five types of cancer.
CRI Develops Innovative Approach for Identifying Lung Cancer
Institute has developed innovative approach for identifying processes that fuel tumor growth in lung cancer patients.
Envigo Rat Models Proven to be Susceptible to Intra-Vaginal HSV-2 Infection and Protectable
Scientific findings establish the effectiveness of new approach to investigate the protective effects of vaccine candidates and anti-viral microbodies and to study asymptomatic primary genital HSV-2 infection.
What do Banana Peels and Human Skin Have in Common?
Human skin and banana peels have something in common: they produce the same enzyme when attacked. By studying fruit, researchers have come up with an accurate method for diagnosing the stages of this form of skin cancer.
The Spice of Life
Scientists discover important genetic source of human diversity.
Cytoskeleton Crew
Findings confirm sugar's role in helping cancers survive by changing cellular architecture.
The Power of Three
Overlooked portion of cell “death receptor” critical in some cancers, autoimmune diseases.
Drug that Activates Innate Immune System Identified
Researchers from the institute have identified a drug, which is straightforward to synthesize and to couple to antigens that induce an immune response and may prove useful in the generation of vaccines.
Removing Race from Human Genetic Research
A group of scientists are urging their colleagues to take a step forward and stop using racial categories when researching and studying human genetics.
Scroll Up
Scroll Down
Skyscraper Banner

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
 
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,900+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,200+ scientific videos
Close
Premium CrownJOIN TECHNOLOGY NETWORKS PREMIUM FOR FREE!