doi:10.1038/nindia.2018.24 Published online 27 February 2018
Researchers have synthesised a new kind of graphene-based bead that can remove uranium from contaminated drinking water and groundwater, making it potentially useful for purifying drinking water and treating groundwater1.
Uranium is a radioactive element. Animal studies have shown that exposure to uranium can cause defects in a developing brain and in the ovaries of female offspring. This element has been found to damage kidney cells, elevating the levels of protein and dead cells in the urine.
To find an efficient way to remove uranium, scientists from the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre in Mumbai, India prepared the beads by mixing graphene oxide with calcium alginate. They then explored these beads’ potential to remove uranium from drinking water and groundwater collected from a uranium-contaminated region of Punjab.
The beads’ ability to absorb uranium steadily increased for up to five hours, after which it became constant. The beads contained water, which made them permeable to uranium. Besides, graphene oxide present in the beads formed bonds with uranium, facilitating its removal.
Treating three groundwater samples with the beads significantly decreased uranium concentrations, indicating their efficiency in removing uranium.
No elevated levels of calcium and organic content were found in the water after treatment, suggesting that no components had leached from the beads, which retained their ability to remove uranium even after being stored for six months in a dried condition.
1. Basu, H. et al. Graphene oxide encapsulated in alginate beads for enhanced sorption of uranium from different aquatic environments. J. Environ. Chem. Eng. 6, 1625-1633 (2018)