PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] An unfortunate consequence of many industrial and manufacturing practices, from textile factories to metalworking operations, is the release of heavy metals in waterways. Those metals can remain for decades, even centuries, in low but still dangerous concentrations.
Ridding water of trace metals "is really hard to do," said Joseph Calo, professor emeritus of engineering who maintains an active laboratory at Brown. He noted the cost, inefficiency, and time needed for such efforts. "It's like trying to put the genie back in the bottle."
That may be changing. Calo and other engineers at Brown describe a novel method that collates trace heavy metals in water by increasing their concentration so that a proven metal-removal technique can take over. In a series of experiments, the engineers report the method, called the cyclic electrowinning/precipitation (CEP) system, removes up to 99 percent of copper, cadmium, and nickel, returning the contaminated water to federally accepted standards of cleanliness. The automated CEP system is scalable as well, Calo said, so it has viable commercial potential, especially in the environmental remediation and metal recovery fields. The system's mechanics and results are described in a paper published in the Chemical Engineering Journal.
A proven technique for removing heavy metals from water is through the reduction of heavy metal ions from an electrolyte. While the technique has various names, such as electrowinning, electrolytic removal/recovery or electroextraction, it all works the same way, by using an electrical current to transform positively charged metal ions (cations) into a stable, solid state where they can be easily separated from the water and removed. The main drawback to this technique is that there must be a high-enough concentration of metal cations in the water for it to be effective; if the cation concentration is too low roughly less than 1
|Contact: Richard Lewis|