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Gritty Research Leads Scientists To Metal-Loving Discovery

RICHLAND, Wash. - Tiny grains of ceramic material inhabited by hungry molecules are looking like enormously effective options for cleaning up contaminated waterways and recovering precious metals.

SAMMS - Self-Assembled Monolayers on Mesoporous Supports ,has been developed by researchers at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. SAMMS integrates mesoporous ceramics technology first created by Mobil Oil Corp. with an innovative method for attaching "monolayers" (single layers of densely packed molecules) to the pore surfaces throughout the ceramic material. The molecules are custom designed to seek out mercury, lead, chromium and other toxic or precious metals.

"SAMMS can be tailored chemically to selectively bind a wide range of contaminant types, including radionuclides," said Jun Liu, a staff scientist at Pacific Northwest who directed the fundamental research. "And SAMMS can be used effectively in water, non-aqueous solutions or gas phase waste streams."

According to Nick Lombardo, a commercialization manager at Pacific Northwest, DOE is interested in exploring the use of SAMMS for soil and water cleanup activities at sites where mercury contamination is prevalent, and for the removal of mercury from radioactive and hazardous wastes. Mercury, released from a number of natural and man-made sources, can cause serious health effects if inhaled or ingested. "In addition to being able to clean mercury-contaminated sites, we believe SAMMS also has applications in industry, particularly mining and metal finishing, where it could be used to clean the water used for processing and even recover valuable metals present in waste streams," Lombardo said.

SAMMS is produced in bead or powder form. Each grain of ceramic material, (in this case a type of silicate) is only five to 15 micrometers in diameter and contains a densely ordered array of cylindrical caverns or pores, giving the material a honeycomb appearance. The c
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Contact: Tim Ledbetter
tim.ledbetter@pnl.gov
509-375-5953
DOE/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
18-Aug-1998


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