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Using Sea Shells to Remove Heavy Metals from Water

by Michael Graham Richard, Gatineau, Canada on 04.27.09

Travel & Nature

Researchers in Vietnam have recently completed tests on a new way to remove heavy metals from water. The secret? No, it’s not some high tech materials… It’s the good ol’ sea shell. “In factories on the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City, Stephan Kohler of the Graz University of Technology in Austria and a team of researchers have cleansed water tainted with toxic metals like cadmium, zinc, lead and iron.” This could save countless lives in developing countries. Read on for more details.

From Discovery News:

Kohler’s team has found that pouring metal and acid-laden water over a bed of crushed clam or mussel shells provides an easy fix. The shells are made of aragonite, a form of calcium carbonate (CACO3) that readily swaps out its calcium atoms in favor of heavy metals, locking them into a solid form. The shells are naturally basic, too — when dissolved they have a pH of 8.3. […]The team’s technique stems from work in 2003 by Manuel Prieto of Oviedo University in Spain, who first showed that shells effectively remove cadmium from water.
“The idea of using aragonite shells arose because abiogenic aragonite is not an extremely abundant mineral,” Prieto wrote in an email to Discovery News. “Moreover, in the North of Spain we have a very important seafood canning industry (cockles, mussels, clams, etc.) and shells are the most important wastes of that industry.”

Of course, the next step is actually to stop dumping heavy metals in water in the first place, but while we get to that point, using sea shells to clean up the mess sounds like a pretty clever thing to do (and most important, it’s inexpensive enough for poorer countries). Kudos.

Via Discovery News



Compositions to remove heavy metals and radioactive isotopes from wastewater
United States Patent 5880060

Treatment compositions and a method are provided for the removal of a plurality of heavy metals and radioactive isotopes from wastewater. The treatment compositions comprise an alkali; adsorbents, such as montmorillonite and illite clays; catalysts, such as polyelectrolytes and sodium carbonate; one or more flocculants, such as a metal salt and calcium hydroxide; zirconium as a chelating and complexing agent; and boron as a neutron absorbent. The selected composition is introduced into and mixed with the wastewater, which is then filtered to produce a sludge containing the contaminants.

Blake, Barbara (4 Walnut Hollow Ln., Holmdel, NJ, 07733)
Blake, Alexander (4 Walnut Hollow Ln., Holmdel, NJ, 07733)
Lacy, William John (9114 Cherry Tree Dr., Alexandria, VA, 22309)
Application Number:
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Primary Class:
Other Classes:
588/15, 502/405, 252/175, 210/682, 210/688, 588/14, 502/202, 588/13, 502/250, 502/242, 588/9, 502/407
International Classes:
A62D3/00; C02F9/00; G21F9/12; A62D101/24; A62D101/40; A62D101/43; B01J20/10; C02F1/42; C02F5/02; G21F9/00
Field of Search:
210/666, 210/682, 210/688, 502/407, 502/411, 502/405, 502/400, 502/202, 502/250, 502/242, 588/9, 588/13, 588/14, 588/15, 252/175
US Patent References:
4765908    Process and composition for removing contaminants from wastewater    August, 1988    Monick et al.    210/666
5087375    Method for producing insoluble industrial raw material from waste    February, 1992    Weinwurm    210/688
Primary Examiner:
Caldarola, Glenn
Assistant Examiner:
Bullock, In Suk
What is claimed is:

1. A treatment composition for the removal of one or more heavy metals and radioactive isotopes from wastewater comprising:

(a) 15 to 40% by weight of naturally occurring layered montmorillonite with a silica content of at least 60%

(b) 11 to 36% by weight of illite clay

(c) 5 to 35% by weight of aluminum sulfate

(d) 5 to 35% by weight of calcium hydroxide

(e) 1 to 5% by weight of one or more polyelectrolytes

(f) 2 to 5% by weight of sodium carbonate

(g) 1 to 5% by weight of boron

(h) 1 to 5% by weight of zirconium

(i) 1 to 8% by weight of silica gel.

2. A treatment composition of claim 1, wherein the total of montmorillonite and illite clay should be at least 50% by weight of the total composition.



This invention relates to wastewater treatment and, particularly, to the removal of a plurality of heavy metals and radioactive isotopes from wastewater to produce a sludge containing the contaminants. Many industries produce wastewaters containing heavy metals and/or radioactive material. Environmental laws regulate the discharge of wastewater containing heavy metals and/or radioactive isotopes. Wastewater containing heavy metals are generated by a wide variety of industries, such as metal finishing, automobile manufacturing, electronics manufacturing, textile industry and others. Wastewaters containing radioactive isotopes are generated by the mining of ore, refining of ore, milling, wash-downs, fuel preparation, cooling waters, as well as hospitals and research facilities. A combination of heavy metals and radioactive material is often present in run-off ponds at mining areas.

The problem is the considerable volume of wastewater containing heavy metals and/or radioactive material throughout the world and the lack of effective and economical treatment and, more particularly, the removal of heavy metals and the removal of radioactive isotopes from the wastewater, separately or in combination.

The present invention obviates these inherent problems by providing an effective wastewater treatment method capable of removing a plurality of diverse heavy metals and radioactive isotopes from wastewater and fixing or adsorbing same onto a usually stable sludge, thus rendering the water free of heavy metals and radioactive material. These waters can then be safely discharged or, in many cases, recycled, which results in additional savings to industry and in the protection of natural resources, the public health and the environment.


The present invention provides treatment compositions and a method for the removal of heavy metals and radioactive isotopes, separate or in combination, from wastewater. The treatment compositions of this invention comprise effective amounts of layer lattice type clays, particularly naturally occurring montmorillonite; illite and vermiculite clay; one or more flocculants; one or more catalysts; a binder and sealer; a neutron absorbent; and a chelating and complexing agent.

More specifically, the treatment compositions comprise 15 to 40% naturally occurring montmorillonite; 1 to 5% of one or more polyelectrolytes; 5 to 35% calcium hydroxide; 5 to 35% of a metal salt; 1 to 5% of sodium carbonate; 1 to 5% boron; 1 to 5% zirconium; 1 to 8% silica gel; 11 to 36% illite clay.

It is to be understood that the above indicated percentages refer to each component’s percentage of the total treatment composition as used to treat the wastewater. It is also to be understood that the above percentages are approximations, with deviations being permitted within the scope of the invention. Also, it is to be understood that compositions for particular treatment applications may not include all of the listed components.

The treatment compositions and method of the present invention are capable of removing heavy metals and radioactive isotopes from wastewater effectively. The method of this invention includes the introduction into the wastewater, containing one or more heavy metals and/or radioactive isotopes, the treatment composition of the present invention. The contaminated wastewater, with the treatment composition added, is agitated for a predetermined length of time, usually four minutes. The floc containing the contaminants is then allowed to settle in the same tank. After completion of the settling phase, the supernatant is then discharged. Upon completion of the supernatant discharge, the sludge containing the contaminants is discharged from the treatment vessel to a filtration and dewatering device. The supernatant and filtrate can be discharged into a POTW, a natural body of water or into the ground or, in many cases, recycled.

One of the mechanisms involved is ion exchange. Ion exchange is the exchange or transfer of an ion or charged particle held by a negative charge near a mineral surface with one that is present in a solution in contact with the material. This process is reversible, that is, cations and anions are interchangeable between mineral surfaces and solutions. The exchanges that can take place in any particular electrolyte and with a specific mineral are controlled by physiochemical laws.

The property of ion exchange results from a charge deficiency within the lattice of the clay mineral. Usually steric relationships preclude the penetration of the crystal lattice by counterions, resulting in the exchange deficiency being effectively diffused over the surface of the particle. The charge deficiency is therefore satisfied by the formation of an electric double layer at the interface between the crystal lattice and the solution.

The process of ion exchange may occur between the ions on two mineral surfaces in contact and also between the mineral surface and root hairs and is an important process in plant nutrition. Cation exchange capacity is defined as the amount of exchangeable cations, expressed as milliequivalents per gram or per 100 grams of material (clay, soil or mineral) determined experimentally at pH 7.

The determination of the total exchange capacity of a clay or other mineral is more simple and rapid than determination of the common exchangeable cations, i.e., Ca + +, Mg + +, Na + , K + , or H + . Important to an understanding of ion-exchange phenomena is the fact that the silicate structures which make up clay minerals, are determined by the ratios of the positive to the negative ions.

Shale and soil materials, when moist, are usually charged electro-negatively (zeta potential). The ion exchange capacity in clays is due to: (1) broken bonds at the edges of silica-alumina sheets, (2) substitution within the lattice structure of a trivalent or quadrivalent ions resulting in unbalanced charges within the clay unit, and replacement of the hydrogen of exposed hydroxyl groups by a cation.

The system employed in the present invention is basic. The system usually requires a vessel or tank which functions as a reaction and settling tank, a high speed agitator to assure a proper distribution of the treatment composition and a filtration/dewatering device. In the case of large wastewater volume, a modular design, meaning more than one reaction vessel, which function alternately, may be used.


The process and treatment compositions of the present invention are capable of removing heavy metals and radioactive isotopes from a variety of wastewaters that emanate from diverse manufacturing processes. Depending on the particular contaminants in a wastewater, the treatment composition may be altered to remove the specific contaminants. As used herein, contaminants will include barium, cadmium, chromium, aluminum, iron, copper, cesium, cobalt, iodine, lead, mercury, molybdenum, nickel, rhodium, selenium, silver, strontium, vanadium and zinc. The compositions of the present invention may be able to remove additional contaminants, not mentioned above. However, this has to be determined in future tests.

[ Etc. ]



Teijin: Technology to remove heavy metals from polluted soil
Asian Textile Business | September 1, 2003| Anonymous | Copyright Osaka Senken Ltd. Sep 2003. Provided by ProQuest LLC.


Teijin Fibers Limited has developed a technology to completely eliminate harmful heavy metals such as lead and cadmium from the soil.
This technology makes it possible to remove hazardous substances without transporting the polluted soil elsewhere and can fill up the land with the purified soil. In Japan, the Soil Pollution Countermeasure Law came into force in February this year. Under this law, in case land is found to contain injurious substances exceeding the standard values, the removal of these injurious substances or the prevention of the diffusion of such injurious …


Rhizofiltration: A New Technology to Remove Heavy Metals From Aqueous Streams
Author     Ensley, Burt ; Dushenkov, Viatcheslav ; Raskin, Ilya ; Salt, David E.
Society / Organization     SME
Summary / Abstract     Roots of many hydroponically grown terrestrial plants, including sunflower (Helianthus annuus L.) effectively remove toxic metals such as Cu+2, Cd+2, Cr+6, Ni+2, Pb+2 and Zn+2 2 from aqueous solutions. It should be possible to scale up this process such that plant roots can be used to treat large volume aqueous waste streams. It can be extrapolated from laboratory results that to reduce the Cd concentration in a waste stream, from 1 ppm to below 4 ppb, with a flow rate of 4000 L/min, would require 3500 sq. m of plant roots with a density 5 kg fresh weight per sq. m. These results suggest that the roots of hydroponically grown terrestrial plants may provide an attractive alternative to the accepted water treatment technologies.
Format     PDF
File Size     177.2k
Specifications     v 7.0 / 300 dpi
Copyright Date     1/1/95
Publication Date     1/1/95
Digitization Date     10/25/07
Book Title     New Remediation Technology in the Changing Environmental Arena
Chapter     Chapter 21 – Technology for Remediation
Pages     4
ISBN     0-087335-131-2


GM Plants Could be Used to Remove Heavy Metals and Toxins from Soil and Water

Chinese researchers have genetically modified tobacco and a species of algae to remove toxic heavy metals such as mercury from soil and water.

As a cheap and effective way of eliminating heavy metal pollution from the environment, the GM plants carry substantial health and economic benefits, says their developer, Ru Binggen of the Peking University’s College of Life, Beijing.

Ru announced his invention in Beijing on 9 October at an international conference focusing on metallothionein, a protein produced in the livers of people and other mammals that binds easily to heavy metals.

By inserting a rat gene into tobacco and the algae, Ru’s team made the plants produce metallothionein.

The genetically modified (GM) tobacco produces the protein in its roots and can absorb several hundred times more heavy metal ions from soil than normal tobacco, says Ru. The plants can then be burnt and the heavy metals safely removed from the ash.

Under trial conditions, the tobacco plants died before they could reproduce, so had to be replaced with new plants. Even so, says Ru, the method is still much cheaper than using a chemical process to remove heavy metal pollution.

A different method was used with the GM algae. Ru’s team pasted the algae to a nylon membrane, which was then lowered into polluted water. After absorbing the heavy metals, the algae-covered membranes were taken out of the water and the heavy metals were extracted from them in the safety of a laboratory.

“The problem of heavy metal pollution has plagued the export of rice and vegetables from China, but our methods, if widely used, offer an economical solution to the problem,” Ru told SciDev.Net.

He added, “Theoretically, the same kind of gene could be transplanted into rice to create a GM variety that will absorb heavy metals. In rice, heavy metals normally remain in the plants’ roots and would not migrate to the grain.”

The team’s research has not yet been approved by the Chinese government for field testing but Ru said the technologies had proven effective in laboratory tests.

Ru accepts that there is still debate over whether metallothionein affects human and animal health. He says his team’s research has not yet considered safety aspects of using the plants, but will do so if they get more funding.

Posted November 1st, 2005


World’s First Quantum Dot Lighting Solution Unveiled

Nexxus Lighting, Inc. (NASDAQ Capital Market: NEXS) and QD Vision, Inc. today unveiled the world’s first quantum dot lighting solution that combines the efficiency of LED lighting with the warm color of incandescent bulbs. The new lamp integrates a quantum dot optic with cool white LED’s to produce color-rich, true incandescent, warm white light which can provide over 80% energy savings and lasts up to 25 times longer than comparable halogen lighting alternatives.

Architects and the lighting design community have been demanding a higher CRI LED product without the efficacy losses typically associated with these lamps. The new Quantum Light optic developed by QD Vision, integrated with Nexxus Lighting’s patented Array Lamp designs and patent pending technology, solves this critical issue. The Nexxus Lighting ArrayTM lamp with the Quantum LightTM optic delivers a true incandescent, warm white, 2700 degree Kelvin lamp with a color rendering index of 90 or greater at over 65 lumens per watt

The companies will demonstrate the product and technology at Lightfair International 2009 at the Javits Center in New York, New York, May 5 – 7, 2009, Booth #675. The Array Lighting Quantum Light solution for all Nexxus Lighting Array Par 30, MR 16 and Par 16 lamps is expected to be available in the 4th quarter of 2009, with volume production in early 2010.

“Nexxus Lighting’s new Array LED lamp line is a perfect application for our quantum dot technology,” said Dan Button, President and CEO of QD Vision. “This productive partnership, combining QD Vision’s Quantum Light optic and the leading design capabilities of Nexxus Lighting, has resulted in a product the market has long been demanding – lamps with exceptional color quality and power efficiency together.”

“We are excited to add this new high color rendering, true incandescent warm white color choice to our successful Array LED lamp product offering”, stated Mike Bauer, President and CEO of Nexxus Lighting. “The architectural lighting community has been clear in its demand for better color rendering performance in LED lighting, without sacrificing the efficacy gains you can achieve through solid state solutions.”

The product resulting from the Nexxus Lighting/QD Vision partnership was recently demonstrated at a White House ceremony, in which President Obama announced a $1.6 billion disbursement of research funds for clean energy products. The Nexxus Lighting/QD Vision project was one of only four technologies spun out of MIT that were demonstrated at the event, which featured remarks by MIT President Susan Hockfield.

Because the Nexxus Lighting Array lamps with Quantum LightTM are compatible with a standard, screw-in ‘Edison’ base, they can easily replace incandescent and halogen lamps in existing downlight fixtures. Just in the US, the DoE estimates, the number of down lights and track heads with Edison base lamp installations equal over 139 million in commercial applications and over 262 million in residential lighting applications. Both companies expect that commercial availability of their high efficiency lamps with high color quality will overcome a major barrier to LEDs and will accelerate the penetration of LEDs in the $4 billion U.S. lamp market. The potential impact on the environment could be significant, a full conversion to LEDs of existing downlights and trackheads in the US (~10% of US fixtures) represents an annual savings of more than 35 billion KW hours (nearly $4 billion), which is the equivalent of nearly 6 power plants or more than 60 million barrels of oil per year.

Posted May 26, 2009



Nissei Plastics Industrial to Exhibit at NPE in Chicago Later This Year

Nissei Plastics Industrial Co., Ltd. has confirmed that it will now exhibit at NPE 2009 – to be held June 22 – 26 at McCormick Place in Chicago – after previously canceling its planned participation in the show in February. Nissei’s decision will allow the company to continue its long-standing tradition of exhibiting at NPE, which began in 1966 with its appearance as the first Japanese injection molding machine manufacturer to take part in the event. Nissei’s Booth number at NPE 2009 is S36039.

Nissei’s decision to re-enter NPE 2009 as an exhibitor comes after decisive actions on the part of the show’s organizer, the Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI), to devise an aid package to offset eroding participation of show exhibitors adversely affected by the worsening global economy. These actions allowed Nissei to reverse its initial decision to pull out of NPE.

Nissei will also feature at their booth samples of VOLTIGA, a new high-performance composite material.

Posted May 26, 2009



GE Energy to Market Neutron Detector System Developed by ORNL

GE Energy, manufacturer of Reuter Stokes radiation detection equipment, signed a technology transfer agreement to market the electronics and software associated with the SNS 8Pack neutron detector system, an award-winning design for a system of sensitive neutron detectors developed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).

The SNS 8Pack is a compact neutron detection system that was developed for the Department of Energy’s Spallation Neutron Source (SNS), a record-setting neutron science facility located at ORNL.

The SNS electronics can determine both the time and position of the neutron captured, enabling very accurate neutron time-of-flight measurements. It has large-area detector coverage, extremely low power requirements and digital communication capability.

“It is exciting that, even as the SNS ramps up to its full power of 1.4 megawatts, technologies from its development are already finding their way to the marketplace,” said ORNL Director Thom Mason.

“Combining GE’s expertise in designing detectors for neutron scattering instruments with the high-speed electronics and software developed by SNS is a natural fit,” said Leo VanderSchuur, Product Line General Manager for GE Energy’s Reuter Stokes Measurement Solutions. “This state-of-the-art design will benefit the neutron scattering community with high-speed performance and advanced time-of-flight capabilities.”

SNS engineers developed the electronics and software for the integrated detector system to accommodate the very large detector areas and high rates required by the SNS. Interest in the product for commercial applications has ranged from other neutron science facilities to security applications, such as monitoring land, air and sea shipping.

“The system is modular so that very large detector arrays can be built. You can have greater than 50 square meters of detector coverage,” said Ron Cooper, a member of the SNS development team. “It has high rate capability, good position resolution, and features modern, distributed personal-computer-based electronics.”

Another attractive feature is its very lower power requirement. “The SNS 8Pack requires very little power to operate; less than 10 watts. In fact, it can be powered by a small solar panel,” said Cooper, of ORNL’s Neutron Facilities Development Division.

Posted May 26, 2009



Removing heavy metals from water

UK scientists have discovered a new and simple way to remove toxic heavy metals from water.

Prompted by recent publicity surrounding arsenic pollution in the third world, Richard Compton and colleagues from the University of Oxford have come up with a way to eliminate these metals from water.

The group attached l-cysteine methyl ester – which has a similar structure to the naturally occurring amino acid cysteine – to the surfaces of minute glassy carbon spheres. They then added the compound to water samples containing varying amounts of heavy metals, and stirred the mixtures.

polluted watercourse

New materials might help clean up polluted water courses


When the glassy carbon spheres were removed the amount of toxic metal in the water was reduced significantly. Carbon spheres without the l-cysteine methyl ester did not remove any metal ions from the water.

The material worked equally well in samples of polluted river water and in contaminated drinking water, indicating its potential for both removing heavy metals from drinking water and cleaning polluted water courses.

The group hopes to put its material into commercial development soon. ‘This material has the potential to prevent thousands of needless deaths each year,’ said Compton.

Lorna Jack


G G Wildgoose et alChem. Commun., 2005, 3694  (DOI: 10.1039/b506461a)



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11th International Conference on Advanced Materials – VIII Encontro SBPMat

11th International Conference on Advanced Materials - VIII Encontro SBPMat Image

September 20 – 25, 2009
Rio de Janeiro
View Official Conference Web site

The International Conference on Advanced Materials (ICAM) is one of the prestigious conferences of the International Union of Materials Research Societies (IUMRS) and is held in alternate years. The earlier conferences in this series were held in Beijing, China (1999), Cancun, Mexico (2001), Yokohama, Japan (2003), Singapore (2005) and Bangalore (2007). The ICAM 2009 is organized together with the VIII Brazilian MRS Meeting — VIII Encontro SBPMat. This event will be held in the beautiful city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from 20 to 25 September 2009. Thirty technical symposia, four plenary lectures, an Energy Forum and an exhibition are envisaged. Each symposium will have invited talks, contributed oral and poster presentations.

A range of topics at the frontiers of material research of contemporary importance for science, technology and engineering will be highlighted. A galaxy of distinguished scientists will be present, delivering plenary and invited talks, among more than 2000 delegates.

The abstract submission deadline for this conference is May 30, 2009.  Information regarding the topical symposia can be found in the links below.  For complete information regarding this conference, we invite you to view the official conference Web site.



1st International Conference on Materials for Energy

First Announcement

You are cordially invited to participate in the

First International Conference on Materials for Energy

to be held from July 4 to July 8, 2010 in Karlsruhe, Germany.

A global challenge is avoiding negative effects from the current energy system on climate, environment and health and to find ways to replace fossil fuel supply. New materials can contribute to a positive development in this direction in several ways, for instance by influencing the energy efficiency of industrial production and of household energy use (e.g., through fuel cells, catalysis, reduced friction losses), and by offering schemes to clean up harmful emissions resulting from various energy technologies. Materials are important to efficient harvesting of sun light, harvesting energy from temperature gradients with thermoelectric materials, providing energy storage technology e.g. in batteries and via hydrogen storage, and enabling light-weight materials for transportation. Materials are central to every energy technology; the future will place increasing demands on materials performance with respect to extremes in stress, strain, temperature, pressure, chemical reactivity, photon or radiation flux, and electric or magnetic fields.

The programme of this conference will cover current topics and recent progress in the science and technology of energy and new materials, including the nanoscale origin of macroscopic properties. In detail all aspects of materials for energy production and conversion, energy storage, energy transport, and energy saving will be addressed.

  • Do you research or work in the fields of energy production, conversion, storage, transmission, transport, distribution, or saving?
  • Do you work in new materials, advanced composites and functional nanomaterials?
  • Do you want to hear cutting edge talks on science and applications of new materials, including nanomaterials?
  • Do you want to make contacts for collaboration or commercial exploitation in materials for energy applications?

If so, then this conference is for you!

The organizing committee will ensure maximum benefit of scientific communication and opportunity for cooperation among the participants.

Organized by: Supported by:
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