Friday, December 15, 2006

New Research May Mean Cleaner Water

Very interesting research, on a very small scale, the nano scale.

Nano design adjustment may help find, clear some water contaminants
Toxins such as perchlorate and nitrates could be targeted

Crystal structures (A) and quantum calculations (B) elucidate new binding motifs for anions interacting with electron deficient aromatic rings.

Experiments designed to test discrepancies in theoretical computational chemistry have turned up a barely two-angstrom difference that may lead to a new approach to locate and remove dangerous toxins such as perchlorate and nitrates from the environment.

The research targets toxic groundwater contaminants that contain negatively charged ions known as anions (a-NI-ens), which are historically difficult to remove. Perchlorate, a rocket fuel additive recently linked to thyroid deficiency in women, has contaminated more than 450 wells in California alone. Nitrate contamination, which results mainly from the use of nitrogen fertilizer, is a leading cause of shutdowns of wells and public water supplies in the United States.

"There is a need for improved materials that are effective at removing anions from the environment," said Darren W. Johnson, a University of Oregon chemist and co-principal investigator of a study appearing online Dec. 13 ahead of regular publication in the Journal of the American Chemical Society. "A current leading strategy is anion exchange, which uses a polymeric resin to exchange an anion for one that’s not a problem." (Two other currently used methods aimed at anions are biochemical denitrification and reverse osmosis.)