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posted by martyb on Tuesday February 01, @12:08PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the Six-foot-seven-foot-eight-foot-bunch! dept.

Heavy metals contaminate ground and surface waters from a variety of sources such as industrial effluent or fertilizers or pesticide applications. Cadmium and lead are the most common and toxic metals found in aqueous environments. They are persistent, they migrate, they accumulate in biological tissues, and they are carcinogenic. Removing these metals effectively and cheaply has been a big environmental challenge. There are a number of approaches to remove them including reverse osmosis, ion-exchange, chemical precipitation, coagulation, electrochemical treatment, and physical adsorption. Of these, adsorption is seen as very promising due to it being cost-effective, widely available, and easy to implement. There are a wide variety of adsorbent materials from the mundane (activated carbon, diatomaceous earth, polymers, etc.) to the exotic (carbon nanotubes and graphene oxide), but biochar has shown to be very efficient and cost-effective.

Biochar is generated from incomplete combustion of organic material at low temperatures under oxygen-starved conditions. It can be made using any organic material, such as forest and crop residues, algae, etc., and it results in a material with unique physiochemical properties such as producing a very porous material with abundant functional groups that bind to the metals. A group of researchers investigated the effectiveness of biochar made from banana waste, particularly the stem and leaves. They chose bananas because it is the fourth-most grown crop in the world. After a harvest, the stems and leaves are discarded in the field. Since the bananas only make up about 12% of the plant mass, this means a significant amount of biowaste is generated. They found that they could recycle the banana waste residues effectively for preparing adsorbents for treatment of heavy metals in contaminated water, and they hope that this would promote agricultural waste recycling as well as providing material for treating contaminated water.

Absorption at Wikipedia.

Journal Reference:
Xiyang Liu, Gaoxiang Li, Chengyu Chen, et al. Banana stem and leaf biochar as an effective adsorbent for cadmium and lead in aqueous solution [open], Scientific Reports (DOI: 10.1038/s41598-022-05652-7)


Original Submission

Related Stories

RoundUp Glyphosate Found to Cause Kidney Failure and Elude Tests 39 comments

Monsanto's RoundUp, a widely used pesticide, uses the active ingredient Glyphosate and it may be up for another serious beating. Medical specialists and scientists in Sri Lanka has found that when glyphosate comes in contact with heavy metals like cadmium, arsenic, manganese and cobalt which exist naturally in the soil or fertilizer, it becomes highly toxic and has a high likelihood of causing fatal kidney disease for anyone that comes into contact with it. And because the substance binds to metals it will not show up in current tests. The report (and another one) is published in International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health and has resulted in that the Sri Lanka president to ban glyphosate immediately.

Exposure to glyphosate causes a drop in amino acid tryptophan levels, which interrupts the necessary active signalling of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is associated with weight gain, depression, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease. The report show that industry and regulators knew as long ago as the 1980's and 1990's that glyphosate causes malformation, but that information was not made public. Glyphosate is also a teratogenic.

Monsanto has been in the news quite recently.

The Most Radioactive Spot in New York 49 comments

Many are going to ask, "What's so weird about this one corner?" and I'm here to answer.

The end of Irving Avenue, where it meets Moffat Street, in Ridgewood, Queens, is the most radioactive spot in the entire state of New York, and would be the northeast's if not for NJ's McGuire Air Force Base in Burlington County (called "the most contaminated base" in 2007 by the United States Environmental Protection Agency).

In 1918, chemical engineer Alcan Hirsch, and his brother, mining chief Marx Hirsch, opened a chemical plant where today sits most of the businesses on Irving Ave's north side. In 1920, they christen it Hirsch Laboratories, and later added the mining company Molybdenum Corporation (aka Molycorp). The Hirsch brothers sold the lab in 1923 to Harry Wolff and Max Alport, who renamed it Wolff-Alport Chemical Company, but continued their mining operations, and supplied W-A Chemical with the rare-earth metals needed to produce a huge list of products.
The plant processed Monazite sand, which, when treated with Sulfuric Acid, separates into the rare-earth Sodium Sulfate, but also the radioactive waste known as Thorium Pyrophosphate.
It wasn't till the United States' nuclear weapons program in 1942, known as the Manhattan Project, that Thorium became useful. Until 1947, when the Atomic Energy Commission began to purchase the fertile heavy element from Wolff-Alport, and for the full 20-years prior, the Thorium waste was simply dumped into the area's sewers.

"Thorium waste dumped into the area's sewers." Amazing.


Original Submission

Adding Polymer Stabilizes Collapsing Metal-Organic Frameworks 2 comments

Metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) are a special class of sponge-like materials with nano-sized pores. The nanopores lead to record-breaking internal surface areas, up to 7800 m2 in a single gram. This feature makes MOFs extremely versatile materials with multiple uses, such as separating petrochemicals and gases, mimicking DNA, hydrogen production and removing heavy metals, fluoride anions, and even gold from water—to name a few.

One of the key features is pore size. MOFs and other porous materials are classified based on the diameter of their pores: MOFs with pores up to 2 nanometers in diameter are called "microporous," and anything above that is called "mesoporous." Most MOFs today are microporous, so they are not useful in applications that require them to capture large molecules or catalyze reactions between them—basically, the molecules don't fit the pores.

So more recently, mesoporous MOFs have come into play, because they show a lot of promise in large-molecule applications. Still, they aren't problem-free: When the major focus in the field is finding innovative ways to maximize MOF surface areas and pore sizes, addressing the collapsing problem is top priority.

[...] After adding the polymer to the MOFs, their high surface areas and crystallinity were maintained even after heating the MOFs at 150°C—temperatures that would previously be unreachable due to pore collapse. This new stability provides access to many more open metal coordination sites, which also increases the reactivity of the MOFs.


Original Submission

A Relatively Low-Cost, Energy-Efficient Approach to Treating Water Contaminated with Heavy Metals 15 comments

A new method for removing lead from drinking water: Engineers have designed a relatively low-cost, energy-efficient approach to treating water contaminated with heavy metals:

The new system is the latest in a series of applications based on initial findings six years ago by members of the same research team, initially developed for desalination of seawater or brackish water, and later adapted for removing radioactive compounds from the cooling water of nuclear power plants. The new version is the first such method that might be applicable for treating household water supplies, as well as industrial uses.

[...] The biggest challenge in trying to remove lead is that it is generally present in such tiny concentrations, vastly exceeded by other elements or compounds. For example, sodium is typically present in drinking water at a concentration of tens of parts per million, whereas lead can be highly toxic at just a few parts per billion. Most existing processes, such as reverse osmosis or distillation, remove everything at once, Alkhadra explains. This not only takes much more energy than would be needed for a selective removal, but it's counterproductive since small amounts of elements such as sodium and magnesium are actually essential for healthy drinking water.

The new approach uses a process called shock electrodialysis, in which an electric field is used to produce a shockwave inside an electrically charged porous material carrying the contaminated water. The shock wave propagates from one side to the other as the voltage increases, leaving behind a zone where the metal ions are depleted, and separating the feed stream into a brine and a fresh stream. The process results in a 95 percent reduction of lead from the outgoing fresh stream.

[...] The process still has its limitations, as it has only been demonstrated at small laboratory scale and at quite slow flow rates. Scaling up the process to make it practical for in-home use will require further research, and larger-scale industrial uses will take even longer.

Journal Reference:
Huanhuan Tian, Mohammad A. Alkhadra, Kameron M. Conforti, et al. Continuous and Selective Removal of Lead from Drinking Water by Shock Electrodialysis, ACS ES&T Water (DOI: 10.1021/acsestwater.1c00234)


Original Submission

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  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 01, @12:23PM (5 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 01, @12:23PM (#1217593)

    Great Lakes area, where you would never expect banana plants with big tropical leaves. A handful of years ago she found one on sale for a buck and on a whim bought it. It's very happy growing over the summer, multiplying by root propagation. Over winter the stalk & leaves are cut off near ground level and a half-meter of leaves are piled on top and generally starts up in the spring (we remove the leaves carefully).

    We also bring in one or two of the little ones and in a sunny window with lots of water they have grown up near the ceiling.

    Of course they never get tall enough to make bananas but that's OK, we like them as an interesting ornamental.

    • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 01, @01:47PM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 01, @01:47PM (#1217617)

      That would be a Musa basjoo or Japanese banana.
      They do not produce edible fruit.

      https://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?kempercode=d442 [missouribotanicalgarden.org]

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 01, @08:26PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 01, @08:26PM (#1217786)

        Thanks, that certainly looks like it. In the Great Lakes (N.A.) area we've never seen blooms or fruit of any kind, the warm season isn't long enough.

    • (Score: 2) by richtopia on Tuesday February 01, @03:44PM

      by richtopia (3160) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday February 01, @03:44PM (#1217674) Homepage Journal

      To be a wise ass, I believe bananas grow quite happily in the great lakes region: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/African_Great_Lakes [wikipedia.org]

      Understanding you mean the North American Great Lakes, my neighbor has a banana plant and similar experience at a similar latitude here in Oregon. He has a jacuzzi in the back yard and uses the leaves as a privacy screen. When there is a frost the leaves are destroyed, but for most of the year our cool Mediterranean climate lets the plant achieve a proper "tree" form.

    • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 01, @04:24PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 01, @04:24PM (#1217696)

      Great Lakes?? Iceland says hold my beer. [icelandmag.is]

    • (Score: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 01, @04:58PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 01, @04:58PM (#1217715)

      Banana plants evolved alongside Blacks and Latinos, which is why they multiply out of control even in areas you wouldn't expect.

      Canines also evolved around man, but only White men were smart enough to domesticate them. Blacks and Mexicans only started domesticating them after they invented choke-chains and dogfighting.

  • (Score: 0, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 01, @12:55PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 01, @12:55PM (#1217603)

    He can remove Mitchell and Young from Spotify.

    Imagine what he could do with heavy metal.

    • (Score: 4, Touché) by DeathMonkey on Tuesday February 01, @05:04PM

      by DeathMonkey (1380) on Tuesday February 01, @05:04PM (#1217717) Journal

      Joe Rogan on heavy metals?

      I'm guessing he could make money by telling dumb people that ingesting lead is totally fine!

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Rich on Tuesday February 01, @01:49PM (18 children)

    by Rich (945) on Tuesday February 01, @01:49PM (#1217619) Journal

    So you move the trace amounts of heavy metals into large amounts of organically grown biochar. After that it's no longer biochar, but toxic-char, and a lot of that. Where do you get rid of that?

    Maybe they could hydrate the waste with bio-hydrogen, siphon off the resulting alkanes and then process the smaller amount of residue for whatever is left over?

    • (Score: 0, Disagree) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 01, @02:14PM (8 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 01, @02:14PM (#1217628)

      They used to promote it for carbon capture and to increase soil fertility. It didn't do either. Now they're trying to push it for this. I've got no idea why some people are so hung up on effing charcoal.

      • (Score: 2) by ElizabethGreene on Tuesday February 01, @05:11PM (7 children)

        by ElizabethGreene (6748) on Tuesday February 01, @05:11PM (#1217721)

        Do you have any additional data on Biochar failing to increase soil fertility? I haven't followed up on that research in a while and my recollection is that the results were promising.

        • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 01, @08:10PM (6 children)

          by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 01, @08:10PM (#1217783)

          I don't feel like Googling it right now.

          After the hype, experiments were carried out by universities in the US for fertility changes with biochar added. Sometimes the biochar had no effect on fertility, and sometimes it decreased it. I don't think there were any significant cases of biochar making the soil more fertile. What you have to bear in mind is that biochar is quite porous and tended to lock away nutrients. bio char proponents are trying to mimic the fertile soils found in some parts of the Amazon jungle known as "terra preta do indio", or Indian black earth. These deposits are the result of basically garbage pits where a lot of organic matter was burned and tossed.

          As for carbon capture: the bio char is not that much in terms of mass for storing carbon and the carbon does not stay locked in place either.

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 01, @08:13PM

            by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 01, @08:13PM (#1217784)

            I believe the nitrogen was temporarily reduced after biochar was applied because the biochar encouraged its own decomposition. Could be wrong about the exact reason, but frequently, nitrogen was lowered in the soil.

          • (Score: 2) by DeathMonkey on Tuesday February 01, @10:04PM (4 children)

            by DeathMonkey (1380) on Tuesday February 01, @10:04PM (#1217831) Journal

            Maybe you should've tried that googling because the vast majority of the references I'm seeing indicate that it does work.

            For example:
            Biochar addition persistently increased soil fertility and yields in maize-soybean rotations over 10 years in sub-humid regions of Kenya [sciencedirect.com]

            • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 02, @12:12AM (3 children)

              by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 02, @12:12AM (#1217867)

              Experiments in the US which already has well-managed soil as well as a temperate climate have not shown a benefit.
              Maybe there is some benefit in specific climates where the soil is not being well managed. In the US, it is an old, common practice to apply "green manure" which is a crop of clover which is grown and then tilled back into the soil. This a accomplishes a few things: it adds nitrogen to the soil, adds carbon, and adds structure to keep the soil from compacting. Maybe the biochar is doing something similar in a tropical climate, but where the nitrogen would come from is only a guess.

              Biochar is not GENERALLY useful to increase crop yield. The experiments were done by ag depts in midwestern universities.

              As for carbon sequestration, that is just a joke; there isn't much biochar mass you can add to a plot of soil. Growing trees capture far more carbon per acre.

              • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 02, @07:11AM (2 children)

                by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 02, @07:11AM (#1217936)

                >As for carbon sequestration, that is just a joke; there isn't much biochar mass you can add to a plot of soil. Growing trees capture far more carbon per acre.

                First you grow the trees then you turn then into charcoal and plant new trees. There's your sequestration.

                • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 02, @12:46PM

                  by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 02, @12:46PM (#1217971)

                  An acre can store much more carbon in tree form because the trees are vertical. Scattered into chips and placed just under the soil as biochar is a far less dense packaging. Plus carbon stays locked in trees for many, many decades. In the soil, it can erode away. Plus you'd have to plow an entire field to bury the biochar, whereas with trees you need only dig a small hole per tree, if that.

                • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 04, @07:42PM

                  by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 04, @07:42PM (#1218801)
                  First you grow the trees then you convert them into actual papers on sequestration. And there's your sequestration.
    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Michael on Tuesday February 01, @02:46PM (1 child)

      by Michael (7157) on Tuesday February 01, @02:46PM (#1217640)

      Not sure what you're basing your characterisation of the amounts involved from, or how the biochar is sourced, but it doesn't reflect the experiments they actually did. It's all very well having a gut feeling about particular subjects, but it's also well to check if the conclusions you jump to make sense or correspond to the empirical evidence.

      Skimming the paper, it looks like a gram would adsorb the lead from a couple of thousand grams of water contaminated with a thousand times the epa drinking limit of lead. So unless you're defining organically grown as "any", lots as "0.05% per unit weight" and trace amounts as "your kids are now retarded", I don't see how that can be supported by the evidence.

      • (Score: 3, Informative) by Rich on Tuesday February 01, @05:18PM

        by Rich (945) on Tuesday February 01, @05:18PM (#1217726) Journal

        Skimming the paper, it looks like a gram would adsorb the lead from a couple of thousand grams of water contaminated with a thousand times the epa drinking limit of lead.

        They give 300mg/g adsorption limit for lead (much less for Cd), with the kinetics falling of past 150mg/g saturation, your (arbitrary, and pretty high) 1000x level (of the EPA 15ug) is 15mg/l. So at that level our g of bananacoal can de-tox 10000g = ~10l of water. But unless you're selling Evian, water is dealt with in cubic metres. And at that rate, 1m^3 of water will produce a pound of toxic waste that has to be dealt with further. For reference, the German Tesla factory will use over 1M m^3/a of water, so at such an industrial scale, we would end up with a million pounds (or 500 tons) of waste that have to be dealt with. I concede that it's probably not economical (at least for lead filtering) to run a large scale hydration plant and it might be more efficient to use the remaining carbon as a heat source to smelt out the 75 tons of lead. But with 5000 tons (as for Cd), I'd like to see the numbers run.

    • (Score: 2, Interesting) by istartedi on Tuesday February 01, @05:08PM (4 children)

      by istartedi (123) on Tuesday February 01, @05:08PM (#1217719) Journal

      Phytoremediation isn't new so I'm sure this has been thought of. I think the concentration of metals in the plants is considerably less than the soil they leach from. The upside is that the product isn't too toxic. The downside is that remediation takes several cycles. In the unlikely event it's so toxic that it's dangerous, you landfill the stuff. In most cases "the solution to pollution is dilution". The heavy metals in toxic sites would eventually diffuse in to the environment and not have a significant impact on the average concentration. They're just accelerating that process.

      • (Score: 3, Informative) by ElizabethGreene on Tuesday February 01, @05:19PM (2 children)

        by ElizabethGreene (6748) on Tuesday February 01, @05:19PM (#1217727)

        This isn't phytoremediation. The core process they describe is cleaning water with carbon like you do in a fishtank filter. That they are using biochar from banana waste biomass is noise around the edge of the core process.

        The interesting comparison I didn't see in the paper is "How does this compare to Activated Carbon"? If it costs 10% of what AC costs and works 90% as well then that would be very interesting.

        • (Score: 3, Informative) by DeathMonkey on Tuesday February 01, @05:22PM (1 child)

          by DeathMonkey (1380) on Tuesday February 01, @05:22PM (#1217732) Journal

          They don't quantify costs but they believe it will be cheaper since it's sourced from a waste stream. I think they wanted to find out if it actually works first.

          FTA

          Various types of conventional (e.g., activated carbon, amorphous silica, clay minerals, diatomite, biochar, zeolites, and polymers) and novel nanosized (e.g., carbon nanotubes, graphene oxide, and reduced graphene oxide) adsorbents have been developed for metal treatment4,7. Compared with biochar, activated carbon and nanomaterials are relatively more expensive, while other conventional adsorbents such as natural zeolite/clay minerals generally have low adsorption efficiency; meanwhile, nanomaterials are difficult to be retrieved after adsorption of heavy metals4. Development of green adsorbents such as biochar from waste recycling that possess local availability, low cost, and high adsorption efficiency would be an environmental-friendly approach for heavy metal remediation.

          • (Score: 3, Informative) by hubie on Tuesday February 01, @05:49PM

            by hubie (1068) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday February 01, @05:49PM (#1217743) Journal

            That is the part that I found interesting about this paper. They're starting from an existing waste stream and also state that banana stems and leaves contain high lignin and low cellulose, which makes them more preferred candidates over other biomaterials for making biochar material that is highly porous with high fixed carbon content.

      • (Score: 2) by DeathMonkey on Tuesday February 01, @05:19PM

        by DeathMonkey (1380) on Tuesday February 01, @05:19PM (#1217728) Journal

        This isn't phytoremediation.

        They're just making charcoal filters out of banana industry waste, basically.

    • (Score: 2) by DeathMonkey on Tuesday February 01, @05:17PM

      by DeathMonkey (1380) on Tuesday February 01, @05:17PM (#1217724) Journal

      Where do you get rid of that?

      Because the lead bonds with the biochar it is no longer leachable. So you can bury it safely* and it won't get into your groundwater.

      *Relatively speaking, you want to make sure the char itself doesn't escape because it does carry metals. But, it's a lot easier to keep solids in place compared to liquids.

    • (Score: 1, Troll) by crafoo on Tuesday February 01, @06:05PM

      by crafoo (6639) on Tuesday February 01, @06:05PM (#1217750)

      You just need to find somebody not-you to sell the bananas to. What's the problem?? ship them off for free. someone will take them. maybe China needs to feed their prisoners on the cheap.

  • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Tuesday February 01, @05:06PM

    by JoeMerchant (3937) on Tuesday February 01, @05:06PM (#1217718)
    --
    Україна не входить до складу Росії.
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