Researchers from Edith Cowan University have developed reusable ‘metallic glass’ that can strip impurities from water in minutes, offering a wastewater solution for mining and other industries.
It was created by modifying the atomic structure of iron in a breakthrough recently documented in the journal Advanced Functional Materials.
A thin strip of the metallic glass – developed by Associate Professor Laichang Zhang from ECU’s School of Engineering – can remove impurities such as dyes or heavy metals from highly polluted water within a few minutes. (View this process here)
“It works by binding the atoms of the dye or heavy metals to the ribbon, leaving behind useable water,” Professor Zhang said.
“This offers a number of benefits compared to the current method of using iron powder to treat wastewater. Firstly, using iron powder leaves you with a large amount of iron sludge that must be stored. Secondly it is expensive to produce and can only be used once.
“In contrast, the iron-based metallic glass we have developed can be reused up to 20 times, produces no waste iron sludge and can be produced as cheaply a few dollars per kilogram.”
Metallic glass gets its name because its atomic structure resembles that of glass.
Whereas the atomic structure of traditional metals is very ordered, with the atoms forming a grid like structure, metallic glass atoms have a much more disorganised composition.
“It is this disordered atomic structure that gives metallic glass its very interesting and useful characteristics,” Professor Zhang said.
Professor Zhang said the technology could have significant applications in the textile and mining industries.
“We have already had significant interest from companies in both China and Australia who are keen to work with us to develop this technology, including Ausino Drilling Services, whose clients include Rio Tinto and the Aluminium Corporation of China.”
The scientific paper published in Advanced Functional Materials can be viewed here