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Rusting iron key to contaminant clean up

AN ULTRAFINE 'nanoscale' powder made from iron is proving an effective tool for cleaning contaminated soil and groundwater.

The findings are the result of eight years of work with the material by Professor Wei-xiam Zhang from Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, funded by the National Science Foundation.

Iron's cleansing qualities stem from the fact that it rusts, or oxidises. In the presence of contaminants such as trichloroethene and, carbon tetrachloride, dioxins or PCBs, the organic molecules are caught up in the reaction and broken down into simple, less toxic carbon compounds.

With the material available in such abundance, many companies may now use a coarse form of metallic iron powder to purify wastes, according to Zhang.

lFor details visit www. nsf. gov

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