Synthetic Coral To Clean The Seas?

Researchers in China have devised a method (and a material) that uses biomimicry to filter industrial pollutants out of sea water like coral.

Biomimetic self-curled nanoplates assembled coral-like nanoporous γ-Al2O3 has been prepared by a solvothermal method using ethylene glycol (EG)single bondH2O as the mixed solvent, followed by the annealing process. The resulting samples are composed of micro/nanostructured units (∼1.5 μm) with self-curled porous nanoplates on the surface. The volume ratio of EG to water in precursor solution is crucial for the formation of coral-like structure. The formation process is investigated to be an assembly process with self-curled nanoplates driven by adsorption of EG. Importantly, the coral-like porous γ-Al2O3 has high surface area of 64.18 m2/g and exhibits enhanced adsorption performance for efficient removal of heavy metal Hg(II) (49.15 mg/g).
(From Self-curled coral-like γ-Al2O3 nanoplates for use as an adsorbent)

“Adsorption is an easy way to remove pollutants from water, so developing new products that can do this is a big challenge in environmental remediation,” said Dr. Xianbiao Wang, one of the authors of the study from Anhui Jianzhu University in China. “The chemical and physical structure of such products is very important, it is interesting to design and fabricate adsorbents with different structures to see how they behave. In particular, materials that mimic biological adsorbents like coral have potentially huge applications.”

The researchers tested the coral-like nanoplates on removing mercury from water. They found that the coral-like structure removed around 2.5 times more mercury from water than the traditional aluminium oxide nanoparticles.

“We are very excited about the results, which provide a good example for the production of coral-like adsorbents,” said Dr. Wang. “We hope our work provides inspiration for more research into the development of materials that mimic biological organisms.”
(From Synthetic Coral Could Remove Toxic Heavy Metals From the Ocean)

Fans of Neal Stephenson's 1995 novel The Diamond Age may be reminded of the smartcoral reef that pulled drinkable water out of the South China Sea.

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