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Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) has designed and developed a new class of highperformance silica-based nanoporous functionalized sorbent materials with molecular recognition capabilities. These novel materials are created from a combination of synthetic nanoporous silica substrates that have specifically tailored pore sizes (2 to 10 nm) and very high surface areas (∼1000 m2/g) with self-assembled monolayers of well-ordered functional groups. These functionalized nanoporous materials that have high affinity and specificity for targeted free or complexed cations or anions and provide unprecedented capabilities for adsorbing and removing inorganic contaminants from surface and ground waters.

Recently, we conducted extensive tests on one type of functionalized nanoporous material (thiol- Self Assembled Monolayers on Mesoporous silica – thiol-SAMMS) designed for specifically removing heavy metal species such as cadmium, silver, mercury, and lead (Cd, Ag, Hg, and Pb) from contaminated waters. The data indicated that this novel material exhibited highly favorable adsorption characteristics such as, exceptionally high metal loading (∼100 – 600 mg of contaminant metal/g of sorbent), very fast kinetics (>99% adsorption in <1 min of contact time), and significant specificity (Kd ∼103 – 106 ml/g). The unique ionic and molecular recognition characteristics of these novel nanomaterials enables them to outperform commercially available sorbents in removing heavy metals from contaminated water and waste streams. Additionally, EPA TCLP tests have shown that once specifically bonded, the extracted contaminants are not mobilizable to any significant degree from these novel nanomaterials.

Preliminary material lifetime cost comparisons for heavy metal removal indicates that due to their better performance characteristics, using novel nanomaterials would result in significant savings in remediation costs as compared to the use of conventional adsorbents such as resins and activated carbon.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2003-01-01

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