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August 03, 2018 Friday 12:12:03 PM IST

New “sponge” to clear rivers

Science Innovations

Dyes are widely used in industries such as textiles, cosmetics, food processing, papermaking and plastics. Globally, we produce about 700,000 metric tons -- the weight of two Empire State Buildings -- of dye each year to color our clothing, eye shadow, toys and vending machine candy. Even just a little added color can block sunlight and prevent plant photosynthesis, which disrupts the entire aquatic ecosystem. A team led by the University of Washington has created an environmentally friendly way to remove color from dyes in water in a matter of seconds. The technique was described in a paper published online in June in the journal Applied Catalysis B: Environmental.

The research team developed a method that removes color from water using a sponge-like material they created from wood pulp and small bits of metal. Cellulose, the main structure in plant cell walls and the most abundant natural material on Earth, provides the backbone of the material, which is decorated with tiny pieces of palladium. This metal serves as a catalyst to help remove color quickly. They change the color of the dye by chemical reaction instead of removing the dye completely from water.

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