Smart pipe coating could remove mercury from water

Friday, 18 March, 2022 | Supplied by: Flinders University

Smart pipe coating could remove mercury from water

Flinders University researchers have developed a smart polymer coating for PVC pipes that is designed to absorb mercury out of the water passing through them. Derived from low-cost chemicals from oil refining and other sources, the coating can also prevent metal corrosion and solvent damage of plastic PVC pipes, as well as preventing acid and water damage of concrete surfaces. Additionally, it is able to be repaired in situ with a simple heating process.

“Made easily from elemental sulfur and dicyclopentadiene (DCPD is a by-product of petroleum refining), this new coating is multi-functional which gives us wide scope to use it in a wide range of useful ways and for longer-lasting industrial products and components,” said Flinders University PhD candidate Max Mann, lead author of the study.

“This exciting new area of research extends fundamental chemistry to several practical applications.”

The polymer coating having a multi-functional purpose of protecting pipes as well as removing toxic metals from water means it may be usable in a range of different sectors.

“The method for making the coating is safer than methods previously used for related coatings. The team developed a lower temperature process that prevented runaway reactions,” added co-author University of Liverpool researcher Dr Bowen Zhang.

When the coating becomes scratched or damaged at all, it can be repaired with the application of heat owing to its structure that allows sulfur bonds to be broken and reformed.

“The unique chemical composition of the smart coating enables protection of substrates, active removal of toxic mercury species from water and oil, and is repairable which ensures its sustainability,” said Flinders Professor Justin Chalker, pictured above, from the Institute of Nanoscale Science and Technology at Flinders University.

“The coating is solvent resistant and can also remove mercury from oil and water mixtures, which is of importance to remediation in the petroleum and gas industry.”

The paper ‘Processes for coating surfaces with a copolymer made from sulfur and dicyclopentadiene’ was published as the cover story of Polymer Chemistry.

Image credit: Randy Larcombe, Department of Innovation and Skills (SA Government)

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