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Airdate: Apr 14, 2016
Scientist: Nadine Kabengi

Soil - Nano Attraction

Soil - Nano Attraction
Can iron nanoparticles be used to clean up toxic waste?

Soil Nano Attraction

Soil has the ability to attract and hold on to different substances some supportive of life, like phosphorus and nitrogen, some poisonous like uranium and arsenic. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

Kabengi: And that's what makes soil so unique. And so when we want to study the relationship between a contaminant and the soil, we tend to see how strong that attraction is.

Nadine Kabengi is an assistant professor of geochemistry at Georgia State University. She says that certain nanoparticles tiny bits of matter, may have an attractive force greater than that of soil.

Kabengi: So an exciting possibility of nanotechnology is using iron oxide nanoparticles to clean up some of the contamination that exists in soil. Nanoparticles are very reactive, much more reactive than the soil. And so in this case you are giving the contaminant a surface that perhaps it may like more.
Iron oxide nanoparticles have been injected in the soil and have been followed to see what's going to happen to (the) contaminant. The good thing is some of `these iron oxides are magnetic in nature, so you inject them in the soil. Hopefully, they soak up the contaminant and then use a magnet to remove them from the soil and then have a much lower volume of contamination. It doesn't always work, because once you inject these magnetic nanoparticles in the soil, they're finding difficulties in getting it out. But that's the idea. There's so many uses of these iron nanoparticles -- filtering water, designing local filters for cleaning the arsenic in the water in Bangladesh. But this is one advance where nanotechnology have been used in a practical way in the field.

Pulse of the Planet is made possible in part by the Center for Earth and Environmental Nanotechnology and the National Science Foundation. You can hear this and previous programs on our podcast.