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:: Serendipity and Sugar Could Clean Up Cyanide
A University of Melbourne chemist has helped develop a sugar-based artificial mineral that could sponge up oil spills and replace cyanide in gold mining.
Mick Moylan, a research chemist and PhD student at the University of Melbourne, is helping University colleagues develop a new class of materials that could spawn an industry for custom catalysts, molecular sieves and materials for nanotechnology. Their latest invention was made almost by accident.
"I started with chemicals derived from sugar cane and fruit pectins, and metals including cobalt and zinc and discovered that I'd made crystals with microscopic pores that are less than a millionth of a millimetre wide," says Moylan.
Moylan has been testing the ability of these crystals to suck up pollution. The pores in the crystals are about the same size as some common environmental contaminants. Early tests indicate the crystals can act like sponges to absorb some oily chemicals and corrosives into the tiny pores.
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