Scientists from EPFL (A research institute & university in Switzerland) along with colleagues at UC-Berkeley & Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have developed a way to remove toxic heavy metals from water in a matter of seconds, making it drinkable. The solution uses metal organic frameworks (MOFs), which are materials made up of metal nodes interlinked by organic chemical ‘struts’. The MOFs have the unique ability to “pull” water vapor and other gases from the air. These same features make them promising materials also for selectively removing heavy metals from water. The final MOF composite, named Fe-BTC/PDA, can quickly and selectively remove high amounts of heavy metals like lead and mercury from real-world water samples. It was tested in solutions comparable to the worst water samples found in Flint, Michigan and in a matter of seconds reduced the lead levels to drinkable, as deemed by US EPA & WHO standards.
According to the World Health Organization, nearly 1 billion people don’t have access to clean drinking water, and that number is expected to grow due to climate change, our increasing energy needs, and our use of heavy metals in industrial processes. This discovery could be incredibly beneficial for in-home or wastewater treatment technologies, especially in the event of an impending water crisis.