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Magnetic particles filter arsenic out of drinking water

Tuesday, November 14, 2006 by: Jerome Douglas
Tags: water filters, water purification, arsenic


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(NewsTarget) Researchers found that tiny magnetic particles could help purify water of arsenic. The U.S. researchers from Rice University reported their research in the journal Science, stating that when a strong magnet is placed near arsenic particles, they clump together like iron filings on a magnet's surface, and are easy to remove.

The team confirmed that places like Bangladesh -- where 60 million citizens drink water daily -- could greatly benefit from the newer discovery. The team produced iron oxide particles that were just 12 nanometers (a billionth of a meter) across -- or about 5,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair. When these particles were mixed in water contaminated with arsenic, the arsenic attached to them.

The research team from Rice University didn't expect that such small magnets would work so well: "We were surprised to find that we didn't need large electromagnets to move our nanoparticles, and that in some cases hand-held magnets could do the trick" said Professor Doug Natelson, a co-author of the report.

"The arsenic sticks to the surface of the particles, and what we've found is that when the nanoparticles are in the right range of sizes, you can pull them out of solution with a relatively small magnetic field gradient that you could get from, say, a permanent magnet."

Professor Natelson concluded the research by saying "I wouldn't say it's absolutely free, but it's much freer of arsenic."

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