New Aussie Wonder Material Is Recyclable, Can Purify Water and Aid Construction

New Aussie Wonder Material Is Recyclable, Can Purify Water and Aid Construction

Researchers at Flinders University have developed a wonder material that can be used to purify water, as a lightweight machine component and as a recyclable construction material.

It’s made from magnetic iron particles and a sulphur-rich polymer, along with unsaturated plant oil, like canola oil.

These ingredients, which can be recycled and used again instead of going into landfill, are mixed together and hot-pressed to then create the key material.

The material can be moved around remotely by a magnet, a property added to it by the iron particles in the mixture, which has the researchers optimistic about its applications. The iron particles also make the material easier to break down for recycling.

As the video below explains, it could be used to create bricks, construction materials or machine parts, but having a magnetic property makes things especially interesting.

“This study illustrates the expanding utility and reach of sulphur-rich polymers,” said Professor Justin Chalker from Flinders University.

“Heavy metal remediation, novel construction materials and light-weight and recyclable machine components were all made from this single, versatile material.”

One of the fields that the research team believe the material could be used in is soft robotics: small robotics with compliant links instead of rigid parts. Previous innovations in soft robotics have included the use of spider corpses and smart textiles.

But really, this new innovation has so many opportunities. On purifying water, the magnetic property of the material makes it so that harmful substances, such as mercury, can be removed from the fluid easily.

The research team tried this with mine tailings and were able to retrieve mercury from the fluid by binding it to the material (in a powdered form).

“This is a simple way to remove toxic metals from complex mixtures,” added Doctor Nicholas Lundquist from Flinders University.

“I’m very excited about the possible new applications of these polymers and can envision uptake in different fields, from environmental remediation to robotics.”

If it’s easier to break down than modern machine parts and building components while also giving us a magnetic benefit for specific applications, then it’s absolutely worth exploring.

The world is on fire and we’re gonna need sustainable ideas like this.

You can read the research paper on Flinders University’s wonder material in Polymer Chemistry.

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