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July 26th, 2007
Cleaning up contaminated water is big business. World demand for treatment is forecast to increase 6 percent per year through 2009 to more than $35 billion, according to a 2006 report by research firm Freedonia.
A new generation of nanotechnology companies is focused squarely on this market, using nanoparticles that form chemical bonds with contaminants and don't let go. Thiol-SAMMS, a powder first developed by Battelle Labs for the Department of Energy, was brought to market last year by Steward Environmental Solutions of Chattanooga, Tenn. It can suck up 60 percent of its own weight in mercury, arsenic, lead, and other metals and is so absorbent that a single tablespoonful has the same surface area as a football field.
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