DIAT finds a polymer, worth its weight in gold
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The Defence Institute of Advanced Technology (DIAT) has developed a cost-effective way of treating waste water and filtering out ions of hazardous and heavy metals. The polymer-based product in turn led to an interesting discovery. It can separate fine gold particles from industrial water and chemical waste.
The 'cost effective polymer matrix system', as the city based DRDO lab calls it, also incorporates some naturally available additives such as coir (made of coconut husk), molasses, jute, citrus peels and cellulosics.
The polymer assembly can filter fine gold particles or nano-gold particles which are 2 to 4 nanometre in size (a nanometre if a billionth of a metre). This gold has uses in anti-aging and bio-medical patches, anti-fungal and anto-bacterial fabrics and more importantly sensors that can be employed in defence equipment.
A provisional patent had been filed for the find in July 2012.
Talking to The Indian Express, Balasubramanian K, head, Materials Engineering, DIAT said, "The project started when I decided to work on developing a user-friendly, cost-effective way of waste-water treatment. I had a PhD student to help me and we developed a polymer that could filter hazardous metallic ions like mercury, arsenic, copper, nickel, cobalt and chromium. I showed the results to Dr Prahlada, vice-chancellor, DIAT who advised me to take it to the next stage of development."
Meanwhile, two IITians, Fuhar Dixit and Tushar Sahetya, found Balasubramanian's work interesting while browsing the DIAT website and approached him for development of synthetic polymers. "After successful results with other ions, we decided to try the polymer on gold ions. The concentration of gold is measurable in parts per billion, which is miniscule. We kept the polymer in the dye (industrial waste) for over 24 hours and interestingly found pinkish deposits on the polymer. Gold, on the other hand should have been yellow. But nano-gold has pinkish colour and the deposits on our polymer were nothing but nano-gold. On the same day, I filed a provisional patent," said Balasubramanian who was also helped in the project by PhD students Gauri Shelar, Sachin Jadhav, Neeta Dhavale and Renuka Gonte, Jyothi Mumbrekar, Premika G from DIAT.
Next came the tests and the team took the polymer to the river Ganga near Varanasi and tried it on the textile- industrial waste that enters the river. The results were replicated. Compared to conventional effluent-treatment methods, the polymer is a time-saving technique, says Balasubramanian. The added advantage of the polymer is that it can be reused after recovering the gold ions. "An Ethiopian student, Andrew Andarge, told me that water in his country contains toxic chromium where the polymer may find great use. We also plan to make use of the polymer in the Mula and Mutha rivers," said Balasubramanian.
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