Scientists have developed a capsule that can be dropped into water, milk, fruit juices and other foods to remove more than a dozen radioactive substances.
The development of the capsule, announced at the 243rd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society this week, comes amid growing concerns about possible terrorist attacks with nuclear materials and just one year after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan.
Oklahoma State University scientists who developed the capsule said it could be used on a large scale by food processors or by consumers at the home.
Allen Apblett, who led the research, said the team’s work is based on a “tried-and-true process” that originally was developed to remove uranium and heavy metals from heavily contaminated water.
“The accident at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan and ongoing concerns about possible terrorist use of nuclear materials that may contaminate food and water led us to shift the focus of this technology," he said.
Apblett noted the technology also can remove arsenic, lead, cadmium and other heavy metals from water and fruit juices.
Tiny “nanoparticles” of metal oxides -- various metals combined with oxygen -- are the key ingredients in the process. The particles, so small that hundreds would fit on the period at the end of this sentence, react with radioactive materials to remove them.
Researchers envision packaging the metal-oxide nanoparticles inside a capsule similar to a pill, so they could be stirred into a container of contaminated water or fruit juice. Radioactive metals would be drawn into the capsule, which would then be removed from the beverage.