A team of scientists have discovered that white graphene, a next-generation material also known as boron nitride, is a powerful pollutant absorber that can be used multiple times. The findings were published yesterday in Nature Communications, and show that a porous, single-atom layer of the material can absorb up to 33 times its own weight of certain industrial chemicals, and up to 29 times its own weight of engine oil.
The substance, which looks like a coarse white powder, sits on top of the water after it has attracted the pollutants. Heating the material either in an industrial furnace, or simply by setting fire to it, removes the pollutants from the sheet, which can then be used again. And again.
The breakthrough is a joint effort between researchers at two universities, the Institute for Frontier Materials at Deakin University in Australia and the Pierre and Marie Curie University in France. Provided the treatment is cost effective, white graphene, the authors wrote, could be “suitable for a wide range of applications in water purification and treatment.”