RICHLAND -- Popular Science magazine was impressed enough with a technology developed at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland to name it one of 2009's best 100 technologies.
The technology, a nanomaterial that absorbs toxic metals, not only made the top 100 list, but it also was the grand award winner for green technologies.
Self-Assembled Monolayers on Mesoporous Supports, or SAMMS, was developed at the Richland lab in the 1990s and licensed to Steward Advanced Materials of Tennessee by Battelle, which manages the national lab.
The version marketed by Steward Advanced Materials can make mercury-tainted water 100 times as clean as any other method for about half the cost, according to the article in the magazine's December issue.
Never miss a local story.
Each grain of the company's product, thiol-SAMMS, is "a carefully engineered molecular sponge designed to absorb more than half its weight in mercury," the magazine said.
SAMMS powder consists of tiny ceramic grains with microscopic, spongelike holes.
Each grain is covered with a single layer of densely packed molecules that collect other, toxic molecules.
The thiol-SAMMS version of the powder is covered with sulfur, which easily binds to mercury and absorbs it into the grain's pores.
The mercury-laden SAMMS is stable and can be disposed of in a landfill.
SAMMS has successfully removed toxic metals from waste water, including at a coal plant, on an offshore oil rig and at a chemical manufacturer.
In addition to absorbing mercury, SAMMS also can be used to absorb lead, chromium and radionuclides in radioactive waste.