Self-assembled monolayers on mesoporous silica (SAMMS) technology for mercury reduction

Award Year 

Mercury contamination poses a serious threat to the environment and human health. Researchers from Pacific North-west National Laboratory (PNNL) have developed an innovative technology that quickly and easily reduces or removes mercury content without creating hazard-ous waste or by-products, and that can be disposed of as a nonhazardous waste. SAMMS is simple, inexpensive and easy to use; it is highly adaptable for use in re-ducing and removing other contaminants from soil and water; and it (more) has numerous applications, including water treatment, waste stabilization, and metal processing and finishing. It is also significantly faster, more effective, and far less expensive than other mercury removal methods used in the past. The PNNL team has demon-strated innovative research and incredible teamwork in developing the initial technol-ogy, and in developing adaptations to expand its ap-plications. PNNL pro-a c t i v e l y p u r s u e d broad trans-fer of the technology to multiple fields of use based on a “technology portfolio” approach, which provides a source of dedicated sup-port to research staff and management in developing opportunities to enhance or create commercial products from PNNL-derived technologies. Various methods of technology transfer are employed, with the ultimate goal to provide broad-based returns from deployment of PNNL intellec-tual assets.The team first researched and selected a subset of emerging environmental is-sues. The strategy then was to develop a portfolio of products based on the ba-sic SAMMS technology. The initial issues selected included treatment of arsenic in drinking water and treatment of mercury associated with industrial processes and wastes. In each area, the team conducted “proof-of-principle” experiments to demonstrate the viability of SAMMS as a poten-tial solution. The results of these experi-ments were then documented in a variety of ways, including brochures, the SAMMS website, presentations at selected indus-trial conferences, and technical literature. Then opportunities were sought to pres-ent information about the technology to appropriate audiences and relationships with industry partners such as Steward Advanced Materials, Chevron (formerly Unocal), Molycorp, and PECO were de-veloped. Articles on the technology have been fea-tured in numerous high-profile scientific, technical and trade publications, includ-ing Science, Environmental Health Per-spectives, TechComm magazine, Envi-ronmental Science & Technology, Water and Wastewater magazine, Small Time, and even Business Week. The technol-ogy was honored with an R&D 100 award recognizing the 100 most technologically significant products and advancements in the world, and was a finalist in the environ-mental category in Discover magazine’s annual awards for technological innova-tion. (less)