Nanotechnology against environmental contamination
Research reveals mechanisms of action of iron nanoparticles used in aquifer decontamination
Chlorinated hydrocarbons are among the most persistent contaminants in groundwater reserves – aquifers – worldwide. The problem is characteristic of industrialized regions, where substances were widely used, until the 1980s, as solvents, degreasers, in enamels for car painting and in dry cleaning, among other applications. Very small amounts of these pollutants are enough to make these waters unfit for human consumption, as they cause damage to the kidneys and liver, and cancer.
The usual technologies for removing this type of pollutant involve the treatment of water after it is brought to the surface. However, in addition to its high cost, this method does not fully solve the problem, as there will always be a volume of contaminant remaining on the subsurface. Because they are denser than water, chlorinated hydrocarbons sink until they reach a less permeable region, usually the bed of an aquifer. There, in the pores of the rocks, the pollutants persist for many years and are slowly carried by the waters, contaminating regions far from the source.