Researchers at Graphene Flagship associated member, Palacký University Olomouc in the Czech Republic, have shown graphene decorated with carboxylic groups extract has the potential to remove different types of metallic pollutant from water. Funded by a European Research Council (ERC) consolidator grant, the Partnering Project 2D-CHEM has the potential to solve one of the largest water challenges – pollution by heavy metals.
The World Health Organization estimates half of the world’s population will be living in water-stressed areas by 2025, and heavy metal contamination is among the primary threats to aquatic ecosystems and human health. Yet, the most economically advantageous method for metal removal from water is sorption, the chemical process of attaching one substance to another.
However, current sorption technologies are often inefficient in capturing heavy metals in water. As part of the Graphene Flagship’s efforts, the project has succeeded in producing a sorbent with graphene acid, an ultra-thin organic acid that offers excellent biocompatibility, conductivity and dispersibility in water.
The discovery comes after years of working on strategies to chemically synthesise graphene derivatives, which cannot be obtained by direct functionalisation of graphene itself. The researchers prepared graphene acid starting from fluorographene, using a technique developed at the Graphene Flagship associated member, Palacký University Olomouc, by replacing fluorine with other chemical elements to obtain the desired graphene derivative.