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A view from the West

Featuring food, fuel and the future in Jersey

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Nitrates in water

The levels of nitrates in the ground water in Jersey is a long standing problem.  Treatment or removal is not a simple cheap thing, and it has long been the case that avoidance is the best  option.  However some interesting ideas from Rice University might beget a solution (other than reed beds!)  http://news.rice.edu/2018/01/04/rice-u-s-one-step-catalyst-turns-nitrates-into-water-and-air-2/

Their research suggests nonparticles of gold  spotted with palladium can break apart the chemical bonds in nitrates. The result is oxygen and nitrogen gases - both components of air .  It sounds promising.  But there's a potential a catch.  Gold is pretty inert and probably harmless as a metal to most lifeforms, You'd think the nanoparticles are safe too. But that's the problem. Nanoparticles can have distinct properties.  Not only can this change the chemiistry - as in this example, but also they are of a size to be mechanically important in blocking some fine biological functions. It is an area where we still don't really know  enough .  And there is one other problem, a big one to my mind.  Once in the 'wild' we have no way to recall or  recover these nanoparticles.  If we later discover an unexpected deleterious consequence to two we have no remedy.

So this  nanoparticle catalyst looks like an inteting area of reserch, but if I were mindful of public safety and ecology I still opt for  ion exchange or red beds for the forseeable future.