A chemistry laboratory in Canada has created a material with surprising properties: a new form of calcite capable of absorbing water, oil and dyes.
Scientists of the Memorial University of Newfoundland in St John's discovered this new super sponge-like calcium carbonate after treating mussel shell scraps with dilute acetic acid. The team was trying to create an antifreeze for the treatment of roads in winter and instead came across this new material that can be very useful for a cleaner sea.
Their results were published in Cell Press Matter magazine.
A super sponge for a clean sea
The amazing material can absorb up to 10 times its mass in liquids, which means it can also absorb contaminants like oil and dyes.
It is an exciting new perspective for projects aiming at a cleaner sea. Pending mass production, the team also suggests the use of the super sponge for biomedical uses or in the administration of drugs.
As mentioned, the team discovered the new material by grinding scraps from mussel shells into dilute acetic acid. After leaving them overnight, the scientists noticed that they had turned into white spongy pads when wet, and a kind of cotton ball when dry.
“I knew that the water-soaked material had to be calcium carbonate. There was nothing else, chemically. However, I had no idea why it was forming with a sponge-like consistency, "said Dr. Jennifer murphy, who worked on the project at Memorial University and was the first to discover the material.
Using X-ray diffraction and scanning electron microscopy, the team found that the material obtained from mussel waste consists of a nest-like 'calcite crystal formation'.
It is difficult to replicate inorganic materials in the same way as many organisms, such as mussels do. This is how we realized that the prisms were breaking free from their shells and recombining to form the soft calcite material ”.Jennifer murphy, Memorial University