Substances that are released into our environment become contaminants that raise major environmental concerns if they are for example persistent, bio-accumulative with potentially toxic characteristics. These substances may also be very mobile and can, for example, leach to groundwater and contaminate drinking water reservoirs. With knowledge of mechanistic properties of such substances, appropriate strategies can be developed for prevention of pollution and for the remediation and protection of the environment and human health.

Neutron scattering techniques can be used to gain a mechanistic understanding of the adsorption and the leaching of such substances on a molecular scale, the association of substances in solution and binding at environmentally relevant surfaces. This knowledge can be used to generate accurate guidelines for different pollutants, and enable better predictions of the distribution of pollutants, and how to treat and remediate contaminated sites.

Some examples of the Swedish research in the area include developing new filters to purify water:

Using mesoporous silica and membrane proteins, by Martin Andersson’s group at Chalmers Technological University

Using multilayered graphene oxide materials, by Alexandr Talyxin at Umeå University

Biomolecules present in nature can find new applications. These include the discovery of compounds of high pharmaceutical value, but also that come with surprising applications. Neutron scattering can be used to address their structure as well as their mechanism of action.

One such example is that of a plant proteins that turned out to have potential as alternative glue, which was studied by Prof. Adrian Rennie’s group at Uppsala Univerisity Read more...