Researchers from the University of Alberta used nano humus, a substance extracted from coal mine deposits, to remove heavy metals from contaminated water and soil.
Lead researcher Yihan Zhao said the nano humus, which is extracted from coal mine deposits and then crushed to a powdery material, works like a sponge that attaches and holds heavy metals.
Zhao tested the substance on waste water containing cadmium—a heavy metal commonly produced in mining—and found that about 90% of the toxic heavy metal was removed after just 15 minutes.
"It's rapid, safe and effective," said Zhao.
"The fact that we can use a waste material to reclaim an area that produces it is exciting," added project supervisor Anne Naeth, director of Future Energy Systems and professor of land reclamation and restoration ecology.
Zhao noted that nano humus can be used for remediation and contribute to soil-building by replacing the bulkier materials typically used.
"The huge amounts of these standard materials we need to apply has always been an issue for their use in land reclamation. Using nano humus reduces the amount of material we need and makes it much easier to transport and apply."