A team of chemists has created a new porous material that's extremely effective at sopping up mercury. Called a chalcogenide aerogel or simply a chalcogel, the material could be used as a filter for cleaning contaminated drinking water. The material's versatility also makes it a good candidate for a wide range of other applications, including the production of hydrogen fuel.
Mercouri Kanatzidis of Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., and his colleagues have created several chalcogels by, in each case, combining two ingredients. One ingredient is always a chalcogenide—a compound containing at least one of the elements sulfur, selenium, or tellurium, which lie directly below oxygen in the periodic table, and at least one positively charged element. The second ingredient includes platinum, which links the chalcogenide molecules.