New technology could clean toxic messes from mines and create electricity at the same time. Contaminated water seeping from coal and metal mines is a serious environmental hazard that endangers the safety of drinking water supplies and the health of plants and animals. This caustic pollution loaded with metals such as arsenic, lead, copper, iron and cadmium is currently difficult and costly to treat.
Environmental engineers at Pennsylvania State University are now developing a device that could both fight this environmental problem and provide a new source of energy. The researchers tested a lab-scale version of their invention on fluids tainted with iron, similar to polluted water from mines. The device attacked the dissolved iron, removing electrons from it. This generated electricity while at the same time making the iron insoluble, thus efficiently pulling this contaminant from the water.