Researchers find safe way to deal with broken CFLs

Posted by Laura Grant on July 2, 2008
Posted in Green News

Compact fluorescent lightbulbs are one of the easiest ways to reduce energy consumption, but there are concerns about their safety because of the small amounts of mercury (3 to 5 milligrams) CFLs contain. The mercury can be released as a vapour when the bulbs are broken. It can also reportedly escape from plastic bags containing discarded bulbs, which poses environmental problems with the disposal and storage.

Researchers at Brown University in the United States report that they have discovered a nanomaterial that can absorb the mercury emitted from a broken CFL. They have created a mercury-absorbent lining that can be used in CFL packaging.

“The packaging can be placed over the area where a bulb has been broken to absorb the mercury vapour emanating from the spill, or it can capture the mercury of a bulb broken in the box,” according to a media release.

The researchers also have designed a lining for plastic bags that soaks up the mercury from CFL shards that are thrown away. The mercury-absorbent packaging and the lined plastic bags can be safely discarded and recycled, the researchers say.

The researchers discovered that a variant of a substance called nanoselenium – a form of selenium – absorbed virtually all the mercury emitted from a broken CFL. The selenium atoms bond with the mercury atoms to form mercury selenide (HgSe), a stable, benign nanoparticle compound, says Engineering professor Robert Hurt, who lead the research team.

“More work is needed,” Hurt says, “but this appears to be an inexpensive solution that can remove most of the safety concerns associated with CFL bulbs.”

Via :: Science Daily


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