Sulphur gas remediation over metal oxide nanoparticles

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  • Published: Oct 29, 2013
  • Author: Steve Down
  • Channels: Raman / X-ray Spectrometry / Base Peak / Chemometrics & Informatics / MRI Spectroscopy / Infrared Spectroscopy / NMR Knowledge Base / Proteomics / UV/Vis Spectroscopy / Atomic

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All eyes have been on Syria lately, especially following revelations of the use of nerve gas sarin. Inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in the OPCW-UN Joint Mission to the country have just completed verification activities at 21 of the 23 declared sites, the others being currently inaccessible due to security issues. Now the chemical weapons stores must be destroyed safely.

While processes exist to accomplish the destruction of sarin and other weapons of mass destruction, scientists are always on the lookout for more efficient procedures. Indian scientists at the Defence Research and Development Establishment and Jiwaji University have been examining the disposal of sulphur mustard, which is another chemical weapon that is, unfortunately, still in use today. Earlier this year, Libya announced that it had disposed of sulphur mustard that was stored in bulk in transportation containers at Ruwagha. This brought the total amount of Category 1 chemical weapons destroyed by Libya to 22.3 metric tonnes, equivalent to 85% of the total declared stocks.

Writing in Environmental Progress & Sustainable Energy, the researchers explained how they broke down sulphur mustard with the help of manganese oxide nanoparticles in the form of nanobelts, which were aggregated in porous structures like a house of cards. When sulphur mustard was dried on the surface of the nanomaterial and irradiation with sunlight, it was converted completely to other compounds within 8 hours.

A GC/MS analysis of the products found no sulphur mustard. It was converted to acetaldehyde, carbon dioxide, sulphur mustard sulphoxide, chloroethyl vinyl sulphide and other sulphides which do not possess the properties of sulphur mustard. UV-A light behaved in a similar manner but was less efficient, converting 95% of the agent within 24 hours.

The process was more efficient over this catalyst than zinc oxide or titanium dioxide nanomaterials. The material became poisoned after four cycles of use but could be regenerated by washing.

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