Create a free Manufacturing.net account to continue

Study: Industrial Pollutants Could be Turned Into Pigments, Medications

German chemists this week detailed a new system that could cleanse industrial exhaust of harmful pollutants and convert them into new products.

German chemists this week detailed a new system that could cleanse industrial exhaust of harmful pollutants and convert them into new products.

The study, conducted by researchers from the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg and published in Chemistry -- A European Journal, identified an efficient method to both capture nitrogen oxides and synthesize them into pharmaceutical compounds.

Nitrogen oxides are produced by combustion engines in cars, power plants, factories and other facilities. Although companies and utilities take complicated steps to curb or capture those emissions, they nonetheless contribute to smog, acid rain and related health and environmental issues.

In the study, researchers simulated the conversion of copper to copper nitrate and used a tube-shaped gas washer to curb nitrogen oxide concentrations in the resulting exhaust by 99.7 percent.

"This is a remarkable value, but of course we've only achieved it in the laboratory environment," said chemist Markus Heinrich. "However, we are working on the assumption that our technique will also lead to high efficiency levels in industrial applications."

Previous research already demonstrated that nitrogen oxides could be converted into new, more useful materials; Erlangen-Nuremberg chemists developed a system to produce balsalazide and sulfasalazine -- two azo compound drugs used to treat chronic inflammatory bowel diseases. Azo compounds could also be used to make colorants.

Scientists said that the system works even in low nitrogen oxide concentrations or during fluctuations in exhaust flows.

"Anywhere we have a manageable range of source materials, including for example the etching of printed circuit boards for electronic applications, we can use the by-product nitrogen oxide for the manufacture of medicinal products," Heinrich said.

More in Chemical Processing