Stop mercury

Image from childrenshealthdefence.org.


The following text contains a good number of technical terms that may not be easy to read/pronounce at first sight. Practise your pronunciation in this section by clicking on each term before reading the text.

Technical term Technical term Technical term Technical term
   mercury pollution    insidious    environment    colleagues
   unveiled    scrub    neurotoxin    developing fetuses
   developmental delays    unborn babies    primary pathway    through
   animals' tissues    waste products    sustainably    sulphur limonene polysulphide
   polymer    molecule    hydrogen    petroleum
   lying around    chemical merger    byproducts    suitable
   preliminary studies    ecosystem    groundwater and soil    engineers


New Material From Orange Peel Can Clean Up Mercury Pollution

NOTE: hover over words in blue for additional information


  • Listen to these difficult chemistry terms and learn how to pronounce them
  • New Material From Orange Peel Can Clean Up Mercury Pollution
  • New material from orange peel could solve mercury pollution
  1. Vocabulary
  2. True/False


Robert Boyle

Robert Boyle


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Mercury pollution is one of the most insidious problems in our environment. Today my colleagues and I at Flinders University have unveiled a new material that can scrub mercury from the environment, as a result of research to be published this week. Mercury is a neurotoxin. Developing fetuses are most vulnerable and mercury poisoning can cause developmental delays in unborn babies. The primary pathway for mercury in people is through eating fish.

Mercury accumulates in animals' tissues, so fish at the top of the food chain can contain high and potentially toxic levels. Since the Industrial Revolution humans have increased the concentration of mercury in the ocean by 10%, and the rate is increasing.

Our new material not only removes mercury from water and soil, but is created from industrial waste products. So our material effectively solves two problems: cleaning up pollution, and doing it sustainably.

Sulphur-limonene polysulphide is a polymer or large molecule made, as the name suggests, from sulphur and limonene. Sulphur is the element known for smelling like rotten eggs when combined with hydrogen to produce hydrogen sulphide. Limonene is found in the oil of orange peel and other citrus fruits.

A new material created from industrial waste removes mercury from water and soil.

Both are waste products. The petroleum industry produces between 60 million and 70 million tonnes of sulphur each year. There are literally mountains of sulphur lying around the globe, unused. The citrus industry produces more than 70 thousand tonnes of limonene each year. Finding a use for these materials is an important contribution to the preparation of sustainable materials.

Orange peel

Orange peel.
Image from insider.com.

A polymer is a substance which has a molecular structure built up chiefly or completely from a large number of similar units bonded together, e.g. many synthetic organic materials used as plastics and resins.




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Mercury cycle

Mercury cycle.
Image from 11and4tht.wordpress.com.

Sulphur-limonene polysulphide

Sulphur-limonene polysulphide.
Image from thewaternetwork.com.

Cleaning Up Mercury

At the outset of the project, we were primarily interested in seeing if we could use both sulphur and limonene in the same polymer. The chemical merger of these two industrial byproducts proved remarkably easy. We then found it could remove more than 50% of the mercury from water after only a single treatment. Subsequent treatments can be used to approach mercury levels suitable for drinking.

While there are other materials that are very efficient at removing mercury from water, our material is unique in that it is far less expensive. Also, when the polysulphide is exposed to mercury, it changes colour. We can use this property as a sensor for mercury.

Our preliminary studies indicate that the sulphur-limonene polysulphide is not toxic. This is a critical finding if the polymer is to be used directly in natural ecosystems such as rivers, lakes and oceans.

Sulphur-limonene polysulphide is non-toxic, inexpensive and easy to obtain.

We are currently exploring commercialisation of the technology. We aim to use this material to remove mercury from groundwater and soil. We are also exploring its use as a component in water filters to ensure safe drinking water. More generally, we hope to inspire other scientists and engineers to develop novel and useful materials that address urgent challenges in sustainability.

October 19, 2015 | by Justin Chalker http://www.iflscience.com


The below video complements the information offered by the text. Feel free to use subtitles if you need them.


A. VOCABULARY: in the text, find equivalents for the following words.

Synonym/equivalent Word from the text
a. to reveal, to disclose
b. to clean, to erase
c. to take away
d. ground, earth
e. leftover, surplus
f. to be present, to be found, to rest
g. not wasteful, that does not deplete natural resources
h. start, beginning
i. new, original
j. to tackle, to deal with

Check answers

B. TRUE/FALSE: say whether the following statements are TRUE or FALSE, and justify by quoting from the text. Indicate the reference AND copy the relevant passage (not just line numbers); add comments in your own words if necessary.

a. On October 19, 2015, the research result about the new product had already been officially published.

Check answer

b. It is specified that very young children will grow more slowly if they are in contact with mercury.

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c. The concentration of mercury in the ocean has been multiplied by 1.1 since the Industrial Revolution.

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d. The products used for the creation of the new material are unused by-products from the industry.

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e. The smell of pure sulphur is like the smell of eggs gone bad.

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f. Sustainable materials may be created from waste products.

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g. Using the new material just once with water makes it good for consumption.

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h. If there’s a change in colour after mixing the new product with water, it very probably indicates the presence of mercury.

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i. Whether or not sulphur-limonene polysulphide is toxic is unimportant.

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j. Sulphur-limonene polysulphide can now be bought in the industry sector.

Check answer


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