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Polymers for a cleaner world

International partnership takes Australian environmental cleanup solutions to world markets

Polymers developed at Flinders University by A/Prof. Justin Chalker and his team, and made from the industrial waste materials, sulfur and used cooking oil have been shown to securely bind toxic forms of mercury and remove it from the environment. These polymers also soak up oil like a sponge, allowing oil spills to be removed from water, the oil recovered, and the polymer regenerated for further use. Tests of another variation of this patented polymer recently showed it can absorb PFAS contaminants (image – PFAS spheres absorbed into polymer) from water at the contaminated Edinburgh air base. There are also additional applications in residue-free slow-release fertiliser.

The commercialisation of this versatile technology has now taken its next step as patents for these polymers were recently bought by Singapore-based company, Clean Earth Technologies (CET). The deal also provides ongoing funding for, and collaboration with, the Flinders team. Adelaide industry is also benefiting as CET make the production equipment there that they will then use to manufacture the polysulfide at a plant in Adelaide. This has already started to create a number of new jobs.

PFAS binding to the sulfur polymer

PFAS spheres binding to the sulfur polymer