Specially designed polymers could help clean up radioactive iodine

© Royal Society of Chemistry

Scientists in China have made two new porous polymers which can capture large amounts of iodine.

Radioactive isotopes of iodine produced in the nuclear industry and used for radiotherapy are extremely hazardous and their accidental release is a serious danger. Because of this, scientists are investigating materials that capture large amounts of iodine gas and conjugated microporous polymers are perfect for this as they are strong, stable materials with holes that can be fine-tuned.

An Li from the Lanzhou University of Technology and colleagues synthesized a honeycomb-like porous structure using thiophene monomers that have a strong affinity for iodine molecules. When tested, their materials trapped the largest amount of iodine vapour ever for a porous polymer – 345wt%, more than three times its own mass. The team also found their material could trap iodine in liquid, and showed higher removal rates at higher concentrations of iodine, results which they hope will provide guidance for its use as an environmental iodine capture agent and open new routes to fine-tuned polymers for targeted applications.