Just a spoonful of … engineered silica…

spoonfulMost of us will be familiar with the line from Mary Poppins that begins the same way as this posting.   And if not, there are some Project Management lessons available from the very simple message from Mary.  You can get THAT spoonful of sugar right here.

But we’re not talking sugar.  And it’s not a lesson about how you can incentivize your project team with sweets.  That may come later…but this posting is about an aspect of Green PM not often covered: toxicity.   In our upcoming book, we’ll be dealing with the aspect of toxicity as we cover the life cycle effects of certain processes and the creation of  hypoxia in the norther Gulf of Mexico.  In this article we talk about a project to develop new materials specially engineered to “catch” and absorb mercury.

As featured in the December issue of Popular Science magazine, a product from Steward Advanced Materials is capable of cleaning mercury from a contaminated area 100 times better than any other method and it does so at half the cost.

Imagine this as you look at the teaspoon photo in this posting.  The particles in this powder are engineered with such an intricate spongelike pattern of holes that a single teaspoon has the same surface area as a football field.  A football field!

The silica-based powder is further engineered with sulfur atoms so that when a mercury-tainted liquid is encountered by the powder (or the other way around), the mercury bonds with the sulfur to form a stable powder that is safe for landfills.  Normally, mercury has to go through an expensive separate step to be neutralized.

This product, called SAMMS®, has successfully cleaned wastewater at coal plants, an offshore oil rig, and a chemical manufacturer.  The product holds promise for other materials, including the possibility of cleaning up radioactive wastes by swapping out the sulfur with other atoms to do that type of work.

Just another example of how a project and a project’s product which certainly is very green (okay…physically, it’s white) does not have to be an electric car, a wind farm, or a recycling facility.