A new ‘smart coating’ is being developed that can remove mercury from water while also protecting the inside of pipes.

Experts have created a coating with a chemical structure that allows sulphur to sulphur bonds to be broken and re-formed.

It could be a significant step forward in multi-functional coatings for pipes.

The new treatment, made from low-cost chemicals from oil refining and other sources, can also prevent acid and water damage of concrete surfaces and be repaired in situ by a simple heating process, according to Flinders University project leader Max Mann.

“Made easily from elemental sulphur and dicyclopentadiene (DCPD is a by-product of petroleum refining), this new coating is multi-functional which gives us wide scope to use it in a wide range of useful ways and for longer lasting industrial products and components,” says Flinders University PhD candidate Mr Mann.

“This exciting new area of research extends fundamental chemistry to several practical applications.”

Along with its protective powers against corrosion, solvent damage and acid and water damage,  research has shown that the active coating can capture toxic metals such as mercury.

The coating is repairable and scratches and damage can be prepared by the simple application of heat, the researchers found.

“The unique chemical composition of the smart coating enables protection of substrates, active removal of toxic mercury species from water and oil, and is repairable which ensures its sustainability,” says Professor Justin Chalker, from the Institute of Nanoscale Science and Technology at Flinders University.

“The coating is solvent resistant and can also remove mercury from oil and water mixtures, which is of importance to remediation in the petroleum and gas industry.”