Amyloid hybrid membranes for removal of clinical and nuclear radioactive wastewater†
Nuclear medicine uses various radioactive compounds for the administration into patients to diagnose and treat diseases, which generates large amounts of radioactively contaminated water. Currently, radioactively contaminated hospital wastewater has to be stored until the contained radionuclides have sufficiently decayed because cost-effective and efficient removal technologies are not available. Similar considerations apply in the nuclear power industry, with, however, decay times of the radionuclides several orders of magnitude higher. Previously, we reported hybrid membranes composed of amyloid fibrils produced from cheap and readily available proteins and activated carbon, which efficiently removed heavy metal ions and radioactive compounds from water. Here, we show that these membranes are highly efficient in the adsorption & removal of diverse, clinically relevant radioactive compounds from hospital wastewater by single-step filtration. The radionuclides technetium (Tc-99m), iodine (I-123) and gallium (Ga-68) can be removed from water with efficiencies above 99.8% in one single step. We also demonstrate the purification of a real clinical wastewater sample from a Swiss hospital containing iodine (I-131) and lutetium (Lu-177). With the use of single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) and positron emission tomography (PET), we were able to visualize the accumulation of the radioactive compounds within the membrane and demonstrate its outstanding performance. By converting large volumes of radioactive wastewater into low volumes of solid radioactive waste, the present technology emerges as a possible game-changer in the treatment of nuclear wastewater.