Nanostructured sorbent materials for capturing environmental mercury vapor (Case 1887)

Principal Investigator:


Robert Hurt, PhD, Professor

School of Engineering

Brown University

Providence, RI


Brief Description:


Mercury is an environmental concern because of its toxicity. Elemental mercury is volatile and is therefore released as a vapor into the environment from a variety of human sources such as thermometers, thermostats and, notably, from fluorescent lamps.


Fluorescent lamps contain up to 10 mg of mercury depending upon the type of fluorescent lamp. Much of the mercury is in the elemental state and can be released into the atmosphere when a lamp is broken. Broken fluorescent lamps can pose an immediate health hazard due to the evaporation of mercury into room air. At present, there is no reliable and efficient method for cleaning up this mercury, posing a potential health risk, especially in the case of pregnant women or young children.


The present invention is a novel nanostructured sorbent material to capture and stabilize mercury. Novel nano-compounds bind mercury, rendering it effectively harmless. These nanostructured sorbent materials can be incorporated into multi-layered sorbent/barrier sheets. These sheets can be incorporated into fluorescent lamp packaging to prevent environmental contamination in the event of breakage. Various sizes of these sorbent/barrier sheets could be used as mercury cleanup “drop cloths” for use in homes, schools and industrial settings. If a mercury release occurs, one would place a nanostructured mercury sorbent drop cloth over the spill area to contain and remediate mercury contamination.




US patent 8,491,865 is issued (07/23/2013)

US patent 8,506,923 is issued (08/13/2013)

US patent 8,869,992 is issued (10/28/2014)

Corresponding foreign patent applications are pending

US patent application 12/870,362 is pending
US patent 9,038,829 is issued (05/26/2015)

Patent Information:
For Information, Contact:
Margaret Shabashevich,
Manager of Operations
Office of Industry Engagement & Commercial Venturing
Brown University
Robert Hurt
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