The Tsunami and subsequent earthquakes that hit Japan in March of 2011 caused an unimaginable amount of damage. But the ones that were the affected the most were the nuclear power plants which were damaged and thus resulting in toxic waste leaking from it.
Ever since the incident, cleanup crews were having a tough time in the decontamination process. Usually the process includes low school cleaning techniques such as soap, brushes and scrubbing pads. But thanks to the mistake (literally) of some scientists at a Honolulu-based venture capital firm and technology accelerator, Skai Ventures, the job became a whole lot easier and safer.
The company created a gel called DeconGel. This, according to the company, “starts off as a liquid that can be brushed or sprayed onto contaminated surfaces. It dries to form a gel that encapsulates microscopic bits of radioactive or otherwise hazardous waste, including PCBs, beryllium, mercury and chromium. The gel can then be peeled off, rolled up and thrown away”.
Hawaiian entrepreneur Hank Wuh, who is the CEO of Skai Ventures, said that the discovery of the cleaning gel was accidental. The researchers at the firm got sloppy during an experiment which included working with a gel. The gel dripped from the lab table onto the floor and when it was peeled off the next moring, the surface beneath the gel was ‘absolutely pristine, completely clean and white’. Since then, the company has worked on it for over three years to convert the once obscure gel into DeconGel. Since its invention, the DeconGel has been moulded into different products which have similar cleaning properties, but with different applications.
Mr. Wuh has donated 100 five-gallon pails to the cleanup efforts in Japan. One thing worth mentioning is that DeconGel does not neutralize radioactivity, but I can help in minimizing disposal costs. The gel coats the contaminated particles and decreases the amount of radioactive materials that go back into the environment. Since the gel can be rolled up and disposed off, it allows for disposal costs to go down by over 90%.