Steam has generally been used a heating or power source in the industrial world, but now scientists are finding there are likely many more applications that can improve our world. Whether it is an accidental spill or an intentional chemical attack, scientists are discovering better ways to cleanup toxic chemicals using new technology involving steam.
Traditionally when there are toxic chemical spills, the clean up process would utilize bleach based solutions and scrubbing processes to clean surfaces. The problem with this is toxic chemicals would seep into fissures and porous surfaces and scrubbing would not work to remediate all of the chemical toxins.
An article in ZDnet from 2010 discusses how scientists in Idaho began experimenting with lasers to help clean up buildings and other surfaces affected by possible spills or chemical attacks. Bob Fox, a chemist with the study said "It's a kind of laser steam-cleaning."
The Department of Homeland Security published an article online, discussing how using laser bursts on the surfaces affected by toxic chemicals would turn the moisture in porous surfaces into steam. The steam would cause the toxins that were absorbed below the surface to rise to the surface where they could be removed.
Another feature of this technology is the ability for this work to be done remotely which helps minimize the possibility of exposure for humans to these toxins. Machines can be developed that clean up toxic chemical spills remotely which is a huge safety advantage. There are many more applications scientists are discovering for the use of lasers and steam. The Department of Homeland Security said "some cleanup and restoration firms are already using lasers to scrub soot off building facades."
Watch this episode of Steam Culture to find out even more.