Polymers for Selective Heavy Metal Removal


The invented polymers are designed for water treatment where there are collections of toxic metals. Used in conjunction with gravity filtration or a carbon block filter, water can be cleansed of both particulate matter and dissolved heavy metals.

Problem Addressed:

Heavy metal contamination in water is a major problem in both developed and developing countries. Even low concentrations of mercury and lead pose a serious threat to human health. Past approaches to heavy metal filtration, like ion exchange resins, are either ineffective or highly expensive. A highly efficient, scalable technology with minimal energetic needs for removing heavy metal ions from water would be ideal.


This cross-linked polymer network captures high volumes of heavy metal ions through soft-soft interactions. These interactions result from the high sulfur content in the branching monomers. Sulfur-containing chains have a high degree of cross-linking which prevents the network from falling apart and ensures no leaching of organics into the water. The network is also designed to have mesoporosity or macroporosity for a high contact surface area with heavy metals, enabling a high rate of filtration. Included in this technology are synthesis methods that create a tri-branched or tetra-branched cross-linker based structure.


  • More than 100-fold reduction in Lead concentration from 150 ppb to less than 1 ppb
  • Selectively chooses heavy metals like Mercury and Lead over common natural ions
  • Network structure allows dissolution of high concentrations of ions while keeping structural integrity