Magnetic ‘rusty’ nanoparticles pull estrogen out of water

Iron oxide particles trap estrogen hormones, possibly limiting harm to aquatic life

An illustration of a clump of iron oxide nanoparticles, illustrated in orange, coated with phosphonic acid, illustrated in gray. While a collection of green estrogen bits are scattered around.

Iron oxide nanoparticles (one illustrated, orange) coated with phosphonic acid molecules (gray) can capture estrogen hormones (green) from water samples.

Dustin Vivod and Dirk Zahn/Computer Chemistry Center/Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg

A new “smart rust” could one day help pull pollutants out of waterways, leaving cleaner water behind.

Researchers adorned tiny particles of iron oxide, better known as rust, with “sticky” molecules that grab on to estrogen and similar hormones in water samples.