Excessive sheep wool can be capitalized to effective ecological sorbent


Today, environmental pollution has become a great threat to humanity. Environmental contaminants consist of both inorganic and organic substances. They exist in different states and properties that determine the removal methods. Therefore, the need to develop efficient methods to decontaminate the environment has attracted the attention of many researchers. To this note, sorption methods have been identified as potential solutions.

However, in the past decade, natural sorbents have been the main focus. For instance, sheep wool contains active sites that enhance its capabilities to sorb other substances. It is a keratin protein-based animal fibrous material. Several modifications such as physical, chemical and combined methods can be used to enhance the sorption properties of native wools. Chemical treatment introduces new functional groups that change the chemical structure of the wool. Chemical treatment procedures are generally environmental unfriendly due to the waste waters production necessarily. As such, irradiation of sheep wool with accelerated electron beam has been identified as a better alternative due to its tremendous advantages such as non-waste enhancement of the sorption active points. However, till this time little have been reported about the effects of the electron beam on wool.

Researchers at Constantine the Philosopher University -Department of Chemistry in Nitra: Dr. Zuzana Hanzlíková, Dr. Jana Braniša, Professor Klaudia Jomová and Assistant Professor Mária Porubská in collaboration with Dr. Marko Fülöp and Dr. Peter Hybler at Slovak Medical University investigated the influence of irradiation of sheep wool by the accelerated electron beam on its structural variation and sorption properties. The sorption properties characteristics were examined after half-year of exposure through heavy metals including chromium(III), cadmium(II) and lead(II). Also, they investigated the effects of the sorption capacity of the irradiated sheep wool on the ion concentrations for all the samples. Eventually, they compared the sorption capacities of irradiated wool and non-irradiated ones. Their work is published in the journal, Separation and Purification Technology.

The authors observed a significant increase in the sorption capacity of chromium(III) of the irradiated wool samples than the non-irradiated sample up to 3.13 times more. This was attributed to the disruption of keratin disulphide bridges and oxidation of the related radicals up to cysteic acid. Consequently, they noted that the sorption capacity of both the irradiated wool and non-irradiated ones were almost equal up to a concentration level of 0.4 mmol.dm-3 for all the tested samples. However, beyond the above concentration, the sorption capacity of the irradiated wool increased significantly as compared to the non-irradiated wool. But the increase varied from one metal to another with Pb(II) and Cr(III) recording the highest and lowest reading respectively.

The study presents a more effective wool modifying technique using the electron beam irradiation. It is an inexpensive, renewable and environmental friendly that does not require the use of chemicals thus any resultant by-products. The residual humidity in the irradiated wool as a rich source of oxygen enhanced the sorption properties due to the quick formation of the cysteic acid resulting from the rapid S-oxidized species generation. Thus, it is a promising sorbent for the removal of various materials that can also be used in decontamination of the environment.

Excessive sheep wool can be capitalized to effective ecological sorbent, Advances in Engineering


About the author

Zuzana Hanzlíková graduated from Constantine the Philosopher University in Nitra (CPU), specialization Pedagogy of Biology and Chemistry (2010). She received PhD degree in Environmentalistics from CPU (2016). Within the frame of her thesis she dealt with sorption properties of sheep wool modified by electron beam. Now she is a laboratory expert at ALS comp., Prague (Czech Republic).

About the author

Maria Porubská graduated from Slovak University of Technology in Bratislava, specialization Analytical and Physical Chemistry (1969) where she received PhD degree in Technology of Macromolecular Materials (1984). She completed research fellowship in Plastpolimer, Petersburg (Russia, 1981) and Ècole d´Application des Hauts Polymères, Strassbourgh (France, 1986). After working over thirty-years in applied plastics research she accepted position of visiting senior lecturer at the Department of Chemistry, Constantine the Philosopher University in Nitra. She received associate professorship from Faculty of Industrial Technologies, Alexander Dubček University of Trenčín (2010) in the research field of Materials science. Her interests involve modification of (bio)polymers using radiation technologies, recently sheep wool, related properties and testing methods. In this area she published a series of scientific papers in esteemed scientific journals.

About the author

Klaudia Jomová is a full professor in Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Natural Sciences, Constantine the Philosopher University in Nitra (CPU). She received her RNDr degree in Biochemistry from Comenius University in Bratislava in 1990 and subsequently PhD degree (General Biology) from CPU in 2003. She received associate professorship in 2006 and full professorship (Biotechnology) in 2013 both from Slovak University of Agriculture in Nitra.

She is an expert in Biochemistry. The present scientific research activity is focused on the preparation of transition metal complexes with different types of bioligands with potential medicinal use. In 2015 she was awarded a Premium prize for Three-Years Scientific citations impact by the Slovak Literary Fund.

About the author

Jana Braniša graduated from Constantine the Philosopher University in Nitra (CPU), specialization Pedagogy of Physics and Chemistry (2003). She received PhD degree in Theory of Chemistry Education from Pedagogical Faculty, Trnava University, (2010). Being an assistant professor at Department of Chemistry, CPU, her research activities are focused on applied organic chemistry, didactics of school experiments and, recently sorption properties of modified sheep wool. She is experienced in a variety of experimental spectral methods for the determination of different substances. Her papers published are aimed at the above mentioned issues.


Hanzlíková, Z., Braniša, J., Jomová, K., Fülöp, M., Hybler, P., & Porubská, M. (2018). Electron beam irradiated sheep wool – Prospective sorbent for heavy metals in wastewater. Separation and Purification Technology193, 345-350.

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