Ferrate (VI) salts have been proposed for use in sterilizing water (perhaps also in sterilizing air). The iron in ferrate (VI) salts is in its highest oxidation state (VI), and these salts are extremely strong oxidants. In laboratory experiments, it was shown that treatment of DNA solutions with micromolar concentrations of potassium ferrate (VI) irreversibly inhibits further DNA polymerization and polymerase-chain-reaction (PCR) synthesis. Such treatment does not produce any toxic wastes; instead, what remains after treatment are iron ions, which can be recycled and which, in some applications, are useful as nutrients.
According to the proposal, ferrate (VI) derivatives fixed on various supports and carriers would be used to oxidize waterborne or airborne protein and deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) molecules. Examples of suitable ferrate (VI) derivatives could include calcium ferrate, and barium ferrate, and inorganic polymers that carry ferrate (VI) ions. Further research is planned in order to develop materials, equipment, and procedures to implement these concepts.
This work was done by Alexandre Tsapin, Kenneth Nealson, and Michael Goldfeld of Caltech for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. For further information, access the Technical Support Package (TSP) free on-line at www.nasatech.com/tsp under the Bio-Medical category.