New materials remove emerging organic pollutants from water
Emerging pollutants are chemicals that are difficult to remove from effluents during waste-water treatment. An EU-funded project has developed novel materials for use in innovative integrated water treatments to remove these pollutants, leading to cleaner and safer water.
© samopauser #189190894, 2019 source: stock.adobe.com
Emerging pollutants (EPs) are chemicals that are not commonly monitored but which, although present in small amounts, have the potential to cause adverse ecological or human health effects. They include organic and synthetic compounds, derived from new sources such as pharmaceuticals, which are not easily removed by traditional water-treatment procedures.
The EU-funded MAT4TREAT project consortium produced innovative and low-cost solutions for removing organic EPs during waste-water treatment. They developed novel materials for use in integrated water-treatment technologies, through a researcher exchange programme between academic and industry partners.
We used hybrid materials with the best performances and integrated approaches for the removal of pollutants for instance, the use of both filters and light to separate and decompose compounds, says project coordinator Giuliana Magnacca of Torino University in Italy.
Innovation on tap
The projects technology improves the tertiary treatment of waste water. This is the final treatment stage for increasing water quality before it is discharged into the environment or reused, for example, to irrigate crops. Tertiary treatment involves a range of physical and chemical processes targeting the removal of different pollutants.
Several innovative materials were tested for removing EPs, namely graphene-based and other carbon-related materials, polymeric materials, oxidic ceramic materials and hybrid inorganic-organic materials. These materials acted variously as adsorbents, photocatalysts, and biocatalysts, and within filtration-membrane technologies.
The project demonstrated combinations of different materials and approaches for effective pollutant prevention.
Participants constructed two devices at the laboratory scale for validating the MAT4TREAT technology. Once the best technology has been tested, it will be possible to scale up the process in a pilot plant treating larger volumes of water, says Magnacca. This will be the route to implementing the technology in a real waste-water treatment plant.
Emerging pollutants also known as contaminants of emerging concern are a very recent problem. They can bioaccumulate in the human body and in the environment in animals and vegetables. It is therefore important to remove these compounds, especially before they contaminate drinking water where they pose a potential risk to human health, for example, by causing disease or disrupting hormonal function.
The project consortium interacted with the public at every stage of its activities. We developed a laboratory called Lab4Treat in which some of the technologies used were shared with the public in simple experiments, says Magnacca. The lab was demonstrated in schools, to teachers and to the general public to sensitise people towards the problem of water availability and the presence of emerging pollutants in drinking water.
The project received funding from the EUs Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions programme..