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.

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Countries
Countries
  Algeria
  Argentina
  Australia
  Austria
  Bangladesh
  Belarus
  Belgium
  Benin
  Bolivia
  Bosnia and Herzegovina
  Brazil
  Bulgaria
  Burkina Faso
  Cambodia
  Cameroon
  Canada
  Cape Verde
  Chile
  China
  Colombia
  Costa Rica
  Croatia
  Cyprus
  Czechia
  Denmark
  Ecuador
  Egypt
  Estonia
  Ethiopia
  Faroe Islands
  Finland
  France
  French Polynesia
  Georgia


  Infocentre

Published: 22 March 2019  
Related theme(s) and subtheme(s)
EnvironmentEcosystems, incl. land, inland waters, marine  |  Health & environment
Human resources & mobilityMarie Curie Actions
Innovation
SMEs
Countries involved in the project described in the article
Argentina  |  Canada  |  Denmark  |  Greece  |  Italy  |  South Africa  |  Spain
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New materials remove emerging organic pollutants from water

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© 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 project’s 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.’

Public engagement

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 EU’s Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions programme..

Project details

  • Project acronym: MAT4TREAT
  • Participants: Italy (Coordinator), Spain, Denmark, Greece, Canada, Argentina, South Africa
  • Project N°: 645551
  • Total costs: € 657 000
  • EU contribution: € 630 000
  • Duration: January 2015 to December 2018

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