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Back You are here: Inicio Environment Technological offers A plant-derived material can clean water contaminated by metals and persistent compounds with high efficiency

A plant-derived material can clean water contaminated by metals and persistent compounds with high efficiency

The Centre for Materials Physics (CFM, CSIC-UPV/EHU) has developed a material that can clean water and other fluids contaminated by heavy metals and organic compounds such as pharmaceuticals. Laboratory tests show that the material can trap pollutants with efficiencies close to 100 % in the case of heavy metals, and over 50 % in the case of some organic compounds.

This material can be applied for the remediation of contaminated water, in water purification and drinking water treatment plants, or in domestic water purification systems. Image: Pixabay

 

Fresh water, a key resource for life, is at risk. Human activities, such as agriculture, industry and domestic use, pollute water with a variety of different substances, including heavy metals and emerging organic pollutants (cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, pesticides…). These pollutants not only pose a serious risk to the environment and human health, but are also difficult and costly to remove. The overuse of antibiotics in medicine and agriculture is creating an additional problem: antibiotic resistance, where bacteria become immune to traditional treatments, is one of the greatest threats to global health today.

A team from the Centro de Física de Materiales (CFM), a joint centre of the CSIC and the University of the Basque Country, has developed a material that can adsorb these pollutants in a simple and economical way.

It consists of an activated polymeric mesh, formed by a material based on molecules of plant origin. The material can adsorb organic compounds and heavy metals simultaneously, and is especially useful in waters with complex mixtures of pollutants, as it can adsorb both groups of pollutants simultaneously.

However, further experiments, including proof of concept and scale-up, are still required. Companies interested in licensing the patent for further development and commercialisation are sought.

Cleans more than 99% of some metals and almost 70% of some pharmaceuticals

In adsorption, pollutants attach themselves to the surface-active sites of the adsorbent material.  Silvina Cerveny, principal investigator of the project, explains that 'laboratory results show that the material can capture over 99% of metals dissolved in water, and over 50% in the case of pharmaceuticals, reaching almost 70% in some cases'.

The material traps metals such as zinc, lead, copper, barium, nickel and cadmium, and commonly used antibiotics such as tetracycline, ciprofloxacin, enrofloxacin or drugs for hypertension such as metoprolol

Laboratory tests show that the material traps metals such as zinc, lead, copper, barium, nickel and cadmium, and commonly used antibiotics such as tetracycline, ciprofloxacin, enrofloxacin or drugs for hypertension such as metoprolol.

After use, the material can be regenerated in a controlled way, releasing contaminants, which would allow it to be reused. Additionally, the regeneration process allows precious metals to be recovered from water, therefore contributing to the circular economy.

The main field of application is remediation of contaminated water and other fluids in industrial and urban environments, or even in the case of accidental spills. It could also be implemented in wastewater treatment plants, as well as in water purification plants as the final stage of the process, to extract residual organic compounds, or for household water purification systems. It is simple to use and does not require special techniques or expensive equipment.

Contact:

Juan P. Duque
Deputy Vice-Presidency
for Knowledge Transfer - CSIC
Tel.: 664 37 51 39
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