By Cameron Chai
Researchers at the Institute of Physical Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences (IPC PAS) have utilized sun and photocatalysts for cleaning polluted water to recover useful chemicals.
Dr Juan Carlos Colmenares from the Institute of Physical Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw at the research equipment used in the studies on photocatalysts. (Source: IPC PAS, Grzegorz Krzyżewski)
The simple process does not require any specialized plants or factories for performing the alchemic transformation. The extracted chemicals can be used for manufacturing drugs.
Organic chemicals in industrial wastes pollute water resources in many parts of the world and researchers at IPC PAS have shown that this biomass can be converted into fuel and chemicals. They selected appropriate chemicals that enabled the transformation under natural conditions.
Traditional catalysts take part and speed-up chemical reactions. They recover completely after the reaction ends. These catalysts typically get activated at high pressure and high temperatures. However, the photocatalysts studied at the IPC PAS were activated by light, and temperature did not play a major role in the reactions. The reactions occurred at normal atmospheric pressure and at a temperature of about 30ºC.
Dr Juan Carlos Colmenares at the IPC PAS stated that the reactions were nearly alchemic in nature. The ‘magic powder’ was poured into the polluted water and then stirred. The mixture was then exposed to the sun for a couple of hours, after which clean water and chemicals were derived. The IPC PAS researchers used titanium dioxide-based photocatalysts for the study. After the reaction, the catalyst was isolated for further usage. The researchers produced carboxylic acids that can be used in the food and pharmaceutical industries. Photocatalysts that yield substances having simpler structure, such as hydrogen or carbon dioxide can be prepared.
The researcher said that tests in biochemical photoreactors will be performed at the University of Cordoba in Spain, in higher volume of liquids, later this year. More tests and studies are required before the new technology can be used, he added.
The international Marie Skłodowska-Curie reintegration grant has provided financing for the project under the EU’s 7th Framework Programme.