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New Solvent-Free Water Treatment Method to Eliminate Toxic Chemicals

A new eco-friendly technique has been designed by scientists at Swansea University for eliminating toxic chemicals from water.

New Solvent-Free Water Treatment Method to Eliminate Toxic Chemicals
The Matrix Assembly Cluster Source, a newly invented machine, which has been used by Swansea University researchers to design a breakthrough water treatment method using a solvent-free approach. Image Credit: IMPACT/Swansea University.

The newly developed Matrix Assembly Cluster Source (MACS) machine has been utilized to develop an advanced water treatment technique by making use of a solvent-free method.

The study conducted at the Institute for Innovative Materials, Processing and Numerical Technologies (IMPACT) within the College of Engineering at Swansea University was financially supported by the EPSRC.

The harmful organic molecules are destroyed by a powerful oxidizing agent, ozone, which is boosted by a catalyst. Usually such catalysts are manufactured by chemical methods using solvents, which creates another problem—how to deal with the effluents from the manufacturing process?

Richard Palmer, Study Lead Author and Professor, Swansea University

Palmer added, “The Swansea innovation is a newly invented machine that manufactures the catalyst by physical methods, involving no solvent, and therefore no effluent. The new technique is a step change in the approach to water treatment and other catalytic processes.”

Our new approach to making catalysts for water treatments uses a physical process which is vacuum-based and solvent free method. The catalyst particles are clusters of silver atoms, made with the newly invented MACS machine.

Richard Palmer, Study Lead Author and Professor, Swansea University

Professor Palmer continued, “It solves the long-standing problem of low cluster production rate - meaning, for the first time, it is now possible to produce enough clusters for study at the test-tube level, with the potential to then scale-up further to the level of small batch manufacturing and beyond.”

The clusters are around 10,000 times smaller than the width of a strand of human hair and have been of great interest to scientists due to their unique properties. But research in this area has been limited as a result of the insufficient rate of cluster production.

The latest MACS technique has overcome this—it increases the cluster beam’s intensity to make sufficient grams of cluster powder for practical testing. Then, the addition of ozone to the powder annihilates the pollutant chemicals from water. In this case, the pollutant was nitrophenol.

Talking about the future potential of this advanced technology, Professor Palmer noted, “The MACS approach to the nanoscale design of functional materials opens up completely new horizons across a wide range of disciplines - from physics and chemistry to biology and engineering. Thus, it has the power to enable radical advances in advanced technology—catalysts, biosensors, materials for renewable energy generation and storage.”

It seems highly appropriate that the first practical demonstration of Swansea’s environmentally friendly manufacturing process concerns something we are all concerned about—clean water!

Richard Palmer, Study Lead Author and Professor, Swansea University

The research group includes Dr Chedly Tizaoui from Swansea, working together with Professor Nikos Dimitratos and Stefania Albonetti from Bologna, Italy.

The IMPACT operation received partial financial support from the European Regional Development Fund via the Swansea University and Welsh Government.

The study was published in Applied Materials and Interfaces.


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