Scientists have developed a new water purification system that can filter out small plastic particles, as well as other pollutants, very quickly and with high efficiency.
The porous material, described in the journal Advanced Materials, may be used as a high-efficiency adsorption material in the future as it has cost competitiveness based on raw materials and enables solar-based water purification process.
"The technology is an unrivaled with the world's highest purification efficiency, removing more than 99.9 per cent of phenolic microplastics and volatile organic compound (VOC) contaminants in water at ultra-high speeds," said Professor Park Chi-Young from Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology (DGIST) in Korea.
"We expect that it will be a universal technology with high economic efficiency that can purify contaminated water and supply drinking water even in areas where there is no power supply,” Chi-Young said in a statement.
Water pollution caused by the rapid development of the chemical industry is a big problem in environmental pollution.
Various water purification technologies and materials have been developed to solve this problem.
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The researchers noted that carbon-based porous materials using existing adsorption mechanisms have limitations in that the adsorption rate is slow and high thermal energy is required for recycling.
Various materials have been developed to improve contaminant removal efficiency, but it has been difficult to develop materials that simultaneously satisfy excellent recyclability, high efficiency, economic efficiency of raw materials, and industrialisation potential.
The team synthesised a porous polymer with excellent adsorption performance and photothermal properties by reacting an inexpensive and effective precursor.
The new technology enables a material with fast adsorption of micro-pollutants in the aquatic environment.
It was confirmed through experiments that the polymer does not require high thermal energy for recycling and can be used multiple times without loss of performance, the researchers said.
The team produced a water treatment membrane capable of evaporating water using solar energy as a driving force through the developed polymer's ability to absorb light broadly and convert the absorbed light into heat.
The water treatment membrane coated with the oxidised polymer was confirmed to purify phenolic contaminants through sunlight.