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Nanocrystals may remove 80 percent of dye pollutants in wastewater

Stockholm, May 1 (Prensa Latina) Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, have developed a new method that can easily purify contaminated water using cellulose-based nanocrystals. This discovery could have implications for countries with poor water treatment technologies and combat the widespread problem of toxic dye discharge from the textile industry.

Clean water is a prerequisite for our health and living environment, but far from a given for everyone. According to the World Health Organization, WHO, there are currently over two billion people living with limited or no access to clean water.

This global challenge is at the center of a research group at Chalmers University of Technology, which has developed a method to easily remove pollutants from water.

The group, led by Gunnar Westman, Associate Professor of Organic Chemistry focuses on new uses for cellulose and wood-based products and is part of the Wallenberg Wood Science Center.

The researchers have built up solid knowledge about cellulose nanocrystals – and this is where the key to water purification lies. These tiny nanoparticles have an outstanding adsorption capacity, which the researchers have now found a way to utilize.

In a study recently published in the scientific journal Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research, the researchers show how toxic dyes can be filtered out of wastewater using the method and material developed by the group. The research was conducted in collaboration with the Malaviya National Institute of Technology Jaipur in India, where dye pollutants in textile industry wastewater are a widespread problem.

The treatment requires neither pressure nor heat and uses sunlight to catalyze the process. Gunnar Westman likens the method to pouring raspberry juice into a glass with grains of rice, which soak up the juice to make the water transparent again.

According to specialists, it is a cost-effective and simple system to set up and use, and we see that it could be of great benefit in countries that currently have poor or non-existent water treatment.

India is one of the developing countries in Asia with extensive textile production, where large amounts of dyes are released into lakes, rivers and streams every year.

The consequences for humans and the environment are serious. Water contaminant contains dyes and heavy metals and can cause skin damage with direct contact and increase the risk of cancer and organ damage when they enter into the food chain. Additionally, nature is affected in several ways, including the impairment of photosynthesis and plant growth.

Conducting field studies in India is an important next step, and the Chalmers researchers are now supporting their Indian colleagues in their efforts to get some of the country’s small-scale industries to test the method in reality. So far, laboratory tests with industrial water have shown that more than 80% of the dye pollutants are removed with the new method, and Gunnar Westman sees good opportunities to further increase the degree of purification.

pll/ro/crc

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