Water is essential for life, but with escalating pollution levels and growing population, providing clean drinking water to the masses is turning into a glaring issue. There, indeed, are effective methods to clean the water before consumption but these conventional methods are energy- and chemical-intensive. Now, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed a new method to remove not only the micropollutants such as pesticides and pharmaceuticals from water, this electrochemical process can also extract even the minute levels of unwanted compound, in an energy-efficient way. This development is also expected to positively impact the chemical industry.
An Improved Electrochemical Process Paved the New Way
The MIT researchers took a novel way of electrochemical process to achieve this new water-purification method, addressing the key limitations of traditional methods of electrochemical separation, which includes loss of performance as a result of competing surface reactions and acidity fluctuations. The current methods to deal with dilute contaminants are expensive, lack effectiveness at smaller concentrations, and usually require high voltage power, which in turn may result in side reactions.
The new method subjects the flowing water to functionalized surfaces, which act as positive and negative electrodes. Coated with Faradaic materials, these electrodes react to gain positive or negative charge. These active groups, which can be tuned to bind robustly with particular type of pollutants, are efficient in removing molecules even at a concentration of parts-per-million.
A Boon for the Chemical Industry
By applying both the positive and negative sides in an asymmetric system, researchers have managed to completely eliminate the side reactions, and thereby achieved something that can be used for environmental remediation, in chemical plants for the recovery of valuable products, and for removing toxic organic chemicals from water. Unlike membrane-based systems, which depend on high pressures and high voltages, this new systems operates at significantly power. This factor is expected to save revenue for the operators of the chemical industry.
Currently, researchers are working on up-scaling their prototype and enhance their chemical robustness.