In a new study from Swansea University, experts have introduced a groundbreaking method of water treatment that does not require the use of solvents. The new technique, which was made possible using a machine created by the team called the Matrix Assembly Cluster Source (MACS), can remove toxic chemicals from water without harming the environment.
Study lead author Professor Richard Palmer is the head of the Nanomaterials Laboratory in the College of Engineering at Swansea.
“The harmful organic molecules are destroyed by a powerful oxidizing agent, ozone, which is boosted by a catalyst,” said Professor Palmer. “Usually such catalysts are manufactured by chemical methods using solvents, which creates another problem – how to deal with the effluents from the manufacturing process?”
“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.”
According to Professor Palmer, the new approach to making catalysts for water treatments uses a physical process which is vacuum-based and solvent free. The catalysts are clusters of silver atoms that were created using the MACS machine.
“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 catalyst clusters are about 10,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair. The new MACS method scales up the intensity of the cluster beam to produce enough grams of cluster powder for practical testing. The addition of ozone to the powder destroys pollutant chemicals from water.
“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,” said Professor Palmer.
“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!”
The study is published in the journal Applied Materials and Interfaces.