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Scientists develop an eco-friendly material to purify water

Water pollution caused by the rapid development of the chemical industry is currently a major problem worldwide, making scientists struggle to develop various water purification technologies and materials. However, carbon-based porous materials using existing adsorption mechanisms have significant limitations, since the adsorption rate is slow and high thermal energy is needed for recycling. Although experts have developed a variety of materials to improve contaminant removal efficiency, it has been extremely difficult to construct materials that simultaneously satisfy excellent recyclability, high efficiency, economic efficiency of raw materials, and industrialization potential.

Now, a team of researchers led by the Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology (DGIST) in South Korea has successfully developed an “atypical porous polymer material,” which can completely remove phenolic organic contaminants in water at extremely high speeds. This material can efficiently remove not only microplastics, but also small-sized volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Moreover, scientists expect it to be utilized as a high-efficiency adsorption material which can be commercialized widely due to the low costs of its raw materials and the fact that it uses solar power in the water purification process.

Several experiments confirmed that this polymer does not require high thermal energy for recycling and can be used multiple times without loss of performance. Since the material has the capacity to absorb light broadly and convert it into heat, the researchers were able to produce a water treatment membrane that can evaporate water using solar energy.

“The technology we developed here is an unrivaled water purification technology with the world’s highest purification efficiency, removing more than 99.9 percent of phenolic microplastics and VOC contaminants in water at ultra-high speeds,” said study senior author Chiyoung Park, an expert in Energy Science and Engineering at DGIST. “We expected 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.”

The study is published in the journal Advanced Materials.

By Andrei Ionescu, Staff Writer

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