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Posted: August 13, 2008
Cheap, clean drinking water purified through nanotechnology
(Nanowerk News) Scientists at the University of South Australia have discovered a simple way to remove bacteria and other contaminants from water using tiny particles of pure silica coated with an active nano-material.
The water treatment process is a new concept, not used anywhere else in the world, which has the potential to make a significant contribution to the health of nations worldwide.
A recent UNESCO report reveals that more than 6,000 people die every day from water-related diseases, and the availability of drinking quality water, especially in the developing world, is fast becoming a major socio-economic issue.
Current water purification techniques are often complicated and use sophisticated equipment, which is expensive to operate and maintain, and includes a final, costly disinfection stage. This can then result in by-products like trihalomethane, which can have serious effects on human health.
Professor Peter Majewski, Research Director for the school along with Chiu Ping ‘Candace’ Chan of the Ian Wark Research Institute at University of South Australia, believe that nanotechnology could provide a simple answer to the problem of expensive and complicated water purification technology.
Tiny particles of pure silica coated with an active material could be used to remove toxic chemicals, bacteria, viruses, and other hazardous materials from water much more effectively and at lower cost than conventional water purification methods.
Peter and Candace have investigated how silica particles can be coated easily with a nanometer-thin layer of active material based on a hydrocarbon with a silicon-containing anchor. The coating is formed through a chemical self-assembly process so involves nothing more than stirring the ingredients to make the active particles.
The exciting aspect for our undergraduate students, says Peter, is that the nanotechnology stream of studies will expose students to revolutionary applications of this exciting area of mechanical engineering.
Nanotechnology will provide significant socio economic benefits within the next decades covering all major sectors, i.e. health (like new cancer treatments, cleaner water), energy (novel concepts for solar energy and photocatalytic concepts), protection of the environment (nanomaterials will replace environmental unfriendly conventional materials and allow re-designing of manufacturing processes to make them environmental friendly), and sustainability of manufacturing (nanotechnology will provide much wider use of recyclable concepts, reduced materials requirements in manufacturing, significant reduction of energy and water in manufacturing).
The fabrication of nanomaterials is often still one the bench scale. Like the semiconductor industry, the nanotechnology industry needs to develop and build novel machinery and equipment for an up-scaled manufacturing of f.e. nanoparticles, nanomaterials and nanostructured materials. This aspect will also deliver significant opportunities for the area of mechanical engineering and people who are trained in nanotechnology related fabrication and manufacturing.