Nanoporous metal foams clean up waste water

Foam acts as a catalytic membrane to filter out toxic chemicals
7th March 2018

A researcher from the University of Bath is creating a way of removing micropollutants from water using a new type of foam made from metal.

Professor Davide Mattia from the University of Bath’s Department of Chemical Engineering is leading a team that over the next five years aims to develop the nanoporous foam which is capable of removing toxic chemicals from the water supply. The research is part of the Centre for Advanced Separations Engineering (CASE) and Water Innovation and Research Centre (WIRC) at Bath.

“We hope this will result in a more effective way of removing micropollutants in water without increasing carbon emissions or producing toxic by-products”

 

Drugs, hormones and pesticides can get into our water supply in low concentrations but will accumulate in the soil and in groundwater. The current technology can’t remove these micropollutants easily, and with new legislation coming in, there is an urgent need for new technologies.

One of these technologies is nano-scale photocatalyst particles which break down toxic materials when exposed to sunlight. However, these nanoparticles can themselves leak from water treatment plants and accumulate in the environment.

The nanofoam being developed by the Bath researchers instead provides a catalytic effect with a high surface area that is easier to manage in the waste-water treatment plant. It can also be retrofitted into existing filters. The foam acts as a membrane with a metallic core and coating of metal oxide and boosts the photocatalytic activity by using a small electrical potential rather than light by acting as an anode.

“We hope this will result in a more effective way of removing micropollutants in water without increasing carbon emissions or producing toxic by-products,” said Prof Mattia. “I believe our anodic metal foams represent an innovative and practical solution that water companies will be able to integrate into their existing infrastructure without radical changes, thereby lowering the barriers to its adoption.”

WIRC at Bath works with companies such as Renishaw, IBM and Toshiba Research Europe on new technologies.