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Disinfecting water with photocatalytic nanosheets

By Paul Grad |

Scientists at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (Beijing; www.cas.cn) and Yangzhou University (Jiangsu, China; www.yzu.edu.cn) have developed a technique for disinfecting water by using graphitic carbon nitride sheets. They claim their technique purifies water in 30 minutes, killing more than 99.9999% of bacteria. Traditional carbon-based catalysts, such as carbon nanotubes and graphene oxide, are not effective enough because they fail to produce enough reactive oxygen to overcome pathogens.

The Chinese scientists managed to overcome those problems with a unique catalytic design. They used nanosheets of graphitic carbon nitride, an ultra-thin two-dimensional material with the right properties to absorb light and generate reactive oxygen. This material generates sufficient hydrogen peroxide to effectively kill bacteria. Unlike metal-based photocatalytic disinfectants, the scientists’ technique achieves a high level of water purification without leaving behind secondary pollution or heavy metal resides, offering a promising alternative to less eco-friendly technologies.

Professor Dan Wang of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, one of the scientists involved, says the technique should be easy to develop on a larger scale. The construction of this material is completely metal-free, he says.

The scientists plan to improve the technique’s efficiency by expanding the material’s ability to absorb photons, developing antibacterial fibers, and refining the nanosheet preparation process. Wang says the technique is not intended to purify water single-handedly. “Purification needs other devices for removing heavy metal ions, adjusting pH and removing residue. We need to combine our system with others to meet water-purification requirements,” he adds.

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