Nanotechnology to Solve Water Crises

Author:  Falishia Sloan

Institution:  Eastern Virginia Medical School
Date:  March 2008

Scientists in South Australia devised a more effiecient and less expensive method to purify water using technology at the nano level. Researchers at the Ian Wark Research Institute at the University of South Australia hope to provide an answer to our currently foreboding drinking water crisis.

According to Peter Majewski and Chiu Ping Chan at the Institute, the world (especially developing countries) is faced with the fact that quality drinking water is quickly becoming a shrinking commodity and a serious socio-economic concern. According to Nature online, more than 1,000,000,000 people worldwide do not have access to clean water.

Water is polluted in a number of ways, and illness is prevalent in the areas of the world that lack regulations to protect the public from industrial hazards that spill into water from leather and textile factories, pulp and paper mills, steel foundries, and petrochemical refineries. Water-related diseases are the cause of more than 6000 deaths every day, according to a report by the World Water Assessment Program of the UNESCO entitled "Water for People-Water for Life."

The research, explored in the current issue of the International Journal of Nanotechnology, focuses on how hazardous materials could be removed from water with bits of pure silica coated with an active material called Surface Engineered Silica (SES), which are based on a hydrocarbon with a silicon-containing anchor. These organic materials include pathogens of the Polio virus and bacteria like E.coli and Cryptosporidium paryum (a waterborne parasite).

"The results clearly show that organic species can efficiently be removed at pH ranges of drinking water by stirring the coated particles in the contaminated water for up to one hour and filtering the powder," the researchers reported.

In contrast with the currently complicated and high-priced methods of water purification, this method utilizes simply stirring ingredients together to form the special active material coat. The actual filtration process takes place when the harmful materials in the water are electrostatically attracted to the specially coated silica particles. Such a revolutionary and economical method of purifying water could take great strides in solving the impending water crisis.

Written by Falishia Sloan

Reviewed by Gurjot Singh

Published by Pooja Ghatalia