Win-Win Collaborations – Derisking Advanced Technology Commercialization: YouTube Video from David Lazovsky, Founder of Intermolecular


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David Lazovsky, Founder of Intermolecular, addresses the audience of the Advanced Materials Commercialization Summit 2017, speaking on Win-Win Collaborations: De-risking Advanced Technology Commercialization. Read More About Intermolecular

” … We sought to establish collaborative development programs with the Companies that were the end Producers.” – David Lazovsky, Founder of Intermolecular

 

GNT US Tenka Energy“In the end you cannot “commercialize” technology (only) … you can only commercialize a Product  (technology+application) that can be produced and scaled economically into the Marketplace. You must find a way to build a bridge to span the gap between ‘Discovery, Proof of Concept, Prototype and Scaling to Funding (Finance), Market Integration and Acceptance.”

– Bruce W. Hoy, CEO of Genesis Nanotechnology, Inc.

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Australian scientists develop nanotechnology to purify water


Scientists in Australia have developed a ground-breaking new way to strip impurities from waste water, with the research set to have massive applications for a number of industries.

Scientists in Australia have developed a ground-breaking new way to strip impurities from waste water, with the research set to have massive applications for a number of industries.

By using a new type of crystalline alloy, researchers at Edith Cowan University (ECU) are able to extract the contaminants and pollutants that often end up in water during industrial processing.

“Mining and textile production produces huge amounts of waste water that is contaminated with heavy metals and dyes,” lead researcher Associate Professor Laichang Zhang from ECU’s School of Engineering technology said in a statement on Friday.

Although it is already possible to treat waste water with iron powder, according to Zhang, the cost is very high.

“Firstly, using iron powder leaves you with a large amount of iron sludge that must be stored and secondly it is expensive to produce and can only be used once,” he explained.

We can produce enough crystalline alloy to treat one tonne of waste water for just 15 Australian Dollars (10.8 US dollars), additionally, we can reuse the crystalline alloy up to five times while still maintaining its effectiveness.” Based on his previous work with “metal glass,” Zhang updated the nanotechnology to make it more effective.

“Whereas metallic glasses have a disordered atomic structure, the crystalline alloy we have developed has a more ordered atomic structure,” he said.

“We produced the crystalline alloy by heating metallic glass in a specific way.””This modifies the structure, allowing the electrons in the crystalline alloy to move more freely, thereby improving its ability to bind with dye molecules or heavy metals leaving behind usable water.”Zhang said he will continue to expand his research with industry partners to further improve the technology.

Rice University engineers develop system to remove contaminants from water


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Engineer Qilin Li at Rice University’s lab is building a treatment system that can be tuned to selectively pull toxins from wastewater from factories, sewage systems and oil and gas wells, as well as drinking water. The researchers said their technology will cut costs and save energy compared to conventional systems.

“Traditional methods to remove everything, such as reverse osmosis, are expensive and energy intensive,” said Li, the lead scientist and co-author of a study about the new technology in the American Chemical Society journal Environmental Science & Technology. “If we figure out a way to just fish out these minor components, we can save a lot of energy.”

The heart of Rice’s system is a set of novel composite electrodes that enable capacitive deionization. The charged, porous electrodes selectively pull target ions from fluids passing through the maze-like system. When the pores get filled with toxins, the electrodes can be cleaned, restored to their original capacity and reused.

“This is part of a broad scope of research to figure out ways to selectively remove ionic contaminants,” said Li, a professor of civil and environmental engineering and of materials science and nanoengineering. “There are a lot of ions in water. Not everything is toxic. For example, sodium chloride (salt) is perfectly benign. We don’t have to remove it unless the concentration gets too high.”

In tests, an engineered coating of resin, polymer and activated carbon removed and trapped harmful sulfate ions, and other coatings can be used in the same platform to target other contaminants. Illustration by Kuichang Zuo

The proof-of-principal system developed by Li’s team removed sulfate ions. The system’s electrodes were coated with activated carbon, which was in turn coated by a thin film of tiny resin particles held together by quaternized polyvinyl alcohol. When sulfate-contaminated water flowed through a channel between the charged electrodes, sulfate ions were attracted by the electrodes, passed through the resin coating and stuck to the carbon. Tests in the Rice lab showed the positively charged coating on the cathode preferentially captured sulfate ions over salt at a ratio of more than 20 to 1. The electrodes retained their properties over 50 cycles. “But in fact, in the lab, we’ve run the system for several hundred cycles and I don’t see any breaking or peeling of the material,” said Kuichang Zuo, lead author of the paper and a postdoctoral researcher in Li’s lab. “It’s very robust.”

In Rice’s new water-treatment platform, electrode coatings can be swapped out to allow the device to selectively remove a range of contaminants from wastewater, drinking water and industrial fluids. Illustration by Kuichang Zuo

“The true merit of this work is not that we were able to selectively remove sulfate, because there are many other contaminants that are perhaps more important,” she said. “The merit is that we developed a technology platform that we can use to target other contaminants as well by varying the composition of the electrode coating.”

The research was supported by the Rice-based National Science Foundation-backed Center for Nanotechnology-Enabled Water Treatment, the Welch Foundation and the Shanghai Municipal International Cooperation Foundation.

Nidec Motor Corp. appoints CEO

Nidec Motor Corporation (NMC) named Henk van Duijnhoven as its CEO and global business leader of ACIM (Appliances, Commercial and Industrial Motors). Van Duijnhoven was most recently a partner and managing director of The Boston Consulting Group where he was responsible for business turnaround, mergers and acquisitions, and strategy planning for clients in the industrial and medtech markets. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the College of Automotive Engineering and a Master of Business Administration from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Woodard & Curran names new business unit leader

Woodard & Curran named Peter Nangeroni as its new industrial and commercial strategic business unit leader. He brings experience managing large, multidisciplinary projects for industrial clients with emphasis on generating positive environmental outcomes, return on investment and improved risk management. He has been with Woodard & Curran for 13 years in various roles, most recently as director of technical practices. He takes over for the long-time leader of the business unit, Mike Curato, who is retiring after 11 years in the role and 20 with the firm.

Nangeroni is a Professional Engineer with a degree in civil engineering from Tufts University and more than 35 years of experience working with clients on engineering and construction management projects. In his new role, he will oversee staffing, business development and project execution at a strategic level for the industrial and commercial strategic business unit, which focuses on water treatment, manufacturing and process utilities for clients in a wide range of industrial sectors.

NEWT – Mat baits, hooks and destroys pollutants in water: Rice University


Specks of titanium dioxide adhere to polyvinyl fibers in a mat developed at the Rice University-led NEWT Center to capture and destroy pollutants from wastewater or drinking water. After the mat attracts and binds pollutants, the titanium dioxide photocatalyst releases reactive oxygen species that destroy them. Credit: Rice University/NEWT

A polymer mat developed at Rice University has the ability to fish biologically harmful contaminants from water through a strategy known as “bait, hook and destroy.”

Tests with wastewater showed the mat can efficiently remove targeted pollutants, in this case a pair of biologically harmful endocrine disruptors, using a fraction of the energy required by other technology. The technique can also be used to treat drinking water.

The mat was developed by scientists with the Rice-led Nanotechnology-Enabled Water Treatment (NEWT) Center. The research is available online in the American Chemical Society journal Environmental Science and Technology.

The mat depends on the ability of a common material, titanium dioxide, to capture pollutants and, upon exposure to light, degrade them through oxidation into harmless byproducts.

Titanium dioxide is already used in some wastewater treatment systems. It is usually turned into a slurry, combined with wastewater and exposed to ultraviolet light to destroy contaminants. The slurry must then be filtered from the water.

The NEWT mat simplifies the process. The mat is made of spun polyvinyl fibers. The researchers made it highly porous by adding small plastic beads that were later dissolved with chemicals. The pores offer plenty of surface area for titanium oxide particles to inhabit and await their prey.

The mat’s hydrophobic (water-avoiding) fibers naturally attract hydrophobic contaminants like the endocrine disruptors used in the tests. Once bound to the mat, exposure to light activates the photocatalytic titanium dioxide, which produces reactive oxygen species (ROS) that destroy the contaminants.

Established by the National Science Foundation in 2015, NEWT is a national research center that aims to develop compact, mobile, off-grid water-treatment systems that can provide clean water to millions of people who lack it and make U.S. energy production more sustainable and cost-effective.

NEWT researchers said their mat can be cleaned and reused, scaled to any size, and its chemistry can be tuned for various pollutants.

“Current photocatalytic treatment suffers from two limitations,” said Rice environmental engineer and NEWT Center Director Pedro Alvarez. “One is inefficiency because the oxidants produced are scavenged by things that are much more abundant than the target pollutant, so they don’t destroy the pollutant.

The Rice University-led NEWT Center created a nanoparticle-infused polymer mat that both attracts and destroys pollutants in wastewater or drinking water. A mat, top left, is immersed in water with methylene blue as a contaminant. The contaminant is then absorbed at top right by the mat and, in the bottom images, destroyed by exposure to light. The mat is then ready for reuse. Credit: Rice University/NEWT

“Second, it costs a lot of money to retain and separate slurry photocatalysts and prevent them from leaking into the treated water,” he said. “In some cases, the energy cost of filtering that slurry is more than what’s needed to power the UV lights.

“We solved both limitations by immobilizing the catalyst to make it very easy to reuse and retain,” Alvarez said. “We don’t allow it to leach out of the mat and impact the water.”

Alvarez said the porous polymer mat plays an important role because it attracts the target pollutants. “That’s the bait and hook,” he said. “Then the photocatalyst destroys the pollutant by producing hydroxyl radicals.”

“The nanoscale pores are introduced by dissolving a sacrificial polymer on the electrospun fibers,” lead author and former Rice postdoctoral researcher Chang-Gu Lee said. “The pores enhance the contaminants’ access to titanium dioxide.”

The experiments showed dramatic energy reduction compared to wastewater treatment using slurry.

“Not only do we destroy the pollutants faster, but we also significantly decrease our electrical energy per order of reaction,” Alvarez said. “This is a measure of how much energy you need to remove one order of magnitude of the pollutant, how many kilowatt hours you need to remove 90 percent or 99 percent or 99.9 percent.

“We show that for the slurry, as you move from treating distilled water to wastewater treatment plant effluent, the amount of energy required increases 11-fold. But when you do this with our immobilized bait-and-hook photocatalyst, the comparable increase is only two-fold. It’s a significant savings.”

The mat also would allow treatment plants to perform pollutant removal and destruction in two discrete steps, which isn’t possible with the slurry, Alvarez said. “It can be desirable to do that if the water is murky and light penetration is a challenge. You can fish out the contaminants adsorbed by the mat and transfer it to another reactor with clearer water. There, you can destroy the pollutants, clean out the mat and then return it so it can fish for more.”

Tuning the mat would involve changing its hydrophobic or hydrophilic properties to match target pollutants. “That way you could treat more water with a smaller reactor that is more selective, and therefore miniaturize these reactors and reduce their carbon footprints,” he said. “It’s an opportunity not only to reduce energy requirements, but also space requirements for photocatalytic water treatment.”

Alvarez said collaboration by NEWT’s research partners helped the project come together in a matter of months. “NEWT allowed us to do something that separately would have been very difficult to accomplish in this short amount of time,” he said.

“I think the mat will significantly enhance the menu from which we select solutions to our water purification challenges,” Alvarez said.

More information: Chang-Gu Lee et al, Porous electrospun fibers embedding TiO2 for adsorption and photocatalytic degradation of water pollutants, Environmental Science & Technology (2018). DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.7b06508

Provided by Rice University

Explore further:Researchers turn plastic pollution into cleaners

Designing a Graphene Filter to make Seawater Drinkable and … Cheaper


Seawater drinking water imagesAs drinking water grows scarce, desalination might be one way to bridge the gap.

 

A new study released earlier this week in the journal Nature Nanotechnology may be a major step towards making desalinated water—water in which salt is removed to make it safe for drinking—a viable option for more of the world. Researchers from the University of Manchester modified graphene oxide membranes, a type of selectively permeable membrane that allows some molecules to pass while keeping others behind, to let water through while trapping salt ions. It’s essentially a molecular sieve.

Finding new sources of fresh water is important, because roughly 20 percent of the world’s population—1.2 billion people—lack access to clean drinking water, according to the United Nations. It’s a number that’s expected to grow as populations increase and existing water supplies dwindle, in part due to climate change. This reality has led some to suggest that the world’s next “gold rush” will be for water. Others have a less sanguine approach, worrying that the wars of the future will be fought over water. And this concern is not without merit: the war currently raging in Yemen is linked, at least in part, to water conflicts. All the Water we have Energy-recovery-desalination-1

 

But while fresh water is scarce (a scant three percent of the world’s water is fresh) water itself is not. The Earth is more than 70 percent water, but 97 percent is undrinkable because it’s either salt or brackish (a mix of salt and fresh water). The occasional gulp of seawater while swimming aside, drinking saltwater is dangerous for humans—it leads to dehydration and eventually death. Hence the famous lined from the Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner: “water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink.”

Desalination could be a solution. After all, the technique is already employed in parts of the Middle East and the Cayman Islands. However, the two techniques currently employed—multi-stage flash distillation, which flash heats a portion of the water into steam through a series of heat exchanges, and reverse osmosis, which uses a high-pressure pump to push sea water through reverse osmosis membranes to remove ions and particles from drinking water—have several key drawbacks.

“Current desalination methods are energy intensive and produce adverse environmental impact,” wrote Ram Devanathan a researcher at the Energy and Environment Directorate at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, in an op-ed that accompanied the study. “Furthermore, energy production consumes large quantities of water and creates wastewater that needs to be treated with further energy input.”

Graphene oxide membranes show promise as a relatively inexpensive alternative, because they can be cheaply produced in a lab—and though water easily passes through them, salts do not. However, when immersed in water on a large-scale, graphene oxide membranes tend to quickly swell. Once swollen, the membranes not only allow water to pass through, but also sodium and magnesium ions, i.e. salt, defeating the purpose of the filtration.

Study author Rahul Nair and his colleagues discovered that by placing walls made of epoxy resin on either side of the graphene oxide, they could stop the expansion. And by restricting the membranes with resin, they were able to fine tune their capillary size to prevent any errant salts from hitching a ride on water molecules.

The next step will be testing it on an industrial scale to see if the method holds up. If it works, many people might just be drinking (a glass of water) to it.

Update: Australia’s CSIRO – Tiny (graphene) membrane key to safe drinking water for billions of people around the World


Sydney-harbour

Sydney’s iconic harbour has played a starring role in the development of new CSIRO technology that could save lives around the world.

Using their own specially designed form of graphene, ‘Graphair’, CSIRO scientists have supercharged water purification, making it simpler, more effective and quicker.

The new filtering technique is so effective, water samples from Sydney Harbour were safe to drink after passing through the filter.

The breakthrough research was published today in Nature Communications.

“Almost a third of the world’s population, some 2.1 billion people, don’t have clean and safe drinking water,” the paper’s lead author, CSIRO scientist Dr Dong Han Seo said. CSIRO Membrane download

“As a result, millions — mostly children — die from diseases associated with inadequate water supply, sanitation and hygiene every year.

“In Graphair we’ve found a perfect filter for water purification. It can replace the complex, time consuming and multi-stage processes currently needed with a single step.”

While graphene is the world’s strongest material and can be just a single carbon atom thin, it is usually water repellent.

Using their Graphair process, CSIRO researchers were able to create a film with microscopic nano-channels that let water pass through, but stop pollutants.

As an added advantage Graphair is simpler, cheaper, faster and more environmentally friendly than graphene to make.

It consists of renewable soybean oil, more commonly found in vegetable oil.

Looking for a challenge, Dr Seo and his colleagues took water samples from Sydney Harbour and ran it through a commercially available water filter, coated with Graphair.

Researchers from QUT, the University of Sydney, UTS, and Victoria University then tested and analysed its water purification qualities.

The breakthrough potentially solves one of the great problems with current water filtering methods: fouling.

Over time chemical and oil based pollutants coat and impede water filters, meaning contaminants have to be removed before filtering can begin. Tests showed Graphair continued to work even when coated with pollutants.

Without Graphair, the membrane’s filtration rate halved in 72 hours.

When the Graphair was added, the membrane filtered even more contaminants (99 per cent removal) faster.

“This technology can create clean drinking water, regardless of how dirty it is, in a single step,” Dr Seo said.

“All that’s needed is heat, our graphene, a membrane filter and a small water pump. We’re hoping to commence field trials in a developing world community next year.”

CSIRO image-20160204-3020-1rpo9r8CSIRO is looking for industry partners to scale up the technology so it can be used to filter a home or even town’s water supply.

It’s also investigating other applications such as the treatment of seawater and industrial effluents.

 

Story Source:

Materials provided by CSIRO AustraliaNote: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Dong Han Seo, Shafique Pineda, Yun Chul Woo, Ming Xie, Adrian T. Murdock, Elisa Y. M. Ang, Yalong Jiao, Myoung Jun Park, Sung Il Lim, Malcolm Lawn, Fabricio Frizera Borghi, Zhao Jun Han, Stephen Gray, Graeme Millar, Aijun Du, Ho Kyong Shon, Teng Yong Ng, Kostya Ostrikov. Anti-fouling graphene-based membranes for effective water desalinationNature Communications, 2018; 9 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-018-02871-3

Eco-Friendly Desalination using MOF’s could Supply the Lithium needed to Manufacture Batteries required to Mainstream EV’s


A new water purification (desalination) technology could be the key to more electric cars. How?

“Eco-Friendly Mining” of world’s the oceans for the vast amounts of lithium required for EV batteries, could “mainstream” our acceptance (affordability and accessibility) of Electric Vehicles and provide clean water – forecast to be in precious short supply in many parts of the World in the not so distant future.

energy_storage_2013-042216-_11-13-1Humanity is going to need a lot of lithium batteries if electric cars are going to take over, and that presents a problem when there’s only so much lithium available from conventional mines.

A potential solution is being researched that turns the world’s oceans into eco-friendly “Lithium supply mines.”

Scientists have outlined a desalination technique that would use metal-organic frameworks (sponge-like structures with very high surface areas) with sub-nanometer pores to catch lithium ions while purifying ocean water.

The approach mimics the tendency of cell membranes to selectively dehydrate and carry ions, leaving the lithium behind while producing water you can drink.

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While the concept of extracting lithium from our oceans certainly isn’t new, this new technology method would be much more efficient and environmentally friendly.

Instead of tearing up the landscape to find mineral deposits, battery makers would simply have to deploy enough filters.

It could even be used to make the most of water when pollution does take place — recovering lithium from the waste water at shale gas fields.

This method will require more research and development before it’s ready for real-world use.

However, the implications are already clear. If this desalination approach reaches sufficient scale, the world would have much more lithium available for electric vehicles, phones and other battery-based devices. It would also reduce the environmental impact of those devices. storedot-ev-battery-21-889x592 (1)

While some say current lithium mining practices negates some of the eco-friendliness of an EV, this “purification for Lithium” approach could let you drive relatively guilt-free

Reposted from Jonathan Fingas – Engadget

Electrons in the water – Understanding the properties of water in reduction/oxidation reactions in aqueous solutions – widespread applications in chemistry and biology – Argonne National Laboratory


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It’s a popular tradition to throw coins into fountains in the hopes of having wishes granted. But what would happen if you could “throw” electrons into the water instead? That is, what happens shortly after an electron is injected into water?

This decades-old question now has an answer, thanks to an articlepublished in Nature Communications on January 16. The study is the result of collaboration among researchers at the University of Chicago, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories, and the University of California — San Diego.

“Knowing the electron affinity of liquid water is crucial to understanding and modeling processes involving electron transfer between solids and the liquid, … ” — Alex Gaiduk, postdoctoral fellow at the University of Chicago.

Until now, scientists faced technical challenges when they wanted to experimentally measure the electron affinity of water, said Professor Giulia Galli, Liew Family Professor at the Institute for Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago and senior scientist at Argonne.

“Most of the results quoted in the literature as experimental numbers are actually values obtained by combining some measured quantities with crude theoretical estimates,” she said.

Accurate theoretical measurements, on the other hand, have been out of reach for some time due to the difficulty and high computational cost of simulating the interactions directly, said University of California-San Diego professor Francesco Paesani, a co-author of the study who has spent years developing an accurate potential for the modeling of liquid water.

The interaction potential between water molecules developed by Paesani was used to model the structure of both liquid water and the water’s surface. Once the structure was obtained, highly accurate theoretical methods and software to study excited states of matter, developed by Galli’s team, were used to understand what happens when an electron is injected into water.

Fundamentally, the researchers sought to understand whether the electron resides in the liquid and eventually participates in chemical reactions. The central question was, “Does the liquid bond with the electron right away?”

The researchers found that the electron binds with the water; however, its binding energy is much smaller than previously thought. This prompted the researchers to revisit a number of well-accepted data and models for the electron affinity of water.

Galli and her co-workers developed the methods for excited states used in this study over the years, in collaborations with T. A. Pham, from Lawrence Livermore, and Marco Govoni, from Argonne, both of whom are co-authors of this study.

“Using the software developed to study excited state phenomena in realistic systems (named Without Empty STates, or WEST) and the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility (ALCF), we were finally able to generate data for samples both large enough and on sufficiently long timescales to study the electron affinity of liquid water,” Govoni said.

“We found large differences between the affinity at the surface and in the bulk liquid. We also found values that were different from those accepted in the literature, which prompted us to revisit the full energy diagram of an electron in water,” Pham added.

This finding has important consequences, both for scientists who seek to fundamentally understand the properties of water and for those who want to describe reduction/oxidation reactions in aqueous solutions, which are widespread in chemistry and biology.

In particular, scientists often use information about the energy levels of water when they screen materials for photo-electrochemical cells. A reliable estimate of the water electron affinity (which the researchers of the study provided for both bulk water and its surface) will help scientists establish computational protocols that are more robust and more reliable, and improve computational screening of materials.

Funding for the work by Gaiduk and co-workers was provided by the DOE Office of Science through the Midwest Integrated Center for Computational Materials. Additional support was provided by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the National Science Foundation and the Lawrence Fellowship. The researchers used the ALCF, a DOE Office of Science User Facility, for the study. Computer time was provided by the Innovative and Novel Computational Impact on Theory and Experiment (INCITE), Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE) and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Grand Challenge programs.

Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation’s first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America’s scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit the Office of Science website.

Rice University: NEWT: New One-Step Catalyst Converts Nitrates to Water and Air


Rice Water Air Nitrates 159751_webRice University’s indium-palladium nanoparticle catalysts clean nitrates from drinking water by converting the toxic molecules into air and water. Credit Jeff Fitlow/Rice University

A simple, one-step catalyst could help yield cleaner drinking water with less nitrates.

A team from Rice University’s Nanotechnology Enabled Water Treatment (NEWT) Center have discovered that a catalyst made from indium and palladium can clean toxic nitrates from drinking water by converting them into air and water.

“Indium likes to be oxidized,” co-author Kim Heck, a research scientist at Rice, said in a statement. “From our in situ studies, we found that exposing the catalysts to solutions containing nitrate caused the indium to become oxidized.

“But when we added hydrogen-saturated water, the palladium prompted some of that oxygen to bond with the hydrogen and form water, and that resulted in the indium remaining in a reduced state where it’s free to break apart more nitrates,” she added.

In previous research, the researchers discovered that gold-palladium nanoparticles were not good catalysts for breaking apart nitrates. This led to the discovery of indium and palladium as a suitable catalyst.

“Nitrates are molecules that have one nitrogen atom and three oxygen atoms,” Rice chemical engineer Michael Wong, the lead scientist on the study, said in a statement. “Nitrates turn into nitrites if they lose an oxygen, but nitrites are even more toxic than nitrates, so you don’t want to stop with nitrites. Moreover, nitrates are the more prevalent problem.

“Ultimately, the best way to remove nitrates is a catalytic process that breaks them completely apart into nitrogen and oxygen or in our case, nitrogen and water because we add a little hydrogen,” he added. “More than 75 percent of Earth’s atmosphere is gaseous nitrogen, so we’re really turning nitrates into air and water.”

Nitrates, which could also be a carcinogenic, are considered toxic to both infants and pregnant women.

Nitrate pollution is common in agricultural communities, especially in the U.S. Corn Belt and California’s Central Valley, where fertilizers are heavily used. Studies have shown that nitrate pollution is on the rise because of changing land-use patterns. 1-california-drought-farms

The Environmental Protection Agency regulates allowable limits both nitrates and nitrites for safe drinking water. In communities with polluted wells and lakes, that typically means pretreating drinking water with ion-exchange resins that trap and remove nitrates and nitrites without destroying them.

“Nitrates come mainly from agricultural runoff, which affects farming communities all over the world,” Wong said. “Nitrates are both an environmental problem and health problem because they’re toxic.

“There are ion-exchange filters that can remove them from water, but these need to be flushed every few months to reuse them, and when that happens, the flushed water just returns a concentrated dose of nitrates right back into the water supply.”

The researchers will now try to develop a commercially viable water-treatment system.

“That’s where NEWT comes in,” Wong said. “NEWT is all about taking basic science discoveries and getting them deployed in real-world conditions.

“This is going to be an example within NEWT where we have the chemistry figured out, and the next step is to create a flow system to show proof of concept that the technology can be used in the field,” he added.

The study was published in ACS Catalysis.

Rice University (NEWT) / China team use phage-enhanced nanoparticles to kill bacteria that foul water treatment systems


Clusters of nanoparticles with phage viruses attached find and kill Escherichia coli bacteria in a lab test at Rice University. 

Abstract:
Magnetic nanoparticle clusters have the power to punch through biofilms to reach bacteria that can foul water treatment systems, according to scientists at Rice University and the University of Science and Technology of China.
Magnetized viruses attack harmful bacteria: Rice, China team uses phage-enhanced nanoparticles to kill bacteria that foul water treatment systems.

Researchers at Rice and the University of Science and Technology of China have developed a combination of antibacterial phages and magnetic nanoparticle clusters that infect and destroy bacteria that are usually protected by biofilms in water treatment systems. (Credit: Alvarez Group/Rice University)

The nanoclusters developed through Rice’s Nanotechnology-Enabled Water Treatment (NEWT) Engineering Research Center carry bacteriophages – viruses that infect and propagate in bacteria – and deliver them to targets that generally resist chemical disinfection.

Without the pull of a magnetic host, these “phages” disperse in solution, largely fail to penetrate biofilms and allow bacteria to grow in solution and even corrode metal, a costly problem for water distribution systems.

The Rice lab of environmental engineer Pedro Alvarez and colleagues in China developed and tested clusters that immobilize the phages. A weak magnetic field draws them into biofilms to their targets.

The research is detailed in the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Environmental Science: Nano.
“This novel approach, which arises from the convergence of nanotechnology and virology, has a great potential to treat difficult-to-eradicate biofilms in an effective manner that does not generate harmful disinfection byproducts,” Alvarez said.

Biofilms can be beneficial in some wastewater treatment or industrial fermentation reactors owing to their enhanced reaction rates and resistance to exogenous stresses, said Rice graduate student and co-lead author Pingfeng Yu. “However, biofilms can be very harmful in water distribution and storage systems since they can shelter pathogenic microorganisms that pose significant public health concerns and may also contribute to corrosion and associated economic losses,” he said.

The lab used phages that are polyvalent – able to attack more than one type of bacteria – to target lab-grown films that contained strains of Escherichia coli associated with infectious diseases and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which is prone to antibiotic resistance.

The phages were combined with nanoclusters of carbon, sulfur and iron oxide that were further modified with amino groups. The amino coating prompted the phages to bond with the clusters head-first, which left their infectious tails exposed and able to infect bacteria.

The researchers used a relatively weak magnetic field to push the nanoclusters into the film and disrupt it. Images showed they effectively killed E. coli and P. aeruginosa over around 90 percent of the film in a test 96-well plate versus less than 40 percent in a plate with phages alone.

The researchers noted bacteria may still develop resistance to phages, but the ability to quickly disrupt biofilms would make that more difficult. Alvarez said the lab is working on phage “cocktails” that would combine multiple types of phages and/or antibiotics with the particles to inhibit resistance.

Graduate student Ling-Li Li of the University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei, is co-lead author of the paper. Co-authors are graduate student Sheng-Song Yu and Han-Qing Yu, a professor at the University of Science and Technology of China, and graduate student Xifan Wang and temporary research scientist Jacques Mathieu of Rice.


The National Science Foundation and its Rice-based NEWT Engineering Research Center supported the research.