The purification of drinking water from Emerging Contaminants (EC) is challenging since conventional wastewater treatment plants are not always effective in removing ED.
Currently, adsorption on Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) or membrane filtration/ reverse osmosis (RO) are the most useful technologies for EC removal at household or municipal scale. However, they failed on several pollutants (i.e. Perfluoroalkylsubstances, PFAS), moreover they have high operational/energetic/environmental and replacement-regeneration costs.
To tackle this challenge, in ISOF we are developing new technologies to capture dangerous contaminants in drinking water and therefore to purify it using nano-materials. As example, we use the high surface area, chemical tunability and stability of graphene and related materials (GRM) to develop new composite filters, able to remove EC (heavy metals, drugs and PFAS) better than standard filters based on GAC or RO. Moreover, in order to enable disinfection and filter regeneration, at ISOF we also study new filters, where polymers are functionalized with photocatalytic materials. Such composite materials can combine the filtering action of the porous polymers with the anti-bacterial activity of the polymer membranes functionalized with photosensitizers. The intrinsic filtration capacity of the membrane, based on the tuneable size of the pores, is combined with the antibacterial capacity of the photosensitizer which can be also used to destroy the captured contaminants, reduce fouling and enable light assisted regeneration enhancing operational lifetime.