New high-efficiency water filter that removes 99.9% of microplastics in 10 seconds

New high-efficiency water filter that removes 99.9% of microplastics in 10 seconds

Freshwater scarcity is becoming one of the most critical global challenges due to severe water pollution caused by micropollutants and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). However, current water purification technology exhibits slow adsorption of micropollutants and requires an energy-intensive process to remove VOCs from water.

Today, researchers from South Korea’s Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology (DGIST) have successfully developed a “atypical porous polymer materialwhich can completely remove organic phenolic contaminants from water at ultra-high speeds. The new porous material can effectively remove not only microplastics in water, but also very small VOCs through the photothermal effect.

Researchers succeeded in synthesizing a highly porous polymer with excellent adsorption performance and photothermal properties by reacting it with a cheap and efficient precursor.

The team also experimented with an additional oxidation reaction on the polymer and, based on the results, a hydrophilic functional group was introduced to allow rapid adsorption of micropollutants in the aquatic environment.

Through experiments, it was also confirmed that the polymer developed by the research team does not require high thermal energy for recycling and can be used multiple times without losing performance. The researchers fabricated a water treatment membrane capable of evaporating water using solar energy as a driving force due to the developed polymer’s ability to largely absorb light and convert the absorbed light into heat.

As a result, it was confirmed that the oxidized polymer coated water treatment membrane could purify phenolic pollutants through sunlight. The resulting water filter showed rapid micro-contaminant removal efficiency – over 99.9% of contaminants would be removed in 10 seconds – and can be regenerated multiple times without loss of performance.

In addition, the manufacture of photothermal composite membranes with the new material has a high VOC rejection rate (up to 98%) with solar irradiation. A prototype synergistic purification system composed of adsorption and solar membrane can effectively remove more than 99.9% of mixed phenolics.

The technology we have developed here is unrivaled water purification technology, with the highest purification efficiencies in the world, removing over 99.9% of phenolic microplastics and VOC contaminants from water at speeds ultra-fast. We hope that it will be a universal technology with high economic efficiency that can purify polluted water and provide drinking water even in areas without electricity.

Park Chi-Young, a professor in the Department of Energy Science and Engineering at DGIST.


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