Sunlight to remove contaminants from wastewater

PIXABAY

Pharmaceutical residues, pesticides, personal care products or various chemical compounds are some of the contaminants found in wastewater. They are called contaminants of “Emerging Concern”because they are difficult to remove with conventional treatment techniques in municipal and industrial wastewater treatment plants.

Precisely to eliminate this type of contaminant, researchers at the Polytechnic University of Madrid (UPM) have designed and configured a new photoreactor capable of carrying out different advanced oxidation processes simultaneously, using ultraviolet radiation at all times through LED technology. .

The electrochemical oxidation process is one of the methods used in wastewater treatment for the degradation of various pollutants. In this prototype, different advanced oxidation processes can be carried out simultaneously, such as electrochemical oxidation, photolysis and photocatalysis with catalysts based on TiO2 nanotubes.

“The new photoreactor is compact and multifunctional, and can also use only sunlight as a reagent”, explains María José Martín de Vidales Calvo, researcher at the UPM and one of the authors of the study. And it is that its design allows to carry out not only the electrochemical oxidation of the pollutant, but also the photocatalytic process, that is, the photochemical reaction that converts solar energy into chemical energy, allowing the synergy of the different process. These technologies can therefore be studied separately and together, giving rise to photoelectrocatalytic oxidation.

Wastewater Contaminants of Concern: A Risk to Human Health

“The design seeks synergistic effects of high efficiency for wastewater treatment, with low cost, easy implementation and environmental compatibility”underlines the professor at the Higher Technical School of Engineering and Industrial Design (ETSIDI) of the UPM.

More specifically, the work focuses on the degradation of ofloxacin, a broad-spectrum bactericide used in many drugs. It is one of the contaminants of “Emerging Concern” in water, residues which, even at low concentrations, can cause significant damage to flora and fauna and, consequently, to human health. Many of them can cause disorders of the endocrine and neuronal systems, reproductive capacities and hormonal control, as well as different types of cancer (ovary, breast, prostate, testicles, etc.).

“If wastewater is treated in the same way as conventional water and is used for irrigation, these risks increase significantly”, emphasizes María José Martín de Vidales. In this way, the application of effective technologies for the removal of these pollutants from wastewater is of vital importance.

In the study, UPM researchers carried out a simulation for a wastewater treatment plant in a municipality of 10,000 inhabitants, in which the budget is approximately 200,000 euros in capital costs, or 0.72 -€0.75 the cost per m3 of water treated.

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Reference article: https://www.upm.es/?id=7696761e3ae33810VgnVCM10000009c7648a____&prefmt=articulo&fmt=detail

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