Silica technology to remove microplastics from water


Microplastics and pharmaceuticals pose a 21st-century challenge for wastewater treatment plants, but a newly developed silica technology could help remove pollutants from treated water before being released back into the environment. The Water 3.0 project, led by University of Koblenz-Landau’s Professor Katrin Schuhen, has been hard at work looking at the chemistry of new solutions to wastewater pollution problems. Through experimentation with hybrid silica gels, the project has discovered a way to remove microplastics and pharmaceuticals from water. Pharmaceutical molecules chemically react with the gels, securely separating them from water, while microplastics are treated with a gel that promotes the formation of clumps. The silica gel clumps accumulate to the size of ping-pong balls that float on the surface of the treatment basin, allowing for separation and removal. Furthermore, the silica gel can be recycled, offering a sustainable approach to microplastic and molecule removal that’s also more cost-effective. The commercial release of the new technology will rely on the ability for wastewater treatment plants to retrofit in accordance with the process, but current testing is now underway. Testing comes in the wake of a recent report produced by Lund University, which outlines the microplastic and pharmaceutical endemic currently facing waterways around the world.

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