Clean water is essential for health and the living environment, but more than two billion people do not have access to it. To meet this global challenge, scientists at Chalmers University of Technology have developed a new method to easily purify contaminated water.

Their method, which uses a cellulose-based material, could have implications for countries with poor water treatment technologies and combat the widespread problem of toxic dye discharges from the textile industry.

The secret of water filtration lies in the nanocrystals of cellulose, about which the researchers have built up a great deal of expertise. The researchers have now discovered a way to exploit the exceptional adsorption capacity of these small nanoparticles.

Gunnar Westman, associate professor of organic chemistry, said: “We have taken a unique holistic approach to these cellulose nanocrystals, exploring their properties and possible applications. We have created a biobased material, a form of cellulose powder with excellent purifying properties that we can adapt and modify depending on the types of pollutants substances that need to be removed.”

Scientists showed how to filter toxic dyes from wastewater using the method and material developed by the group. The procedure uses sunlight as a catalyst and does not involve pressure or heat. It can remove 80 percent of the dye contaminants in waste water.

Gunnar Westman said: “Imagine a simple purification system, such as a portable box connected to the sewage system. As the contaminated water passes through the cellulose powder filter, the pollutants are absorbed and the sunlight entering the treatment system causes them to break down quickly and efficiently. It is a cost-effective and easy system to set up and use, and we see it can be of great benefit in countries that currently have poor or non-existent water treatment.”

Magazine reference:

  1. Ruchi Aggarwal, Anjali Kumari Garg, et al. Cellulose nanocrystals derived from microcrystalline cellulose for selective removal of Janus Green Azo dye. Industrial and technical chemical research. DOI: 10.1021/acs.iecr.2c03365