New way to purify water from pharmaceutical pollutants

Pomegranate extract-based porous crystals were created by Stockholm University researchers to absorb and breakdown pharmaceutical compounds prevalent in regional municipal wastewater.

The study has been released in the scholarly journal Nature Water.Pharmaceutical substances influence the human body to enhance our health, yet they can also unintentionally have detrimental impacts on wildlife welfare.

As a result, new materials and technologies are needed for wastewater treatment plants to remove emerging organic contaminants (EOCs) such active pharmaceutical components.

Utilizing sponge-like porous materials is one method of cleaning water of contaminants. Metal ions and organic molecules combine to form metal-organic frameworks (MOFs), a class of nanoporous material.

Synthetic organic compounds are used to create the majority of MOFs. However, utilizing ellagic acid, a naturally occurring chemical found in plants, scientists from Stockholm University’s Department of Materials and Environmental Chemistry have recently succeeded in creating novel porous MOFs.

In order to test the performance of SU-102, water that had already been purified at a local wastewater treatment facility was further treated with the new MOF

Ellagic acid, which is frequently found in fruits, berries, nuts, and tree bark, is one of the key constituents of naturally occurring polyphenols known as tannins.

“We developed a new highly porous MOF that we named SU-102 by combining ellagic acid, which was extracted from either pomegranate peel or tree bark, with zirconium ions,” says Erik Svensson Grape, who conducted the study while a PhD student at the Department of Materials and Environmental Chemistry, Stockholm University.

Water that had already been cleaned at a nearby wastewater treatment facility was further treated with the new MOF in order to test the performance of SU-102.

According to the findings, SU-102 effectively eliminated several pharmaceutical contaminants that the wastewater treatment plant was unable to completely remove. SU-102 was utilized to capture pharmaceutical pollutants as well as to degrade pollutants through a process known as photodegradation.

“This has been a very exciting project as we got the opportunity to work directly with water samples from the treatment plant, thereby finding an application where our material could be put to use towards a very pressing environmental issue. We hope one day that SU-102 will be used on a bigger scale and also for other environmental applications,” says Erik Svensson Grape at Stockholm University.

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