May 2022 Spotlight

PROTECT Researchers Develop Robust Flow-Through Platform for Organic Contaminant Removal

PROTECT Project 4 researchers focus on development of treatment platforms that effectively remove organic pollutants in water at a low-cost. Toxic organic chemicals from Superfund sites have long been a threat to drinking water resources and human health. The Fenton and Fenton-like water treatment processes generate hydroxyl radicals, which have a strong oxidation potential and can destroy organic contaminants in water. The Fenton process is rapid; however, it may produce an iron sludge, which would require removal and increase treatment costs. On the other hand, utilization of a Fenton-like process that limits sludge generation will result in a slower reaction rate under a highly acidic environment. In a paper published in Cell Reports Physical Science, Project 4 researchers presented their work on developing a water treatment process that efficiently operates in water bodies of all pH levels without generating iron sludge. The team utilized an iron oxychloride (FeOCL) catalyst that increases the yield of hydroxyl radical generation within an Electro-Fenton-like (EFL) reaction. They then developed an electrolytically localized acidic compartment. The process facilitates a Fenton-like reaction by creating a localized acidic region using electrochemical water splitting under flow-through conditions. The acidic pH produced by the process increases the yield of the oxychloride reactors. The process builds upon previous work and findings that electrochemistry holds promise for automatic pH regulation.

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