Sci­en­tists dis­cover a cat­a­lyst that re­moves toxic ni­trates from wa­ter

Chemical Industry Digest - - New Developments -

En­gi­neers at Rice Univer­sity’s NSF-funded Nan­otech­nol­ogy En­abled Wa­ter Treat­ment (NEWT) Cen­ter have found a cat­a­lyst that cleans toxic ni­trates from drink­ing wa­ter by con­vert­ing them into air and wa­ter.

Rice chem­i­cal engi­neer Michael Wong, the lead sci­en­tist on the study, says, “Ni­trates are both an en­vi­ron­men­tal and health prob­lem be­cause they’re toxic. Ul­ti­mately, the best way to re­move ni­trates is a cat­alytic process that breaks them com­pletely apart into ni­tro­gen and oxy­gen, or in our case, ni­tro­gen and wa­ter, be­cause we add a lit­tle hy­dro­gen. More than 75% of Earth’s at­mos­phere is gaseous ni­tro­gen, so we’re re­ally turn­ing ni­trates into air and wa­ter.”

The Rice team also found that the in­dium speeds up the break­down of ni­trates while the pal­la­dium ap­par­ently keeps the in­dium from be­ing per­ma­nently ox­i­dised. Wong said his team will work with in­dus­trial part­ners and other re­searchers to turn the process into a com­mer­cially vi­able wa­ter-treat­ment sys­tem.

The re­search is avail­able on­line in the Amer­i­can Chem­i­cal So­ci­ety jour­nal ACS Catal­y­sis.

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