Scientists discover a catalyst that removes toxic nitrates from water
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.