There’s this really important thing that all of us need to live: water. Not everyone is fortunate enough to have clean water readily available and industrial plants, pesticides and pharmaceuticals are slowly infecting the limited resources we have. Absorbent carbon materials can remove many of these organic pollutants, but they generally aren’t reusable and tend to miss hydrophilic micropollutants.
This is where science steps in. Researchers are developing inexpensive materials that can quickly purify water and target those hard-to-get micropollutants. They’re working with an insoluble polymer called β-cyclodextrin (β-CD) – which is a big loop of connected sugar molecules. Scientists have also found a way to cross-link β-CD, thereby creating a “porous, cross-linked complex.” If you know your science then you know that the porous nature of the material gives it a greater surface area. This, in turn, makes the material absorb pollutant more quickly.
Right, so after making their β-CD lace they needed to test it. The team used Bisphenol A (BPA) as their model pollutant, which was smart considering BPA is a component of plastics that’s given rise to great health concerns over the last 10 years. Their new material was able to remove the majority of BPA from a solution, and the team found that it did so at an accelerated rate. The β-CD material reached 95 percent capacity in 10 seconds and showed purification speeds 15 to 200 times faster than other materials. Not too shabby!
What’s more, these materials are reusable. The team found that BPA can be easily removed from the β-CD lace by rising it in room temperature methanol. Testing with these cleaned polymers found that the decrease in performance was negligible. But it gets even better! The polymer can be sold at a cheaper price than carbon-based products. Further testing will show how effective it is in various forms and will help maximize the potential of this very cool polymer.