Nanoelectrochemical systems (NES) for distributed water and wastewater treatment.
Flow-through electrochemical cell equipped with porous, nano-engineered electrodes based on low-cost reduced graphene oxide can offer energy-efficient, chemical-free water treatment and disinfection, using only electrons.
The ever-increasing environmental input of toxic chemicals is rapidly deteriorating the health of our ecosystems and, above all, jeopardizing human health. Overcoming the challenge of water pollution requires novel water treatment technologies that are sustainable, robust and energy efficient. ELECTRON4WATER proposes a pioneering, chemical-free water purification technology: a three-dimensional (3D) nanoelectrochemical system equipped with low-cost reduced graphene oxide (RGO)-based electrodes.
Existing research on graphene-based electrodes has been focused on supercapacitor applications and synthesis of defect-free, superconductive graphene. On the contrary, in this project we will use the defective structure of RGO to induce the production of reactive oxygen species and enhance electrocatalytic degradation of pollutants. We will investigate the electrolysis reactions at 3D electrochemically polarized RGO-coated material, which offers high catalytic activity and high surface area available for electrolysis.
This breakthrough approach in electrochemical reactor design is expected to greatly enhance the current efficiency and achieve complete removal of persistent contaminants and pathogens from water without using any chemicals, just by applying the current. Also, high capacitance of RGO-based material can enable further energy savings and allow using intermittent energy sources such as photovoltaic panels. These features make 3D nanoelectrochemical systems particularly interesting for distributed, small-scale applications.
This project aims at: i) designing the optimum RGO-based material for specific treatment goals, ii) mechanistic understanding of (electro)catalysis and (electro)sorption of persistent pollutants at RGO and electrochemically polarized RGO, iii) understanding the role of inorganic and organic matrix and recognizing potential process limitations, and iv) developing tailored, adaptable solutions for the treatment of contaminated water.
What We Do
Our research group is dedicated to the development and optimization of (nano)electrochemical systems for the treatment of water and wastewater. We are particularly interested in those pollutants that are refractory or difficult to be removed by other, conventional and advanced treatment technologies. For example, electrochemical processes are capable of completely defluorinating and degrading some of the most persistent pollutants such as perfluorinated chemicals. This versatility of electrochemical systems, combined with their compact, chemical-free design makes them very well suited for distributed and decentralized water and wastewater treatment. We believe that will play a major role in the inevitable transition to smart water networks employing on-site water treatment units, and thus drastically lower the cost of water reclamation by avoiding the long distance conveyance of recycled water.
We are currently working on surpassing a major limitation of electrochemical systems - low current efficiency - by integrating them with engineered, low-cost carbon nanostructured materials in a nanoelectrochemical system (NES) units. NES have the potential to address some of the trade-offs in the water-energy nexus by delivering a cost-efficient, renewable energy-powered treatment that can operate autonomously from both water and energy grid.