Nav: Home

Leaf-mimicking device harnesses light to purify water

January 06, 2016

For years, scientists have been pursuing ways to imitate a leaf's photosynthetic power to make hydrogen fuel from water and sunlight. In a new twist, a team has come up with another kind of device that mimics two of a leaf's processes -- photosynthesis and transpiration -- to harness solar energy to purify water. Their development, reported in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, could help address issues of water scarcity.

More than 1 billion people around the world live in areas where clean water is hard to come by, and that number will likely rise as the population grows. One possible solution to the shortage is to clean up wastewater or other water sources that would otherwise not be drinkable or usable for agriculture. But methods to scrub contaminants from water mostly rely on conventional energy sources. To address the water problem without adding to the dependence on fossil fuels, Peng Tao, Wen Shang and colleagues developed a way to purify water by copying the way green leaves work.

The researchers built a tri-layer membrane out of titanium dioxide (TiO2) nanoparticles, gold nanoparticles and a supporting layer of anodized aluminum oxide. The membrane cleans water in two ways. In a photosynthesis-like process, the TiO2 layer captures light, and that energy spurs the breakdown of toxic pollutants in a water sample. Testing showed it degraded about 60 percent of a model pollutant after two hours in simulated sunlight. The gold layer performs the transpiration role of a leaf -- it harnesses solar energy and drives water at the sample surface to evaporate. The resulting vapor rises, leaving contaminants behind. The scientists then condensed the vapor to make purified water.
-end-
The authors acknowledge funding from the National Natural Science Foundation of China, the Natural Science Foundation of Shanghai and the Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With more than 158,000 members, ACS is the world's largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

To automatically receive news releases from the American Chemical Society, contact newsroom@acs.org.

Follow us: TwitterFacebook

American Chemical Society

Related Nanoparticles Articles:

Nanoparticles: Acidic alert
Researchers of Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich have synthesized nanoparticles that can be induced by a change in pH to release a deadly dose of ionized iron within cells.
3D reconstructions of individual nanoparticles
Want to find out how to design and build materials atom by atom?
Directing nanoparticles straight to tumors
Modern anticancer therapies aim to attack tumor cells while sparing healthy tissue.
Sweet nanoparticles trick kidney
Researchers engineer tiny particles with sugar molecules to prevent side effect in cancer therapy.
A megalibrary of nanoparticles
Using straightforward chemistry and a mix-and-match, modular strategy, researchers have developed a simple approach that could produce over 65,000 different types of complex nanoparticles.
Dialing up the heat on nanoparticles
Rapid progress in the field of metallic nanotechnology is sparking a science revolution that is likely to impact all areas of society, according to professor of physics Ventsislav Valev and his team at the University of Bath in the UK.
Illuminating the world of nanoparticles
Scientists at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) have developed a light-based device that can act as a biosensor, detecting biological substances in materials; for example, harmful pathogens in food samples.
What happens to gold nanoparticles in cells?
Gold nanoparticles, which are supposed to be stable in biological environments, can be degraded inside cells.
Lighting up cardiovascular problems using nanoparticles
A new nanoparticle innovation that detects unstable calcifications that can trigger heart attacks and strokes may allow doctors to pinpoint when plaque on the walls of blood vessels becomes dangerous.
Cutting nanoparticles down to size -- new study
A new technique in chemistry could pave the way for producing uniform nanoparticles for use in drug delivery systems.
More Nanoparticles News and Nanoparticles Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Reinvention
Change is hard, but it's also an opportunity to discover and reimagine what you thought you knew. From our economy, to music, to even ourselves–this hour TED speakers explore the power of reinvention. Guests include OK Go lead singer Damian Kulash Jr., former college gymnastics coach Valorie Kondos Field, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, and entrepreneur Nick Hanauer.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dispatch 6: Strange Times
Covid has disrupted the most basic routines of our days and nights. But in the middle of a conversation about how to fight the virus, we find a place impervious to the stalled plans and frenetic demands of the outside world. It's a very different kind of front line, where urgent work means moving slow, and time is marked out in tiny pre-planned steps. Then, on a walk through the woods, we consider how the tempo of our lives affects our minds and discover how the beats of biology shape our bodies. This episode was produced with help from Molly Webster and Tracie Hunte. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.