Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors

Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

Home > Press > Rice U.'s one-step catalyst turns nitrates into water and air: NSF-funded NEWT Center aims for catalytic converter for nitrate-polluted water

Rice University's indium-palladium nanoparticle catalysts clean nitrates from drinking water by converting the toxic molecules into air and water.
CREDIT
Jeff Fitlow/Rice University
Rice University's indium-palladium nanoparticle catalysts clean nitrates from drinking water by converting the toxic molecules into air and water. CREDIT Jeff Fitlow/Rice University

Abstract:
Engineers at Rice University's 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 U.'s one-step catalyst turns nitrates into water and air: NSF-funded NEWT Center aims for catalytic converter for nitrate-polluted water

Houston, TX | Posted on January 5th, 2018

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

"Nitrates come mainly from agricultural runoff, which affects farming communities all over the world," said Rice chemical engineer Michael Wong, the lead scientist on the study. "Nitrates are both an environmental problem and health problem because they're toxic. There are ion-exchange filters that can remove them from water, but these need to be flushed every few months to reuse them, and when that happens, the flushed water just returns a concentrated dose of nitrates right back into the water supply."

Wong's lab specializes in developing nanoparticle-based catalysts, submicroscopic bits of metal that speed up chemical reactions. In 2013, his group showed that tiny gold spheres dotted with specks of palladium could break apart nitrites, the more toxic chemical cousins of nitrates.

"Nitrates are molecules that have one nitrogen atom and three oxygen atoms," Wong explained. "Nitrates turn into nitrites if they lose an oxygen, but nitrites are even more toxic than nitrates, so you don't want to stop with nitrites. Moreover, nitrates are the more prevalent problem.

"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," he said. "More than 75 percent of Earth's atmosphere is gaseous nitrogen, so we're really turning nitrates into air and water."

Nitrates are toxic to infants and pregnant women and may also be carcinogenic. Nitrate pollution is common in agricultural communities, especially in the U.S. Corn Belt and California's Central Valley, where fertilizers are heavily used, and some studies have shown that nitrate pollution is on the rise due to changing land-use patterns.

Both nitrates and nitrites are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency, which sets allowable limits for safe drinking water. In communities with polluted wells and lakes, that typically means pretreating drinking water with ion-exchange resins that trap and remove nitrates and nitrites without destroying them.

From their previous work, Wong's team knew that gold-palladium nanoparticles were not good catalysts for breaking apart nitrates. Co-author Kim Heck, a research scientist in Wong's lab, said a search of published scientific literature turned up another possibility: indium and palladium.

"We were able to optimize that, and we found that covering about 40 percent of a palladium sphere's surface with indium gave us our most active catalyst," Heck said. "It was about 50 percent more efficient than anything else we found in previously published studies. We could have stopped there, but we were really interested in understanding why it was better, and for that we had to explore the chemistry behind this reaction."

In collaboration with chemical engineering colleagues Jeffrey Miller of Purdue University and Lars Grabow of the University of Houston, the Rice team found that the indium speeds up the breakdown of nitrates while the palladium apparently keeps the indium from being permanently oxidized.

"Indium likes to be oxidized," Heck said. "From our in situ studies, we found that exposing the catalysts to solutions containing nitrate caused the indium to become oxidized. But when we added hydrogen-saturated water, the palladium prompted some of that oxygen to bond with the hydrogen and form water, and that resulted in the indium remaining in a reduced state where it's free to break apart more nitrates."

Wong said his team will work with industrial partners and other researchers to turn the process into a commercially viable water-treatment system.

"That's where NEWT comes in," he said. "NEWT is all about taking basic science discoveries and getting them deployed in real-world conditions. This is going to be an example within NEWT where we have the chemistry figured out, and the next step is to create a flow system to show proof of concept that the technology can be used in the field."

NEWT is a multi-institutional engineering research center based at Rice that was established by the National Science Foundation in 2015 to develop compact, mobile, off-grid water-treatment systems that can provide clean water to millions of people and make U.S. energy production more sustainable and cost-effective. NEWT is expected to leverage more than $40 million in federal and industrial support by 2025 and is focused on applications for humanitarian emergency response, rural water systems and wastewater treatment and reuse at remote sites, including both onshore and offshore drilling platforms for oil and gas exploration.

###

Additional study co-authors include Sujin Guo, Huifeng Qian and Zhun Zhao, all of Rice, and Sashank Kasiraju of the University of Houston. The research was funded by the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy and the China Scholarship Council.

####

About Rice University
Located on a 300-acre forested campus in Houston, Rice University is consistently ranked among the nation's top 20 universities by U.S. News & World Report. Rice has highly respected schools of Architecture, Business, Continuing Studies, Engineering, Humanities, Music, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences and is home to the Baker Institute for Public Policy. With 3,879 undergraduates and 2,861 graduate students, Rice's undergraduate student-to-faculty ratio is 6-to-1. Its residential college system builds close-knit communities and lifelong friendships, just one reason why Rice is ranked No. 1 for quality of life and for lots of race/class interaction and No. 2 for happiest students by the Princeton Review. Rice is also rated as a best value among private universities by Kiplinger's Personal Finance. To read "What they're saying about Rice," go to http://tinyurl.com/RiceUniversityoverview .

Follow Rice News and Media Relations via Twitter @RiceUNews

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
David Ruth

713-348-6327

Copyright © Rice University

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related Links

A copy of the paper is available at:

Related News Press

News and information

The first PE blown films with nanotubes hit the Chinese market April 26th, 2018

Watching nanomaterials form in 4D: Novel technology allows researchers to see dynamic reactions as they happen at the nanoscale April 26th, 2018

The dispute about the origins of terahertz photoresponse in graphene results in a draw April 26th, 2018

Nuclear radiation detecting device could lead to new homeland security tool: New device can detect gamma rays and identify radioactive isotopes April 25th, 2018

Govt.-Legislation/Regulation/Funding/Policy

Watching nanomaterials form in 4D: Novel technology allows researchers to see dynamic reactions as they happen at the nanoscale April 26th, 2018

Getting a better look at living cells April 25th, 2018

Graphene origami as a mechanically tunable plasmonic structure for infrared detection April 25th, 2018

Nuclear radiation detecting device could lead to new homeland security tool: New device can detect gamma rays and identify radioactive isotopes April 25th, 2018

Possible Futures

Watching nanomaterials form in 4D: Novel technology allows researchers to see dynamic reactions as they happen at the nanoscale April 26th, 2018

The dispute about the origins of terahertz photoresponse in graphene results in a draw April 26th, 2018

Graphene origami as a mechanically tunable plasmonic structure for infrared detection April 25th, 2018

Nuclear radiation detecting device could lead to new homeland security tool: New device can detect gamma rays and identify radioactive isotopes April 25th, 2018

Discoveries

Watching nanomaterials form in 4D: Novel technology allows researchers to see dynamic reactions as they happen at the nanoscale April 26th, 2018

The dispute about the origins of terahertz photoresponse in graphene results in a draw April 26th, 2018

Graphene origami as a mechanically tunable plasmonic structure for infrared detection April 25th, 2018

Nuclear radiation detecting device could lead to new homeland security tool: New device can detect gamma rays and identify radioactive isotopes April 25th, 2018

Announcements

The first PE blown films with nanotubes hit the Chinese market April 26th, 2018

Arbe Robotics Selects GLOBALFOUNDRIES for its High-Resolution Imaging Radar to Enable Safety for Autonomous Cars: Arbe Robotics’ proprietary chipset leverages GF’s 22FDX® technology to deliver industry’s first real-time 4D imaging radar for level 4 and 5 autonomous driving April 26th, 2018

Watching nanomaterials form in 4D: Novel technology allows researchers to see dynamic reactions as they happen at the nanoscale April 26th, 2018

The dispute about the origins of terahertz photoresponse in graphene results in a draw April 26th, 2018

Interviews/Book Reviews/Essays/Reports/Podcasts/Journals/White papers

The dispute about the origins of terahertz photoresponse in graphene results in a draw April 26th, 2018

Getting a better look at living cells April 25th, 2018

Graphene origami as a mechanically tunable plasmonic structure for infrared detection April 25th, 2018

Nuclear radiation detecting device could lead to new homeland security tool: New device can detect gamma rays and identify radioactive isotopes April 25th, 2018

Food/Agriculture/Supplements

HTA to Present European Strategy for Competitive Micro- and Nanotechnologies & Smart Systems: Special Event in Brussels on April 24 Gathers Research Institutes’ CEOs, European Commissioners and Key European Industrials April 17th, 2018

Twisting laser light offers the chance to probe the nano-scale: A new method to sensitively measure the structure of molecules has been demonstrated by twisting laser light and aiming it at miniscule gold gratings to separate out wavelengths: April 5th, 2018

Graphene on toast, anyone? Rice University scientists create patterned graphene onto food, paper, cloth, cardboard February 13th, 2018

Silk fibers could be high-tech ‘natural metamaterials’ January 31st, 2018

Environment

'Sweet spot' in sweet material for hydrogen storage: Study IDs 'white graphene' architecture with unprecedented hydrogen storage capacity March 12th, 2018

Converting CO2 into Usable Energy: Scientists show that single nickel atoms are an efficient, cost-effective catalyst for converting carbon dioxide into useful chemicals March 1st, 2018

Ultra-efficient removal of carbon monoxide using gold nanoparticles on a molecular support: New method and mechanism for state-of-the-art gas purification February 9th, 2018

New filters could enable manufacturers to perform highly-selective chemical separation January 23rd, 2018

Energy

Organic solar cells reach record efficiency, benchmark for commercialization April 23rd, 2018

Psst! A whispering gallery for light boosts solar cells April 14th, 2018

High efficiency solar power conversion allowed by a novel composite material: A composite thin film developed at INRS improves significantly solar cells' power conversion efficiency April 10th, 2018

Light 'relaxes' crystal to boost solar cell efficiency: Rice, Los Alamos discovery advances case for perovskite-based solar cells April 6th, 2018

Water

A new way to mix oil and water: Condensation-based method developed at MIT could create stable nanoscale emulsions November 8th, 2017

Magnetized viruses attack harmful bacteria: Rice, China team uses phage-enhanced nanoparticles to kill bacteria that foul water treatment systems August 2nd, 2017

Bacteria-coated nanofiber electrodes clean pollutants in wastewater July 1st, 2017

Smart materials used in ultrasound behave similar to water, Penn chemists report June 16th, 2017

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE



  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More











ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project