One-step drinking water treatment using nanofiltration and nanostructured composites

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Resource or Project Abstract

Sustainable access to clean, safe drinking water has been a key concern in Ireland in recent years. Many drinking water treatment plants do not have the technical capacity to fully eliminate microbial contaminants such as Cryptosporidium parvum and E. coli or emerging micropollutants of concern, such as pharmaceuticals, personal care products (PPCPs) and hazardous organic pollutants (HOPs). In order to assure water quality, and future proof the potential for reclaimed water use for potable purposes, there is a need for a variety of drinking water (DW) treatment technologies that can remove both microbial and other micropollutants in the same system, particularly for small water supply schemes. Arising from this identified need, the key output from this project is an innovative drinking water treatment system that can be used for small scale drinking water treatment. This technology is based on combining the adsorption properties of graphene, the biocidal properties of a graphene/copper composite and a modular filtration system that is suitable for drinking water treatment in small- and middle-scale group water schemes, where the small volume of DW supplied per day makes conventional technology less effective and more expensive. This modular, integrated system was tested and validated and shown to remove key pathogens associated with drinking water, eg E. coli and Cryptosporidum as well as PPCPs. Secondary outputs and discoveries include:
Graphene and graphene oxide were shown to be not biocidal, despite reports in the literature to the contrary, while a combination of copper and graphene as a nanostructured composite was shown to be biocidal
Positively and negatively charged ultrafiltration membranes with improved characteristics were fabricated using graphene oxide and graphene oxide-TiO2 composites
Acid-Activated Alginate-Graphene Oxide adsorptive beads were fabricated which exhibited strong potential for use in removal of organic pollutants.
Public awareness of the importance of treatment of contaminated drinking water supplies was created through a mini-symposium, international and national scientific meetings, website and publications in both peer reviewed journals, book chapters and industry publications.

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Contact Information for This Resource

Dr Anne Morrissey
Dublin City University

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SAFER-Data Display URL
Resource KeywordsWater Treatment; pathogen and pharmaceutical removal; graphene; filtration
EPA/ERTDI/STRIVE Project Code2011-W-MS-8
EPA/ERTDI/STRIVE Project ThemeWater Quality
Resource Availability: Any User Can Download Files From This Resource
Limitations on the use of this ResourceNONE
Number of Attached Files (Publicly and Openly Available for Download): 0
Project Start Date Sunday 1st January 2012 (01-01-2012)
Earliest Recorded Date within any attached datasets or digital objects Monday 1st October 2012 (01-10-2012)
Most Recent Recorded Date within any attached datasets or digital objects Saturday 1st October 2016 (01-10-2016)
Published on SAFERFriday 24th February 2017 (24-02-2017)
Date of Last EditFriday 24th February 2017 at 18:58:35 (24-02-2017)
Datasets or Files Updated On Friday 24th February 2017 at 18:56:38 (24-02-2017)

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Description of Geographical Characteristics of This Project or Dataset
Laboratory work was carried out primarily at Dublin City University, Glasnevin however microscopic analysis for cryptosporidium was carried out by City Analysts Ltd, Dublin. Methodology for each relevant section is in the attached document.

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Supplementary Information About This Resource

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Lineage information about this project or dataset
As noted in the abstract, this project arose from the need to improve the effectiveness of drinking water treatment systems, particularly for small schemes. There was evidence that current drinking water treatment systems were not working efficiently from the work of Brett Paul and his team published as STRIVE report 34 in 2009 and the work of Lacey et al (2012) funded under EPA project ERTDI 2004-PHD4-6. In addition, there was evidence from the various drinking water quality reports published by the Environmental Protection Agency and by Northern Ireland Water, with whom the current project team were working on a related project (Questor DCU4-08-11 Novel Techniques for Pesticide Removal and Degradation from Drinking Water: A Comparative Study) that pesticides and trihalomethanes were also a potential threat to drinking water quality. As a result, the aim of this current project was to develop a simple technique for drinking water treatment that could remove both small molecules and microbiological contaminants. This aim was achieved with the development of a prototype unit that is scalable and that can be used as a polishing step following filtration. Finally, the output of this work also addresses the need to remove contaminants of emerging concern, such as diclofenac, which is now on the EU First Watch List published as an amendment to the Environmental Quality Standards Directive (2008/105/EC) in 2013.
Supplementary Information
Gabi software (Available from Thinkstep: was used for the LCA study.. The authors are particularly grateful to the team from TELabs, Mark Bowkett and Breda Moore who were our project partners for the duration of the project and were of invaluable assistance in providing the water samples. We are also grateful to the assistance received City Analysts for the tests for Cryptosporidum in the water treated by the prototype
Other contributors to the project that should be acknowledged are Dr. Alexander Yavorskyy, who developed and characterised the graphene composite used in the research; Dr. Mahendra Kumar, who assisted the project team with the development of the graphene filters and the work on humic acids and membrane anti-fouling; Dr. Zahra Gholamvand who introduced the team to the world of graphene and whose knowledge and support were invaluable at the early stages of the project. The project team would also like to acknowledge the contribution to the funding of the project from Environtech University Designated Research Initiative at DCU and the Schools of Biotechnology and Chemical Sciences for funding the final year undergraduate students whose work contributed to some of the results of the filtration studies. Arising from the output of this project, two peer reviewed articles, a book chapter and numerous conference papers and posters have been published to date, with two more articles at an advanced stage of preparation.
The experimental methods used in this project consisted of 7 different sets of experiments: 1) Preparation of materials (Graphene oxide, reduced graphene oxide, graphene copper composite and nanoparticles, Graphene-copper composite films and coated membranes); 2) Characterisation of these materials using microscopic techniques (Ultraviolet-visible (UV-vis) spectrophotometric Analysis, Thermogravimetric analysis (TGA), Size distribution analysis via dynamic light scattering (DLS), Scanning Electron Microscopic (SEM) Analysis, Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy and Energy dispersive x-ray spectroscopy (EDX) Analysis; 3) Isolation and Identification of Environmental E. coli strain; 4) Antibacterial studies using solid and liquid media; 5) Adsorption studies of graphene materials using three materials of interest; methylene blue, diclofenac and famotidine; 6) Membrane studies, which are described in two papers ( (a) Preparation and characterization of low fouling novel hybrid ultrafiltration membranes based on the blends of GO− TiO 2 nanocomposite and polysulfone for humic acid removal M Kumar, Z Gholamvand, A Morrissey, K Nolan, M Ulbricht, J Lawler
Journal of Membrane Science 506, 38-49 and (b) Quaternized polysulfone and graphene oxide nanosheets derived low fouling novel positively charged hybrid ultrafiltration membranes for protein separation M Kumar, D McGlade, M Ulbricht, J Lawler, RSC Advances 10.1039/C5RA06893B 7) Prototype studies
Microsoft Excel was used to carry out numerical and statistical analyses': relevant file format excel spreadsheet .xls. Microsoft word was used for word processing and document production: file format microsoft word document .doc. AutoCAD was used for the production of technical drawings: file format drawing interchange format .dxf. 3D modelling was carried out in SolidWorks: file format solidworks part .sldprt.
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