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Nanomaterials for Removing Emerging Contaminants

Pharmaceuticals have earned a place among “emerging contaminants” because of their prevalence in water and wastewater systems, their inability to be removed through conventional treatment, and their adverse effects on humans and animals at low dosage. Water and wastewater treatment technologies are rarely effective at removing pharmaceuticals owing to (i) the complex structures of pharmaceuticals, (ii) the lower removal efficiencies for most pharmaceuticals, and (iii) high process operational costs when targeting these compounds. Consequently, a need arises for the development of continuous systems that can effectively remove a variety of pharmaceuticals, and that can be easily regenerated.

In this study, a membrane was prepared from multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWNTs) and titanium dioxide (TiO2). This membrane could be regenerated upon saturation using exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light. The membrane was prepared by successfully depositing a layer of pretreated porous TiO2 onto a carpet of MWNTs while maintaining permeability. The characterization of the MWNTs-TiO2 membrane and its constituents was carried out by scanning electron microscopy (SEM), energy dispersive x-ray spectroscopy (EDS), zeta potential measurements, thermogravimetric analysis (TGA), and surface hydrophobicity determinations. The ability of the MWNTs-TiO2 membrane to remove pharmaceuticals was then studied by employing three widely used pharmaceutical compounds: Acetaminophen, Carbamazepine, and Ibuprofen. Regeneration of the MWNTs-TiO2 membrane was carried out using UV light, and finally, the pharmaceuticals were tested for their ability to reabsorb onto the same membrane.