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Engineers use electricity to clean up toxic water

Credit: CC0 Public Domain A team of engineers may be one step closer to cleaning up heavily contaminated industrial wastewater streams.

Researchers from the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering developed an electrochemical oxidation process with the aim of cleaning up complex wastewater that contained a toxic cocktail of chemical pollutants.

“Our study, published in Algal Research , involved industrial wastewater that had been heavily contaminated with a cocktail of organic and inorganic species during a biofuel production process,” said Julia Ciarlini Jungers Soares, who is completing a Ph.D. in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering under the supervision of Dr. Alejandro Montoya.

The wastewater, which contained carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus, was generated in a pilot plant , designed by the team for the production of biofuels using naturally abundant microalgae.

The process involved treating wastewater with electricity using specialized electrodes. They discharged electricity, then drove oxidation reactions near the electrode surfaces, transforming the organic contaminants into harmless gasses, ions or minerals.

“We have employed an incredibly powerful process that eliminates even the most persistent non-biodegradable pollutants, such as pharmaceuticals and pesticides, as well as various classes of organic compounds that can be found in many industrial effluents,” she said.”The process is relatively simple, does not […]

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