Scientists have discovered a new reusable polymer than can purify flowing water in seconds. The substance is manufactured from sugar molecules and works just like air fresheners that trap pollutants in the air.

The invention could revolutionize the way water purification systems work because of its high level of efficacy, simple method and relatively cheaper cost.

The Concept Behind The Discovery

The concept of the invention lies behind the effectivity of cyclodextrin, which is a known ingredient of Febreze, a household odor eliminator. The substance binds pollutants so strongly and is a reliable product for eliminating contaminants.

Another agent, which the researchers drew inspiration from is activated carbon. The remarkable thing about activated carbon is its surface area, which is larger than any other type of polymer made from cyclodextrin. With this, more pollutants are able to stick to the activated carbon device.

The scientists incorporated the advantageous features of both substances to come up with a double-strength solution for water purification.

"What we did is make the first high-surface-area material made of cyclodextrin," said William Dichtel co-author and a chemistry professor at Cornell University. Combining the positive attributes of two agents means obtaining a new object that is more effective than either of the two.

Advantages Of The New Polymer

The researchers developed a porous type of cyclodextrin that uses adsorption to trap pollutants at rates that are far better than conventional activated carbon. In some cases, the scientists said that that the rate can reach by up to 200 times greater.

Another advantage of the invention is that it can be recycled. Cyclodextrin polymer can be washed with ethanol or methanol at room temperature, without having to lower its quality of performance, said Dichtel. Such advantage overtakes simple activated carbon alone, which needs to undergo immense heat treatment so that it can be used again.

Aside from usual pollutants, the new polymer may also help remove small organic molecules such as Bisphenol A (BPA), which is a plastic byproduct that is hazardous to human health and environment.

Water Micropollutants And Existing Purification System

Potable water is running out all over the world due to contamination from micropollutants such as pesticides. Aside from human health, aquatic life may also be affected, mixing up the global ecosystems.

Although activated carbons are used commonly to adsorb contaminants, it pose various inadequacies such as slow uptake and ineffective filtration of contaminants that are strongly attracted to water. Regeneration of activated carbon is also a major issue as it needs about 500 to 900 degrees Celsius of heat. Despite the intensive energy, it still does not guarantee that activated carbon will restore its original performance.

The study was published in the journal Nature on December 21.

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