The WATER project – which aims to unlock the research potential in the application of nanotechnology to water treatment – has supported important research into semiconductor photocatalytic processes as a water treatment technology.

Semiconductor photocatalytic processes have shown great potential as a water treatment technology. This methodology can be used to remove persistent organic compounds and micro-organisms that are found in water. Zinc oxide (ZnO) has been shown to be a particularly promising material for this technology. There are, however, some drawbacks to the use of photocatalytic semiconductors that limit their application for large-scale photocatalytic processes. Firstly, they have a high recombination rate of photogenerated electron-hole pairs and secondly, the catalyst particles exhibit poor recovery after water treatment.

Supported by WATER, researchers from CNR IMM (Institute for Microelectronics and Microsystems) investigated ways to address both of these issues associated with photocatalytic semiconductors. The research team notes that substances like novel ZnO-coated Fe2O3 core-shell nanostructures are promising candidates for photocatalytic applications (e.g., for water treatment and purification). The CNR team is now planning to conduct further studies to help optimize the photocatalytic activity of synthesized nanostructures.

The work aims ultimately to contribute towards addressing the major research challenge of providing our growing global population with clean, safe and easy access to drinking water. This will be no mean feat. As things stand, 1.2 billion people worldwide have inadequate access to clean water, and tragically, every minute a child dies of a water-related disease. One field which is expected to help improve water filtration with lower cost and energy is nanotechnology, and that’s why this is the focus of the WATER project.

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