July 14, 2024

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A company has developed a new system to rid us of “chemicals forever.”  The trick: bubbles

A company has developed a new system to rid us of “chemicals forever.” The trick: bubbles

The mechanism is based on a piezoelectric catalyst capable of breaking its resistant molecular bonds

One of the main sources of pollution in the world are the so-called PFAS, perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances. They’re called “forever chemicals,” and it’s a nickname that tells us why: they’re really hard to get rid of.

New company. Now a Swiss company Want to extend a new method To search for and destroy these materials. Oxell, as the company is called, was created in 2020 to eliminate micropollutants and has already begun implementing its new technology.

It is difficult to peel. Materials Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl It is a group of molecules that includes about 4,700 synthetic chemical agents, According to the data Of the European Environment Agency. Its resistance is due to the fact that its structure depends on the union between fluorine and carbon atoms.

This molecular combination is very stable, that is, it does not react with external factors, which means that the molecules do not decompose by natural processes. This means that these factors are highly valuable when manufacturing non-stick items. This led them to many contexts: frying pans, food packaging, batteries…

Absorption, separation, destruction. PFAS end up leaching into the water, and cleaning them up is tedious and expensive. The first step is to internalize them. For this purpose, granular activated carbon is usually used, which is a classic in water purification. The problem with these materials is that if we do not process this carbon, the pollutant particles will eventually return to the water through the soil and rivers.

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Until now, one of the main methods of getting rid of these chemical agents has been incineration. However, this process is energy expensive, polluting and probably not very effective in breaking down these molecules.

The power of water. The developed reactor operates in four stages: Oxell points out.. The first is the adsorption of these materials onto a nanocatalyst. Next, vibrations are applied to the water through the bubbles, generating turbulence that activates the piezoelectric catalyst (i.e., a material that generates electrical energy by converting a mechanical catalyst).

The company goes on to explain that the electrical charges generated generate a reductive and oxidative reaction through Water electrons (dissolved electrons that are electrically neutral in water) and hydroxyl radicals.

These factors are responsible for breaking down PFAS into minerals and smaller molecules, such as carbon dioxide or water. The fifth and final step is to decant or reuse water that is already PFAS-clean.

Reduce costs. The company highlights two factors of its water treatment system, in addition to high efficiency. In terms of its energy efficiency, it relies on piezoelectric interactions to generate chemical reactions that lead to the disintegration of molecules. II, l Stereotype The reactors created by the company, facilitating the scalability of this technology.

From bubbles to electron beams. Scalability may be important given the scale of this problem: PFAS pollute marine waters and rivers. There’s still little we know about how these chemicals affect our health, but it’s thought they can affect different aspects of it, from fertility to our chances of developing cancer.

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Given the importance of the issue, there are many laboratories and companies working to develop solutions that help us get rid of this type of pollution. An example is the electron beam-based mechanism proposed by the petrochemical company 3M and Fermilab.

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Image | Sarah Lee