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Advanced methods for the removal and monitoring of polar organic contaminants

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Removing polar water contaminants

The quality of drinking water and aquatic ecosystems is threatened by polar waste contaminants. An EU-funded project developed new methods for removing these contaminants.

Climate Change and Environment icon Climate Change and Environment

The 'Advanced methods for the removal and monitoring of polar organic contaminants' (POLARCLEAN) project began by studying new materials and methods for removing emerging polar contaminants. Then researchers used what they had learned to create ways to monitor these contaminants in the environment. Studies for scaling up the safest, most successful prototype materials have been completed. Researchers then tested the new methods against a range of polar contaminants. These included pesticides, hormones, pharmaceuticals, specific plasticisers, and nanoparticles. The properties of the materials with higher removal capacity were applied to developing tools able to detect trace contaminants. The team found that synthetic carbon materials worked better than granular activated carbon (GAC) as a water purification tool. GAC is currently used in water treatment plants. Yet, synthetic carbon outperformed GAC in the removal of metaldehyde, a particularly challenging chemical to treat. Relevant studies for scaling up the technology were carried out. Currently, synthetic carbon materials are being pilot-tested in collaboration with the water industry (United Kingdom). Furthermore, the technology was selected by the Technology Approval Group (UK) as one of the more innovative in Europe in 2012. Researchers also studied other materials. Agricultural crop by-products were assessed for possible use in water clean-up. This was the first time that natural materials have been explored for use in this way. Carbon nanoparticles were also assessed, but they proved to be less effective. The new water treatment methods have the potential to replace GAC. This change has the potential to provide water with the lowest level of pollutants possible. These carbons may also prove to be a solution to the pollution problem in ground and surface waters. It is possible that they may provide cleaner water in river basins in developing countries. It is clear that these results will have a socioeconomic impact. They are also a step forward in the state of the art in water research.


Polar, water, water contaminants, aquatic ecosystems, polar waste contaminants, organic contaminants, synthetic carbon materials, granular activated carbon, water purification, agricultural, crop by-products

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