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Microgel-based high-performance smart filtration membranes for liquid nuclear waste treatment

Project description

Developing better nuclear waste treatment

With climate change posing an ever-increasing danger to people worldwide, solutions for cleaner and easier implementation and maintenance of nuclear energy plants are important for the path to carbon neutrality. Currently, water from nuclear waste contains large quantities of radioactive isotope pollution, which can be dangerous to people’s health and remain difficult to clean. Unfortunately, membrane separation, a promising technology for water treatment, is not designed for water treatment. The EU-funded M4WASTE project aims to introduce a novel smart membrane technology that utilises HCF to efficiently filter liquids. This project aims to revolutionise nuclear waste treatment solutions and assist in reaching climate change goals.


The release of radioactive isotopes, with caesium (e.g. 137Cs+) being the most abundant species, are polluting a large quantity of water, substantially threatening human health, while the remediation remains challenging. Membrane separation is a good technology for water treatment thanks to its flexibility and easy up-scalability. However, the use of conventional membranes in nuclear industry is greatly limited due to their low adsorption capacity/selectivity to Cs+ and the fixed pore size that allows only retention of solid wastes but with the contaminated water remained untreated. Hexacyanoferrates (HCFs) nanoparticles(NPs) are among the most superior adsorbents of Cs+, but haven’t been combined with filtration membranes for nuclear water waste remediation due to the difficulty of NPs immobilization onto membrane and their relatively slower adsorption kinetics compared to water permeation rate. This proposed action aims to develop a new generation of smart membrane technology that can recover Cs+ straightforwardly and efficiently from aqueous nuclear wastes, by effectively integrating HCF into filtration membranes to enhance its Cs+ adsorption capacity/selectivity and by introducing a smart water gating function modulated by Cs+ adsorption to automatically control membrane water permeation. Microgel, being assembled in membrane pores, enables achieving the objectives with HCF NPs in situ grown in the microgel and with a Cs+ responsiveness designed for its size deformation. The action involves an experienced researcher, Dr Huagui Zhang, from Newcastle University in UK visiting the Institute of Physical Chemistry at RWTH Aachen University in Germany, under the supervision of Prof. Walter Richtering for 24 months to work on the project “Microgel-based high-performance smart filtration membranes for liquid nuclear waste treatment” (M4WASTE). The action will provide a leap forward in the area of water treatment with membrane technology in nuclear industry and beyond.


Net EU contribution
€ 162 806,40
Templergraben 55
52062 Aachen

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Nordrhein-Westfalen Köln Städteregion Aachen
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Other funding
€ 0,00