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Photocatalysts help Vietnam clean up

Pesticides and herbicides are used around the world but can persist in the environment, contaminating drinking and irrigation water with toxic organic compounds. One example is Vietnam where herbicides and dioxins applied during the Vietnam War entered the water cycle, possibly leading to cancers and abnormalities in newborn babies.
Photocatalysts help Vietnam clean up
Photocatalysis represents one of the cheapest and most effective ways to remove toxic organic pollutants — all that is needed are oxygen and sunlight. Currently, real-life applications of this technique are scarce due to low photocatalytic degradation rates and the high costs associated with construction of the photoreactor.

An EU-funded project 4G-PHOTOCAT (Fourth generation photocatalysts: nano-engineered composites for water decontamination in low-cost paintable photoreactors), has developed a new generation of low-cost nano-engineered photocatalysts for sunlight-driven water decontamination. The consortium combined the expertise of seven academic and three industrial partners from five EU Member States and two countries from Southeast Asia.

Newly developed photocatalysts comprised titanium dioxide particles joined with nano-structured redox catalysts based on cheap and readily available elements. They were used in the form of paint, thereby enabling photoactive layers to be successfully applied to different surfaces. Such paintable photoreactors can be used as low-cost devices for sunlight-driven decontamination of drinking and irrigation water from highly-toxic persistent organic pollutants (POPs).

These low-cost painted photoreactors are to be used for the sunlight-driven detoxification of POPs in remote rural areas of Vietnam and other countries. The aim is to improve the health of poor and underprivileged people living in areas affected by overuse of herbicides and other toxic organic substances.

The photocatalysts developed by project partners can have other photocatalytic applications such as cleaning of air or solar energy fuel production. The work will also have a major impact on nanotechnology in general, including the areas of catalysis, health, environment, energy and transport. Not surprisingly, the market for photocatalytic applications is expected to boom within the next 10 years.

Furthermore, cooperation networks established under 4G-PHOTOCAT represent a platform for a long standing scientific exchange and collaboration between scientists, industry and SME partners from the EU and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries. This has included short-term research exchange visits and funding for 48 investigators at the early stage of their career and who have had the opportunity to visit the labs of other partners to receive valuable experience.

Related information

Keywords

Vietnam, photocatalysts, photoreactor, 4G-PHOTOCAT, titanium dioxide, persistent organic pollutants, Association of Southeast Asian Nations
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