Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

More clean water with nanomembranes

Clean, usable water is at risk from the increasing incidence of hazardous substances in water supplies, threatening public health and the environment. Novel nano-structured membranes have been created to combat the bioaccumulation of heavy metals, the emergence of multi-drug resistant organisms and metal-related diseases.
More clean water with nanomembranes
Chronic exposure to heavy metals and drugs from the mining, pharmaceutical and healthcare industries can be toxic to living cells and induce disease processes. A new generation of low-fouling, nano-structured filtration membranes employing smart materials have therefore been devised by EU-funded researchers to address the problem.

Researchers working on the EU-funded project CERAMPOL (Ceramic and polymeric membrane for water purification of heavy metal and hazardous organic compound) have developed technology to increase the percentage of potable water in developing and industrialised countries.

The filters were prepared using innovative processes such as electrospinning, sol-gel, coating processes for obtaining multi-layered membranes. They possess an anti-fouling pre-filter made of polymeric nanofibres, a smart cleaning system employing piezoelectric crystals and a highly selective, nano-structured ceramic membrane.

Together, these enhancements enable the removal of heavy metals, recovery of precious metals and catalytic degradation of toxic compounds. This system will have important applications in the mining industry and pharmaceutical sector as well as in hospitals and geriatric care facilities.

One advantage of the CERAMPOL concept is that each component may be considered as a separate tool. They can be easily combined to provide tailor-made solutions for the specific requirements demanded by different water remediation processes.

The manufacturing process for the new filters can be scaled up to an industrial level for treating in situ effluents. The benefits of the nanomaterial-based membranes include greater water filtration efficiency and economic and environmental impacts.

Project partners also provided a toolbox for fabricating prototype multifunctional membranes for industrial wastewater treatment. Industrial applications include the removal of heavy metals from acid mine drainage water and the catalytic degradation of toxic drugs and metabolites from the pharmaceutical sector, hospitals and nursing homes.

CERAMPOL has helped to decouple the use of resources from economic growth by developing new technologies that can provide more water without contributing to the over exploitation of existing freshwater resources. This was achieved by implementing an efficient water treatment system that also minimized the risk of discharge of nutrients, harmful chemicals and thermal emissions to the aquatic environment.

The project therefore provides a solution to a global problem, while offering huge economic and innovation potential. It will also create jobs and help ensure European leadership in environmentally sound technology.

Related information


Heavy metals, nano-structured membrane, CERAMPOL, polymeric nanofibers, piezoelectric crystals
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