Nano-based adsorbent and photocatalyst use for pharmaceutical contaminant removal during indirect potable water reuse
Sofia K. Fanourakis, Janire Peña-Bahamonde, Pasan C. Bandara & Debora F. Rodrigues

npj Clean Water volume 3, Article number: 1 (2020) Cite this article


Increasing human activity, including commercial and noncommercial use of pharmaceuticals, personal care products, and agricultural products, has introduced new contaminants that can be challenging to remove with currently available technologies. Pharmaceuticals, in particular, can be especially challenging to remove from the water supply and can pose great harm to people and local ecosystems. Their highly stable nature makes their degradation with conventional water treatment techniques difficult, and studies have shown that even advanced treatment of water is unable to remove some compounds. As such, decontamination of water from pharmaceuticals requires the development of advanced technologies capable of being used in indirect and direct potable water reuse. In this review, we discuss pharmaceutical removal in indirect potable water treatment and how recent advancements in adsorption and photocatalysis technologies can be used for the decontamination of pharmaceutical-based emerging contaminants. For instance, new materials that incorporate graphene-based nanomaterials have been developed and shown to have increased adsorptive capabilities toward pharmaceuticals when compared with unmodified graphene. In addition, adsorbents have been incorporated in membrane technologies, and photocatalysts have been combined with magnetic material and coated on optical fibers improving their usability in water treatment. Advancements in photocatalytic material research have enabled the development of highly effective materials capable of degradation of a variety of pharmaceutical compounds and the development of visible-light photocatalysts. To understand how adsorbents and photocatalysts can be utilized in water treatment, we address the benefits and limitations associated with these technologies and their potential applicability in indirect potable water reuse plants.

Potable water can be considered the most important human need. However, human activities have introduced dangerous contaminants in water systems requiring a multibarrier treatment approach to purify water for potable use. From the Ganges River Basin in India to the surface water in Milan, contaminants such as pharmaceuticals and personal care products have been detected.1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9 These contaminants are difficult to remove and can cause harm not only to humans but to wildlife and local ecosystems as well. Pharmaceuticals, personal care products, persistent organic pollutants, methanesulfonic acids, artificial sweeteners, transformation products, and engineered nanomaterials have all been identified as current contaminants of emerging concern (CECs).10,11,12,13 In this review, we focus on emerging pharmaceutical contaminants (EPCs) because of their potential adverse effects to humans and the ecosystem (Table 1). For instance, EPCs such as antibiotics can give rise to antibiotic resistant bacteria, which can cause irreparable harm to humans and the ecosystem.

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