Researchers at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research in Bhopal (IISERB) have developed organic polymers which can remove highly polar organic micropollutants (POMs) from water and render it safe for consumption.

According to the researchers, these polymers have already been tested for polar organic micropollutants removal at a laboratory scale.

Large-scale fabrication of these materials in collaboration with industrial partners will open up a promising avenue for real-time scavenging of toxic polar organic micropollutants from water, they said.

The findings have been published in the reputed peer-reviewed journal of the American Chemical Society, ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces.

“Called ‘Hyper-crosslinked Porous Organic Polymers’ (HPOPs), a teaspoon of the powder of these polymers will cover an internal surface area of 1,000-2,000 m2/g, which is close to 10 tennis courts.

“The main advantages of these HPOPs include large-scale fabrication using cheap and simple aromatic precursors without requiring any transition metal-based exotic catalysts and high thermal and hydrothermal stability,” said Abhijit Patra, Associate Professor, Department of Chemistry, IISER, Bhopal.

The research team included PhD students Arkaprabha Giri and Tapas Kumar Dutta, Subha Biswas, IISER Bhopal alumni and currently pursuing PhD at IISc Bangalore; Waseem Hussain, also IISER Bhopal alumni and currently pursuing post-doctoral research at Hanyang University, South Korea.

The project was funded by the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India, under “Centre for Sustainable Treatment, Reuse and Management for Efficient, Affordable and Synergistic solutions for Water”.

“In India, the prime concern is water contamination due to anthropogenic waste discharged to surface and groundwater by domestic, agricultural, and industrial sectors.

“These wastes contain large numbers of organic and inorganic micropollutants. Organic micropollutants are a diverse set of ‘analytes’ whose presence in water, even in trace amounts, pose a serious threat to human health and aquatic lives,” Patra said.

A process called ‘sorption’ is one of the most energy-efficient techniques to purify water from organic micropollutants, he said.

“However, commonly-used carbonaceous adsorbents possess several bottlenecks such as slow uptake rate and tedious regeneration process.

“Therefore, we need efficient adsorbent materials that can not only scavenge highly polar organic micropollutants (POMs) from water rapidly but also can be synthesized easily on a large-scale through simple fabrication techniques,” added Patra.

According to the team, the major organic micropollutants found in the surface water bodies include various pharmaceuticals such as antibiotics and steroids, among others, industrial chemicals such as dyes, food additives, endocrine disruptors and plastic precursors as well as agricultural disposals such as pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers, among others. 

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