Emerging organic contaminants are a large class of pollutants originated from human activity (e.g. pharmaceutical and personal care products, dyes, herbicides, pesticides, industrial residues). Regrettably, these contaminants are often directly released into the environment after passing through wastewater treatment plants (that are not equipped to remove them), involving a severe risk for health and environment.
Thus, it is crucial to develop more efficient wastewater treatment technologies by upgrading sewage treatment plants allowing the elimination of contaminants in order to combat the deterioration of water quality. Activated carbon is a widely used adsorbent, but its efficacy is seriously limited by its low selectivity. Further, activated carbon is not able to degrade adsorbed contaminants, being rapidly saturated.
In this context, the application of a new class of porous materials, known as Metal-Organic Frameworks (MOFs), has attracted a growing interest from academic and industrials in the elimination (separation and degradation) of emerging organic contaminants. Compared to classical adsorbent materials (carbons, silica), MOFs present several advantages in water decontamination: i) higher porosity, ii) the presence of reactive metallic centers in their structures where contaminants can be adsorbed or degraded, iii) they are stable, and iv) can be easily modified in order to achieve the desired properties. Thus, it must be highlighted that some MOFs can completely eliminate the contaminants present in water (e.g. mainly dyes, but also some drugs or pesticides, like the antibiotic tetracycline, the pesticide glyphosate, or the industrial contaminant bisphenol A). Although these materials are far from their implementation in wastewater treatment plants (because of their novelty), nowadays they are considered as a highly promising alternative in the elimination of novel contaminants from water.
The Advanced Porous Materials Unit in the IMDEA Energy Institute is composed by experts in the synthesis and characterization of new porous materials and their application in different interesting fields (energy, health and environment). In this sense, this research group has achieved promising results using MOFs for the elimination, through adsorption and/or degradation, of various challenging pharmaceutical and personal care products with great social impact.
Rojas, S., Horcajada, P. “Metal-Organic Frameworks for the Removal of Emerging Organic Contaminants in Water”, Chemical Reviews, 2020, https://dx.doi.org/10.1021/acs.chemrev.9b00797
More information: Patricia Horcajada, Head of the Advanced Porous Materials Unit email@example.com