Low-cost fibers remove trace atrazine from drinking water

Aug 23, 2004

A new generation of high surface-area porous materials for removing atrazine from water supplies has been developed by researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The low-cost and wear-resistant fibers also can remove the hazardous contaminants chloroform and trichloroethylene, both byproducts of the commonly used chlorine disinfection process.

“We’ve shown that we can remove all these impurities to well below the maximum contaminant levels established by the Environmental Protection Agency,” said James Economy, a professor of materials science and engineering at Illinois. “Having increased pore size and higher surface area, these fibers work much better than commercially available granulated activated carbon.”

Atrazine is one of the most widely used herbicides in the United States. More than 75 million pounds of atrazine are applied annually. Spread on farm fields and residential lawns to control weeds, atrazine can work its way into local waterways and municipal drinking supplies. Millions of Americans unknowingly ingest atrazine with their tap water.

“Because atrazine is toxic to humans, the Environmental Protection Agency has established a maximum concentration level of three parts per billion,” Economy said. “By tailoring the pore size and pore surface chemistry of our fibers, we can achieve this limit.”

To make their fibers, Economy and Illinois research scientist Zhongren Yue begin by coating fiberglass assemblies with a polymeric solution and a chemical activation agent. Then, under mild heat, the polymer cross-links, creating pores about 10-30 angstroms in size. By controlling the chemistry, the scientists are able to tailor the fibers for specific target molecules, such as atrazine.

“Our chemically activated porous fibers are nearly eight times more effective at removing atrazine to below EPA standards than commercially available activated carbon,” Economy said. “In fact, our fibers can remove atrazine to well below one part per billion. And our fibers can be easily regenerated under modest conditions.”

Yue will discuss the fibers and present the latest test results at the 228th American Chemical Society national meeting in Philadelphia. The technology has been patented.

Source: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Explore further: Five ways unmanned drones could affect the American food supply

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Navy wants to increase use of sonar-emitting buoys

25 minutes ago

The U.S. Navy is seeking permits to expand sonar and other training exercises off the Pacific Coast, a proposal raising concerns from animal advocates who say that more sonar-emitting buoys would harm whales and other creatures ...

Standalone wireless info display device an easy fit

6 hours ago

A Latvian team has come up with a good-looking WiFi display device, connecting to the Internet using WiFi, which runs on a high-capacity built-in battery and tracks what's important to you. This is a standalone ...

Technology improves avalanche gear for backcountry skiers

8 hours ago

As outdoor recreation companies increasingly cater to skiers and snowboarders who like to venture beyond the groomed slopes at ski resorts and tackle backcountry terrain, they've put a special emphasis on gear and equipment ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.