Researchers develop membranes that remove viruses from drinking water

April 19, 2017, American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

Researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) have developed novel ultrafiltration membranes that significantly improve the virus-removal process from treated municipal wastewater used for drinking in water-scarce cities.

Current filtration methods require intensive energy to adequately remove without using chemicals like chlorine, which can contaminate the with disinfection byproducts. Researchers at UIUC and BGU collaborated on the new approach for pathogen removal, which was published in the current issue of Water Research.

"This is an urgent matter of public safety," the researchers say. "Insufficient removal of human Adenovirus in , for example, has been detected as a contaminant in U.S. drinking water sources, including the Great Lakes and worldwide."

The norovirus, which can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, is the most common cause of viral gastroenteritis in humans, and is estimated to be the second leading cause of gastroenteritis-associated mortality. Human adenoviruses can cause a wide range of illnesses that include the common cold, sore throat (pharyngitis), bronchitis, pneumonia, diarrhea, pink eye (conjunctivitis), fever, bladder inflammation or infection (cystitis), inflammation of the stomach and intestines (gastroenteritis), and neurological disease.

In the study, Prof. Moshe Herzberg of the Department of Desalination and Water Treatment in the Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research at BGU and his group grafted a special hydrogel coating onto a commercial ultrafiltration membrane. The "zwitterionic polymer hydrogel" repels the viruses from approaching and passing through the membrane. It contains both positive and negative charges and improves efficiency by weakening virus accumulation on the modified filter surface. The result was a significantly higher rate of removal of waterborne viruses, including human norovirus and adenovirus.

"Utilizing a simple graft-polymerization of commercialized membranes to make virus removal more comprehensive is a promising development for controlling filtration of pathogens in potable water reuse," says Prof. Nguyen, Department of Chemical Engineering, UIUC.

Explore further: Graphene sieve turns seawater into drinking water

More information: Ruiqing Lu et al, Improvement of virus removal using ultrafiltration membranes modified with grafted zwitterionic polymer hydrogels, Water Research (2017). DOI: 10.1016/j.watres.2017.03.023

Related Stories

Graphene sieve turns seawater into drinking water

April 3, 2017

Graphene-oxide membranes have attracted considerable attention as promising candidates for new filtration technologies. Now the much sought-after development of making membranes capable of sieving common salts has been achieved.

Deaths from gastroenteritis doubles

March 14, 2012

The number of people who died from gastroenteritis (inflammation of the stomach and intestines that causes vomiting and diarrhea) more than doubled from 1999 to 2007. The findings of this study will be presented today at ...

Greywater reuse for irrigation is safe

December 16, 2015

Researchers at the Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev have determined that treated greywater is safe for irrigation and does not pose a risk for gastrointestinal illness or water-related ...

Mille-feuille-filter removes viruses from water

May 18, 2016

A simple paper sheet made by scientists at Uppsala University can improve the quality of life for millions of people by removing resistant viruses from water. The sheet, made of cellulose nanofibers, is called the mille-feuille ...

Energy saving filters for wastewater treatment

July 7, 2016

Scientists at Nanyang Technological University (NTU Singapore) have invented a new type of nanofilter that could reduce the energy needed to treat wastewater by up to five times.

Recommended for you

On the path to an artificial cell

June 20, 2018

It is hoped that cells created in a test tube can answer some of the major questions in biology. What is the minimum that a cell needs in order to live? And how did life on Earth begin? Researchers from the Max Planck Institute ...

Novel genetic method improves efficiency of enzyme

June 20, 2018

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE's) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the University of Georgia developed a new genetic engineering technique to dramatically improve an enzyme's ability to ...

0 comments

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.