A new wonder material that can generate hydrogen, produce clean water and even create energy.
Science fiction? Hardly, and there’s more – It can also desalinate water, be used as flexible water filtration membranes, help recover energy from desalination waste brine, be made into flexible solar cells and can also double the lifespan of lithium ion batteries. With its superior bacteria-killing capabilities, it can also be used to develop a new type of antibacterial bandage.
Scientists at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), led by Associate Professor Darren Sun have succeeded in developing a single, revolutionary nanomaterial that can do all the above and at very low cost compared to existing technology.
This breakthrough which has taken Prof Sun five years to develop is dubbed the Multi-use Titanium Dioxide (TiO2). It is formed by turning titanium dioxide crystals into patented nanofibres, which can then be easily fabricated into patented flexible filter membranes which include a combination of carbon, copper, zinc or tin, depending on the specific end product needed.
Titanium dioxide is a cheap and abundant material, which has been scientifically proven to have the ability to accelerate a chemical reaction (photocatalytic) and is also able to bond easily with water (hydrophilic).
More than 70 scientific papers on Prof Sun’s work in titanium dioxide has been published in the last five years, the latest being papers published in Water Research, Energy and Environmental Science, and Journal of Materials Chemistry.
Prof Sun, 52, from NTU’s School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, said such a low-cost and easily produced nanomaterial is expected to have immense potential to help tackle ongoing global challenges in energy and environmental issues.
With the world’s population expected to hit 8.3 billion by 2030, there will be a massive increase in the global demand for energy and food by 50 per cent and 30 per cent for drinking water (Population Institute report, titled 2030: The “Perfect Storm” Scenario).
“While there is no single silver bullet to solving two of the world’s biggest challenges: cheap renewable energy and an abundant supply of clean water; our single multi-use membrane comes close, with its titanium dioxide nanoparticles being a key catalyst in discovering such solutions,” Prof Sun said. “With our unique nanomaterial, we hope to be able to help convert today’s waste into tomorrow’s resources, such as clean water and energy.”
Prof Sun’s multi-use titanium dioxide can:
1. concurrently produce both hydrogen and clean water when exposed to sunlight
2. be made into a low-cost flexible filtration membrane that is anti-fouling
3. desalinate water as a high flux forward osmosis membrane
4. recover energy from waste desalination brine and wastewater
5. be made into a low-cost flexible solar cell to generate electricity
6. doubles battery life when used as anode in lithium ion battery
7. kill harmful microbial, leading to new antibacterial bandages
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