Engineering Researchers Develop Method for Removing Micropollutants From Natural Waters

August 30, 2023 

BATON ROUGE, LA – Researchers in LSU’s Cain Department of Chemical Engineering (ChE) and Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) have developed an energy-efficient method for rapidly removing pharmaceuticals and other micropollutants from natural waters, like the Mississippi River. The result could help reduce the carbon footprint of reclaiming and reusing water in drought-prone areas.

The team used a photocatalytic advanced oxidation process to create a sustainable water treatment/reuse strategy without using chemicals, thereby reducing energy consumption and potential disinfection byproducts.

The results have been published in a new paper in ACS ES&T Engineering and was authored by LSU ChE Associate Professor Kevin McPeak; ChE graduate students, Daniel Willis, Ella Sheets, Mary Worbington, Sarah Glass, MaCayla Caso, Tochukwu Ofoegbuna, and Liz Diaz; CEE Assistant Professor Samuel Snow; and CEE graduate students Madhusudan Kamat and Caleb Osei-Appau.

“Water scarcity is a growing challenge for nations, rich and poor,” McPeak said. “Reclaiming and reusing fresh water helps maintain precious resources in drought-prone areas, such as the Western U.S. and Israel. Unfortunately, potable water reuse for even small municipalities can cost millions of U.S. dollars annually.”

Approximately 10% of potable water reuse costs are tied to advanced oxidation processes (AOPs) necessary to clean the water to a high standard. Nearly 40% of operations and maintenance costs for AOPs are attributed to the consumption of chemical additives, such as H2O2. Though photocatalytic treatment methods offer potential advantages, previous photocatalytic technologies have largely fallen short of commercial applications. The LSU team developed a patent-pending dual-porous photocatalyst system using an Immobilized UV-transparent support. The system improved the energy efficiency by as much as 2,800% and the potential scalability of photocatalytic technologies for water treatment.

“We use our dual-porous photocatalyst to degrade pharmaceutical compounds in a river water source with nearly 30 times the treatment efficacy of traditional H2O2/UVC AOPs,” McPeak said. “Our photocatalyst shows promise for lowering the cost of AOPs for various water treatment applications.”

Like us on Facebook (@lsuengineering) or follow us on Twitter and Instagram (@lsuengineering).​


Contact: Libby Haydel
Communications Manager