The Ocean Cleanup: working to free the seas of plastic waste
The Ocean Cleanup venture: a revolutionary idea aimed at steering the waste toward a collecting point rather than going after it
An innovative polymer cloth is capable of retaining water pollutants in its fabric. Science's pursuit of sustainability is showing results.
Each one of us generates a great amount of pharmacological waste every day. Whenever we take a shower, do the laundry or take any medication, we let go down the drain polluting residues that, sometimes, even sewage treatment plants are unable to eliminate.
A research team has embarked upon the intricate task of finding ways to detect these substances in water, and it seems they have succeeded. Núria Fontanals is leading the Chromatographic Research Team within the Department of Analytical Chemistry and Organic Chemistry at the URV (Rovira i Virgili University, Spain) which, together with members of the University of Florida, has developed a system capable of retaining pollutants in a simpler and more affordable manner compared to current methods.
This ground-breaking approach is based around a flexible cotton cloth impregnated with polymers whose properties are similar to those of the pollutants that are sought to be detected. This allows the polymers to have an affinity with them and retain them within the fibres when going through that cloth. One of the most substantial advantages of this innovative method is that, afterwards, the cloth can be folded and stored inside a container with organic solvent in order to concentrate and extract the collected pollutants.
According to researchers, this new method would be remarkably simpler, more efficient and cheaper than those systems currently in use. In addition, these successful results have paved the way to the research of new materials that could have an affinity with substances in more complex samples such as urine or blood, so we could be reporting further good news from this scientific team very soon.
On the other side of the pond, a research group from the Textiles Nanotechnology Laboratory and the Department of Chemistry at the Cornell University in New York, can flaunt another achievement against pollution based on the same principle: a type of fibre enhanced by a cyclodextrin polymer capable of absorbing harmful particles in water and air.
Cyclodextrin is a molecule produced by the bacterial degradation of cellulose, and its properties are similar to those of activated carbon. Typically used to purify water, it is known to be able to act quickly and efficiently. The team in New York realized about the possibilities that this polymer could offer when integrated in cotton fibres (a type of cloth very easy to manipulate), and the outcome seems very promising.
The cloth acts like a network at nanometric scale so that harmful molecules get attached in its holes, provided that they´re not too big to fit in or too small to squeeze their way out.
The advantages of cyclodextrin as compared to those of activated carbon are its combustion-free requirements and, since it is obtained from natural sources, its more environmentally-friendly approach.
All in all, a relentless scientific pursuit towards sustainable innovation and resource preservation.