A New Material Uses Sunlight to Purify Water

A new photocatalyst material, a ultra thin sheet of graphitic carbon nitride is able to purify enough drinking water for a family of four in one hour. Materials scientist Guoxiu Wang of the University of Technology Sydney and colleagues created this new photocatalyst material by taking sheets of graphitic carbon nitride and adding acids and ketones which help to attract electrons to the sheets. The electrons then jump onto oxygen atoms in water to form microbe-dissolving chemicals. In testing, this material was able to kill 99.9999 percent of bacteria and was able to do it faster than conventional photocatalyst materials.

When compared to today’s most effective photocatalyst, this new material has a couple of advantages. One is that it doesn’t leech metals that can become toxic pollutants into the water. The other is that this new material is far more efficient, reducing the time it takes to purify the water by over 50%. According to Wang, the motive was to create an efficient and inexpensive way to purify water for undeveloped or remote regions. The next step for the researchers is to work with engineers to make it available for commercial use.

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