Overview of water treatment technology. Monomer solution is polymerized to make microparticles using scalable fluid processing. Microparticles can have different functionalities and each functionality can be tuned (change surfactants, chelating agents).
Sites at which PFAS, a specific kind of micropollutant were known to be persistently present, as of 2022 (figure taken from https://www.ewg.org).
A picture of a representative activated carbon filter the team is seeking to replace in household and industrial water treatment. The filter is opened to show the activated carbon inside. Some salient information based on the team's research and literature are shown on the bottom left.
Can we build cost-effective industry-scale processes using sustainable hydrogel microparticles to rapidly remove micropollutants from water?
- Test hydrogel microparticles for the treatment of real wastewater samples contaminated with organic and inorganic micropollutants
- Rapidly optimize microparticle composition for representative wastewater samples using machine learning
- Build prototype units to treat water and regenerate spent absorbent
- Perform technoeconomic analyses and market research to formulate a preliminary business plan
Micropollutants are contaminants that occur in low concentrations in the environment, yet continuous exposure and bioaccumulation of micropollutants make them a cause for concern. Each specific micropollutant contributes little to water pollution in terms of mass, but low concentrations and chemical diversity make it difficult to remove micropollutants from water inexpensively.
Professor Doyle and his team are developing a technology that uses sustainable hydrogel microparticles optimized with machine learning to remove micropollutants from water. The microparticles are long-lasting, reusable, and show faster uptake than commercial materials, thereby benefiting society by enabling access to clean water (UN Sustainable Development Goal 6). Economically, the technology is a new offering that will find applications in numerous large markets where micropollutant elimination is vital, in the form of municipal and industrial water treatment equipment ($12.8 billion in 2021), and household water purification systems ($5.85 billion in 2021).
The J-WAFS Solutions grant will help the researchers build and test prototype pilot-scale water treatment systems to clean simulated and real wastewater using sustainable hydrogels. The team plans to identify the best use cases and customers, utilizing commercialization support activities associated with the Solutions grant to spin out a startup company.
- Climate & Sustainability
- Water Purification & Desalination
- Technology & Commercialization
- Sustainability & Adaptation
- Solutions Grant