Nitrate Imbalance-control by
TRAnsformative Technologies that are Electrochemically-drive
Ensuring access to safe water and sanitation is essential to human health. Water quality is one of the great challenges of this century as stated in H2020 objectives. One of the utmost concerns is associated to nitrogen cycle imbalance due to anthropogenic nitrate water pollution. Because of anthropogenic nitrogen fertilizer inputs, nitrate concentrations in surface and ground waters have dramatically increased during the last century. From an ecological perspective, nitrogen species pollution, such as nitrate, causes eutrophication and algal blooms that create oxygen-starved “dead zones” which kill off aquatic life. Drinking water with elevated nitrate levels is harmful to human health and is associated with respiratory (methemoglobinemia) and reproductive system illness, some cancers, thyroid problems and even death. The World Health Organization (WHO) has set a restrictive maximum concentration level in drinking water of 50 mg/L nitrate. Unfortunately, nitrate is among the most reported water quality violations not only in the European Union and United States, but worldwide. Nitrate contaminated groundwater impacts both municipal and private groundwater wells, the latter of which receives little attention has no mandatory treatments.
Understanding that one of the main needs is point of use (POU) treatment within homes for people who rely on private groundwater wells or contaminated tap water, is a huge step. POU systems must be user-friendly, reliable, have small physical footprint (under your tap), and not have waste production. For source waters being treated by large municipalities, units with small physical footprint are preferred for ease of implementation in existing facilities. This project proposes electrochemical processes, which operate at ambient conditions, do not require addition of chemicals, are compact, easy to handle, and cost-effective.
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Highly reactive Cu-Pt bimetallic 3D-electrocatalyst for selective nitrate reduction to ammonia
Identifying electrocatalytic materials that generate fossil-free ammonia through N-recycling from polluted water sources is required. Bimetallic Cu-Pt foam electrodes were synthesized to enhance electrochemical reduction of nitrate (ERN) by the introduction of bimetallic catalytic sites. Electrodes were benchmarked against Cu foam using engineering figures of merit.
The encouraging outcomes of the paper emphasize the potential of Cu-Pt foam electrodes to treat contaminated water sources with nitrate, while allowing a sustainable decentralized ammonia recovery. Enriched water for crops irrigation can therefore be a prospect use for this added value product.