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Solar & Alternative Energy

Light-activated water disinfector works in the dark

29 January 2010

Jian-Ku Shang, professor of materials science and engineering at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and his team have come up with a photocatalyst that disinfects water with sunlight or artificial light, and will keep on disinfecting even after the lights go out. It promises to be an effective solution for unsafe water in developing countries - or anywhere.

Currently UV light is typically used to kill bacteria in water, but the scientists at University of Illinois have built upon this ability, using nanotechnology to create a photocatalyst that can use visible light, rather than UV light, to accomplish the same task. The research was published in the Journal of Materials Chemistry.

Working within wavelengths of 400 and 550 nanometers, the photocatalyst is made of titanium oxide fibers mixed with nitrogen so that the fibers will absorb visible light, and nanoparticles of palladium to maximize the efficiency of disinfection. By being able to utilize more visible light, and not just a sliver of the spectrum, the photocatalyst becomes a simple solar-powered and even artificial light-powered solution for safe drinking water.