St. Petersburg sorbent to remove harmful biochemicals from sewage | Features & updates, Technology & innovation

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St. Petersburg sorbent to remove harmful biochemicals from sewage

8 Oct '21
Chemists at the St. Petersburg State University (SPbSU) have come up with a new method of synthesizing new substances, and created environmentally safe sorbents that would help perform eco-monitoring and remove antibiotics from sewage.

The development team has published the current results of the research in English in Journal of Hazardous Materials, an international journal that highlights world-class research in environmental sciences and engineering.

What the problem is

These days almost all sewage waters contain tetracyclines-based antibiotics which are widely used as food additives and medicines in cattle breeding. Tetracyclines in various concentrations get into the environment as farm animals defecate and urinate.

Conventional sewage purification techniques typically fail to fully remove antibiotics. As they accumulate in water, waste antibiotics tend to trigger the emergence of resistant bacterial strains extremely hazardous to humans.

A solution from St. Pete

The new SPbSU sorbents are expected to reduce both the time and the cost of cleaning sewage.

At the core of the approach is hydroxyapatite, a biocompatible and biodegradable mineral the scientists picked to develop their eco-friendly sorbent and, as a broader aim, to come up with a method of dramatically reducing the time required for sorbent synthesis. In their experiments, they altered the mineral’s nanoparticles by “gluing” nontoxic modifier molecules to the particles’ surface, thus creating materials capable of sorbing antibiotics in quantities much greater than are possible today.

The modifier-covered surface can not only capture more antibiotic molecules than the surface of a non-modified sorbent but also let go of those molecules exactly when required, a way of successfully regenerating the sorbent.

Picking a specific molecule for sorption, and predicting the chemical content of the surface and the crystalline structure of their future sorbents, the SPbSU team has applied computer modeling and is thus selecting suitable materials.

With the new St. Pete method of synthesizing nanoparticles and modifying their surfaces one could save time considerably on developing new sorbents for a much broader range of organic compounds at a much lower cost.