Treating water with nanotechnology

Nanomaterials can be used in the design of technologies that clean water and monitor its quality. But what are the real opportunities and risks associated with applying nanotechnology to water treatment?

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Ensuring sustainable access to clean water requires a combination of approaches, from the responsible management of resources to the development of new technologies for water decontamination and disinfection. In particular, the role that nanotechnology can play in providing clean water is explored extensively in a recent Insight in Nature Nanotechnology.

Nanotechnology offers many opportunities for water filtration and purification, such as advanced membranes; nanoparticles used for electrostatic or catalytic removal of contaminants; and nanostructures for solar-driven water vaporization and distillation. Nanomaterials could also be used in a range of devices for monitoring water quality.

In addition to these opportunities, the Insight covers the potential risks to human health and the environment posed by applying engineered nanomaterials to water quality, as well as the challenges brought on by a negative perception of the use of nanotechnology for water treatment. While current data show that neither of these issues should present a serious obstacle to the deployment of nanotechnology-based clean water solutions, high-level assessment of risks, along with transparency, are important to the use of nano-enabled solutions to water challenges in the future.

By: Fabio Pulizzi, Chief Editor at Nature Nanotechnology


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