Materials science

Dirty water gets squeezed clean

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Gels stuffed with nanoparticles could offer a quick, effective way to disinfect drinking water after disasters.

Silver nanoparticles are powerful microbicides, but they tend to clump, limiting contact between bacterial cells and the killing surface. Xiao Hu, Teik-Thye Lim and their colleagues at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore uniformly embedded the nanoparticles throughout a sophisticated, super-absorbent sponge.

They used the flexible, lightweight material to soak up bacterium-contaminated water for 15 seconds, then simply squeezed the water out. Microbe numbers in the recovered water fell by as much as ten million times. The gel can be repeatedly reused and, the researchers suggest, could be developed into a pocket-sized water filter for emergencies.

Environ. Sci. Technol. 47, 93639371 (2013)

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