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Arsenic water decontamination by a bioinspired As-sequestering porous membrane


Arsenic water contamination is a major issue worldwide, particularly in regions where groundwater is the primary source of drinking and irrigation water. Therefore, there is an urgent need of addressing this problem in an effective and environmentally friendly manner. So far, several conventional and emerging removal technologies have been implemented for arsenic removal from water, including coagulation, flocculation, adsorption and membrane-based separation approaches. Here we show the successful development of a new bio-inspired porous membrane that has been made selective for the removal of arsenic (As(V) as well as the more toxic and difficult to remove As(III)) present in arsenic-contaminated groundwaters. The arsenic removal efficiency of the membrane has been successfully assessed both in model solutions and in a real groundwater. Very importantly, owing to the high selectivity of the membrane towards arsenic, no substantial demineralization occurred with the real groundwater, which therefore became directly suitable for human consumption.

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Fig. 1: Design of the porous As-sequestring membrane PIL-S-M.
Fig. 2: Extraction efficiency of PIL-S-M membrane in As-containing (500 μg l−1) model solutions.
Fig. 3: EXAFS synchrotron studies on PIL-S-M after filtration of As(III) solution (500 μg l−1) at pH 6.5.
Fig. 4: Extraction efficiency of PIL-S-M membrane in naturally As-containing groundwater Sorbo 2 (Sila Massif, Calabria, Italy).

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Data availability

All relevant data generated and analysed during this study, which include experimental, spectroscopic, membrane characterization, analytic and computational data, are included in this article, its Supplementary Information and the Open Science Framework repository with the identifier


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The research leading to these results received funding from the Regione Calabria (Italy), POR Project AsSE, grant no. J28I17000030006 ‘Arsenic separation from waters by membrane processes’ (A.F., C.A. and B.G.). The authors thank M. Frappa from Institute on Membrane Technology, National Research Council, for his assistance in membrane preparation. We dedicate this paper to the memory of Cinzia Chiappe, a truly exceptional scholar and researcher.

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Authors and Affiliations



F.G., R.M., C.S.P., J.B., J.R., C.C., A.F. and B.G. conceptualized and designed the study. F.G. and A.F. prepared and characterized the membranes. R.M. and L.G. prepared and characterized the polymerizable ionic liquids. C.S.P. performed the theoretical calculations. F.G. conducted the As extraction tests. S.-L.W. carried out the EXAFS synchrotron studies. C.A. collected the natural groundwater and performed the chemical analyses. F.P. conducted the XPS studies. F.G. and B.G. wrote the original draft of the manuscript, with the contributions of all other authors. F.G., A.F. and B.G. contributed to the writing of all subsequent versions of the manuscript. B.G. supervised, convened and coordinated the study.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Christian S. Pomelli, Alberto Figoli or Bartolo Gabriele.

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Nature Water thanks Cher Hon Lau and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Details on theoretical calculations on the interactions between PIL-S-M and As(V) or As(III), Supplementary Figs. 1–12 and Tables 1 and 2, and details on cross-flow filtration tests.

Source data

Source Data Fig. 2

Statistical source data for Fig. 2a,b.

Source Data Fig. 4

Statistical source data for Fig. 4a,c.

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Galiano, F., Mancuso, R., Guazzelli, L. et al. Arsenic water decontamination by a bioinspired As-sequestering porous membrane. Nat Water 2, 350–359 (2024).

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