Nanotechnology Could See Big Future in Water Cleanup

Nanotechnology could have a big future as a tool for upstream oil and gas and other industries to use to clean up contaminated water, Professor Michael S. Wong of Rice University, Houston, told the SPE Gulf Coast Section’s R&D Study Group recently.
In addition, Wong said, “An exciting new role for catalysis is in the treatment of produced water for reuse.” Introducing a catalyst into a chemical process can bring about or speed up a chemical reaction, with the catalyst remaining unconsumed in the reaction and thus able to act repeatedly.
Only tiny amounts of catalyst are needed to achieve these effects.
Wong stressed the advantage of catalytic conversion techniques over the established methods of activated carbon adsorption and air stripping that are used to remove many contaminants from water.
Treating TCE-Laced Water He posed the example of treating water contaminated with trichloroethylene (TCE) by traditional methods vs. a catalytic technology that his research group has developed.
Activated carbon treatment can remove it from water, but when the carbon becomes saturated with TCE, the carbon must be disposed of or cleaned by burning off the contaminant.
While one problem has been solved, “you now have another contaminated stream to deal with,” Wong said.
By adjustments in the amount of palladium, the surface coverage of the catalyst can be altered as needed.
The catalyst has performed very well in the laboratory, he said, and his group is working to bring the technology into field applications.
NEWT Partnership He also discussed work by the Nanosystems Engineering Research Center for Nanotechnology-Enabled Water Treatment (NEWT), a collaborative initiative between universities, industrial companies, and other organizations.

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