Chemistry to purify water
IPNA researchers are studying new molecules to reduce pollution and prevent the accumulation of more plastics.
Everyone likes to see crystal clear water. We are awed by the beauty of those seas where you can see the seabed at a glance. For most civilizations, water has always been a symbol of purity and abundance. But the importance of water is not only aesthetic or spiritual. Oceans, lakes and rivers cover three quarters of our planet's surface, they are the source of life, they shape the landscape and regulate the climate. Unfortunately, for decades our oceans and rivers have been suffering from progressive pollution that has endangered one of our greatest natural resources.
This environmental damage is not only detrimental to the economy and tourism, but threatens the survival of many species, and more importantly, the lack of clean water leads to unsanitary conditions, and the death of more than 800 children a day from diseases associated with lack of hygiene. In order to achieve completely clean water by 2030, as mandated by Sustainable Development Goal 6, it is necessary to rethink the management of our cities and communities. We must make them more sustainable and thus preserve the valuable 'commodity' that covers three quarters of the planet's surface: water. And in the face of such a challenge, chemistry may have an answer that can reverse this situation.
"The seas suffer from two main problems due to the way we live," explains Romen Carrillo, a researcher at the Institute of Natural Products and Agrobiology (IPNA). "Firstly, excessive influx of manufactured chemical compounds, such as pesticides and pharmaceuticals”. Currently, more than 80 % of wastewater is discharged into rivers and seas without any treatment, something that clearly needs to be addressed. "Secondly, the accumulation of plastics in the oceans."
In the IPNA's Molecular Sciences department, new materials are being designed and constructed that are capable of dealing with both situations. These materials are able to retain and remove harmful and polluting compounds from the environment. Once they have performed their function they degrade very easily, preventing them from accumulating in the environment. But it doesn't stop there, an additional advantage is that their degradation generates the substances needed to rebuild them again. Therefore, once decomposed, the resulting compounds can be used to remanufacture these filters. It is therefore an "ideal solution for a society that is increasingly looking for a circular economy with the lowest possible impact", says Carrillo, who also highlights the benefits of this product, given that it does not generate waste and therefore "does not have to be disposed of or accumulated in landfills".
With a little awareness among all of us and with the help of scientific research such as that carried out at the IPNA, we will once again be able to enjoy pure clean water in the near future.