The issues facing the provision of clean, fresh water are many and varied, and prior to action being taken to rectify the problem, the water needs to be analysed, and the contaminants identified. New developments in nanotechnology can be used to address these issues.
Water Industry On The Earth's Driest Continent - Australia
Australia faces many challenges in protecting its natural resources, with water being a major focus. The current issues are many and varied:
- Increasing salinity levels
- Nutrient enrichment
- Blue-green algae outbreaks
- Contamination with oils, metals and other chemicals
- Water crisis due to drought
- Bioterrorism threats to the water supply
Australia enjoys a proud reputation for excellence in environmental sciences and research. The nation's natural resource-based industries, water scarcity challenges, experience working across a diverse range of environmental conditions and industries, outstanding science and research base, and proximity to fast-growing Asian markets make Australia the perfect place for investment in environmental nanotechnology.
Opportunities for Nanotechnology
Nanotechnology can provide important opportunities for the Australian water industry. These include detection, decontamination, purification and desalination.
Detection of chemical and biological substances including:
- Metals (eg. Cadmium, copper, lead, mercury, nickel, zinc)
- Nutrients (eg. Phosphate, ammonia, nitrate, nitrite)
- Algae (eg. Cyanobacterial toxins)
- Biological agents used for terrorism
Decontamination of the above listed substances. For example, nanoparticles of gold coated with palladium are very effective catalysts for removing TCE from groundwater - 2,200 times better than palladium alone and, photocatalytic nanomaterials allow ultraviolet light to destroy pesticides, industrial solvents and germs.
Purification and filtration of water for drinking purposes, such as through nanoscale membranes or using nanoscale polymer "brushes" coated with molecules that can capture and remove poisonous metals, proteins and germs.
Desalination to remove dissolved minerals from seawater, brackish water and wastewater
Nanotechnology can be applied to instrumentation that will have the following attributes:
- Rapid response time
- Real-time measurements
- High sample throughput
- Portability, for on-site analysis
- Simple design, easy to use
- Low detection levels
- Large working range
Nanotechnology Victoria - Water Projects
The NanoArrays technology is an infrastructure project for NanoVic, working with Monash University and Swinburne University. The primary use in water analysis will be for the detection of trace metals, with the possibility of extending it to the determination of nutrients, biomaterials, and other contaminants.
Biosensor research is currently being undertaken by Monash University, at the Gippsland campus. The biosensor is initially being developed for the analysis of phosphate and nitrate in waters, as well as sulfite in wines, softdrinks and various foods.
Discussions are underway for the development of a portable Surface Enhanced Raman Scattering (SERS) probe, in which research will be primarily undertaken at OptoElectronics and Swinburne University. The probe will be developed for the analysis of contaminants in drinking water.
Major Water Issues and Applications For Nanotechnology
As an aid to identifying the major water issues and applications for nanotechnology, a briefing document Nanotechnology Applications in Water Management was collated, and covers the following topics:
- Clarifying nanotechnology;
- Nanotechnology in Australia;
- Key water issues;
- National and international applications of nanotechnology to water;
- Current NanoVic activities in water.
To download a .pdf version of the briefing document please click here.
The information presented is a view adopted by Nanotechnology Victoria. Any errors and omissions are NanoVic's; NanoVic does not represent that this is a complete picture, and NanoVic looks forward to developing it further.
For more information on this source please visit NanoVic.