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Smart filters to clean water and air

Interactive paper that takes care of particles by means of sunlight. This is one of the tracks of the Mistra TerraClean research programme, which will lead to new sustainable and efficient purification systems.

For people in Cape Town, Day Zero approaches. The increasingly scarce supply of water has reached critical levels. Although we, up here in the north, may find it difficult to imagine the situation, the situation in the South African city has certainly been an eye opener for many. Clean water cannot be taken for granted.

In the Mistra-funded TerraClean research programme, scientists collaborate from a variety of areas to create cheap, sustainable, safe and smart materials for integrated filter systems to interactively clean air and water from environmentally hazardous substances. From RISE, no less than three divisions - Bioeconomy, ICT and Bio-sciences and materials – are involved which exemplifies how interdisciplinary skills are needed to solve complex challenges.

Hjalmar Granberg describes why RISE Bioeconomy participates in the project.

“In many applications the aim is a large area. For this purpose, we believe that aerogels, which are a kind of freeze dried foam, of cellulose would be a solution for producing wet stable porous filters.”

But cellulose in water, does it really work?

“Together with KTH Royal Institute of Technology, we have developed a new process for making wet-stable aerogels, i.e. they are not dissolved in water. The aerogels have a structure that allows it to be decorated on the inside and thus we have thought of integrating chemistry, electronics and optics.”

In addition to aerogels, RISE Bioeconomy will also, together with RISE ICT, develop zinc oxide paper for water and air purification. The work is based on earlier successful attempts at RISE pilot paper machine FEX.

“When a paper containing zinc oxide is exposed to UV light it becomes conductive. This means that the electronic properties of the paper are interactive and can be controlled with a UV lamp. By getting the sunlight to illuminate the zinc oxide near the particles we could get the paper to act as a photocatalytic cleaner.”

Zinc oxide paper as well as aerogels are included in the RISE Bioeconomy initiative on biobased electronics or shortened "BioEl" to meet the future needs of functional materials in a biobased circular economy. The materials can be used for a variety of applications from energy storage of renewable energy, water and air purification to the interface between analogue reality and digital features that are of great value to "Internet of Things". A large part of the success is based on results from the Power Papers and Modulit projects in which the use of functional nanocellulose has played a crucial role for the development.

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Hjalmar Granberg
+46 8 676 7041
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About Mistra TerraClean

The programme is running 2017-2021. The total budget is SEK 60 million. The Mistra TerraClean consortium is led by KTH Royal Institute of Technology and consists of several universities, research institutes, companies and trade organisations.