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Cycle 6 (2017 Deadline)

Design of metal-oxide nanoparticle reinforced nano-fibrous biopolymer composites for water treatment

PI: Wilson Gitari,, University of Venda
U.S. Partner: James Smith, University of Virginia
January 2018 - January 2020

Project Overview:

The overall objective of this project is to fabricate multifunctional, biopolymer-metal oxide nanoparticle, reinforced composites for fluoride and pathogen removal in groundwater. Previously reported materials have low fluoride adsorption capacity, and there is no information on their capacity for disinfection of the treated water. The biopolymer composite that the PI and his team plan to develop is envisaged to have high fluoride adsorption capacity and at the same time remove pathogens, resulting in a powerful treatment system to deliver safe, fluoride-free drinking water. These electrospun chitosan-cellulose hybrid nanocomposites will provide active sites for reduction and introduction of Ag-MgO engineered nanomaterials that will be instrumental in imparting pathogen removal capacity. A component of this project is the formation and loading of various metal oxide nanoparticles on the biopolymer composites, testing their effectiveness in simultaneous defluoridation of the groundwater and pathogen removal. The U.S. partner on the project, Dr. James Smith, will contribute his expertise in nanomaterial synthesis, as well as his experience in pioneering the application of silver-coated ceramic water filters and ceramic tablets loaded with silver nanoparticles for water treatment in a rural community in South Africa.

This project should help to promotes equitable distribution and supply of water by improving access to clean, safe water for rural residents at an affordable cost. It should also lead to more efficient groundwater utilization as an option to satisfy the huge water demand of South Africa. Ultimately, access to safer water would also help to improve the health of rural communities, reducing the disease burden on the health infrastructure.

Summary of Recent Events

This project kicked of in March 2018. The PI and his team are working on planning, data gathering activities and literature review. Plans are underway to recruit more postgraduate students (Honors, MSc and PhD) to work on various aspects of the project.

In the next 3-6 months, the PI and his students will host a public awareness workshop for a community in Lepalale in Limpopo Waterberg district, that uses groundwater with high concentrations of F- than WHO recommended limits. The community borehole in Lepalale community in Waterberg district in Limpopo will be the project's research site for fluoride rich water. Field trips will be undertaken to collect water samples for analysis on monthly basis to evaluate the temporal evaluation of the fluoride and other chemical species content in the borehole water.

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