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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

In this reporting period, the PI reports that the project activities and objectives are progressing well as planned toward achieving the proposed timelines and goals. More postgraduate students (Honors and MSc) were recruited to work on various aspects of the project as part of the human capacity building and training. 

Technical experimental protocols on fluoride and microbial removals from simulated contaminated solutions (Laboratory-scale) with the biosynthesized nanoparticles on different biopolymeric matrix (Cellulose nanofiber and chitosan polymeric materials) using sol-gel and in-situ biosynthesis approach are in advanced stages. Hence, in line with the set deliverable milestones, a technical report on one of the novel biopolymeric nanocomposites sorbents (W. B. Ayinde; W. M. Gitari; Samie Amidou; M. Munkombwe and James Smith (2019). Green Synthesis of AgMgOnHaP nanoparticles supported on Chitosan matrix: defluoridation and antibacterial effects in groundwater) has been submitted and currently under review in an international peer-reviewed journal (Springer Nature Environmental Science and Pollution Research: ESPRD- 19-02543 - ESPR). Furthermore, as part of the outputs, a section of this project (Biosynthesis of Ag-MgOnanohydroxyapatite impregnated across nanofibrous cellulose matrix for fluoride and bacterial removal in groundwater) was presented during the 2019 IUPAC Postgraduate Summer School on Green Chemistry in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania from 12th to 19th May 2019 managed by the IUPAC Inter-divisional Committee on Green Chemistry for Sustainable Development (ICGCSD).

In addition, the 1st Community visitation and field trips to Lephalale, Limpopo Waterberg district (Study area) was achieved and water samples were collected for analysis in order to evaluate the temporal evaluation of the fluoride and other chemical species content in the community borehole water.

In the next 3-6 months, the following activities will be carried out:

1. Optimizing the technique and conditions for crosslinked biopolymeric Ag/MgO nanoparticle sorbent material
2. Experimental procedures and optimization via the immobilization of Ag/MgO Nps onto chitosancellulose composite membranes.
3. Physicochemical, mineralogical and morphological characterization of the synthesized Ag/MgO nanoparticles reinforced chitosan-cellulose composite adsorbents using different characterization techniques like SEM, TEM, FTIR, XRD, and XPS techniques
4. Carry out batch tests for defluoridation and pathogen removal in groundwater treatment using the Ag/MgO nanoparticles reinforced chitosan-cellulose composite adsorbent and their regeneration potential.
5. Continuous collection and monitoring of water samples from the community for physicochemical and microbial water quality parameters determinations
6. The socio-economic aspect of the filtration set-up.

Continuous visitation and partnership with the local government officials to the chosen community in Lephalale Municipality of Limpopo province, South Africa for periodic sample collections of boreholes towards monitoring and testing the water quality parameters. They are already using the community borehole as a source of high fluoride water, thus, setting the stage for working with the community and engagement on field trials for the developed water defluoridation nanomaterial. The plan is underway to visit the USAID local mission in South Africa.

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