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New process for clean drinking water reaches innovation final

4 July 2023

Water is poured into a glass

A new chemical process that removes chlorine in drinking water has reached the final of a £4m innovation competition.

Researchers from Cardiff University have teamed up with the water filtration systems specialists, Origin Aqua, to develop a product that disinfects water, kills viruses and bacteria and removes chlorine by-products.

A team led by Professor Graham Hutchings, Cardiff Catalysis Institute (CCI), previously found that a catalyst made from gold and palladium takes in hydrogen and oxygen to form hydrogen peroxide – a commonly used disinfectant currently produced on an industrial scale.

The innovation project, led by CCI, is a finalist in the Water Discovery Challenge, run by Challenge Works and the Water Services Regulation Authority, Ofwat, with Arup and Isle Utilities.

Professor Graham Hutchings, Regius Professor of Chemistry, said: “Being selected as a Finalist gives us funding to develop a proven one-step process with Origin Aqua where, besides the catalyst, inputs of contaminated water and electricity are the only requirements to attain disinfection.

“The significantly enhanced bactericidal and virucidal activities achieved when reacting hydrogen and oxygen using our catalyst, rather than using commercial hydrogen peroxide or chlorination shows the potential for revolutionising water disinfection technologies around the world.”

The catalyst-based method was shown to be 10,000,000 times more potent at killing the bacteria than an equivalent amount of industrial hydrogen peroxide, and over 100,000,000 times more effective than chlorination, under equivalent conditions.

The method is also more effective at killing the bacteria and viruses in a shorter space of time compared to the other two compounds.

Andrew Cox, CEO, Origin Aqua, said: “We’re delighted to be collaborating with Cardiff University on this project as part of the Water Discovery Challenge. Working with researchers, we aim to adapt our pool water treatment system to produce cost-effective, crystal clear, potable water that brings benefits to millions of people around the world.”

It is estimated that around 785 million people lack access to water and 2.7 billion experience water scarcity at least one month a year.

The original study was published in Nature Catalysis in 2022. The team for the Water Discovery Challenge brings together expertise from Hydrolize Ltd, Professor Hutchings, Professor Jean-Yves Maillard, Professor of Pharmaceutical Microbiology in the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, and Dr Jennifer Edwards and Dr Richard Lewis, Cardiff Catalysis Institute.

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