Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

NTU scientist develops a multi-purpose wonder material to tackle environmental challenges
NTU ^ | Published on: 20-Mar-2013 | Lester Kok

Posted on 03/25/2013 3:27:53 PM PDT by Kevmo




NTU scientist develops a multi-purpose wonder material to tackle environmental challenges
Published on: 20-Mar-2013

A new wonder material that can generate hydrogen, produce clean water and even create energy.
Science fiction? Hardly, and there’s more - It can also desalinate water, be used as flexible water filtration membranes, help recover energy from desalination waste brine, be made into flexible solar cells and can also double the lifespan of lithium ion batteries. With its superior bacteria-killing capabilities, it can also be used to develop a new type of antibacterial bandage.
Scientists at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), led by Associate Professor Darren Sun have succeeded in developing a single, revolutionary nanomaterial that can do all the above and at very low cost compared to existing technology.
This breakthrough which has taken Prof Sun five years to develop is dubbed the Multi-use Titanium Dioxide (TiO2). It is formed by turning titanium dioxide crystals into patented nanofibres, which can then be easily fabricated into patented flexible filter membranes which include a combination of carbon, copper, zinc or tin, depending on the specific end product needed.
Titanium dioxide is a cheap and abundant material, which has been scientifically proven to have the ability to accelerate a chemical reaction (photocatalytic) and is also able to bond easily with water (hydrophilic).
More than 70 scientific papers on Prof Sun’s work in titanium dioxide has been published in the last five years, the latest being papers published in Water Research, Energy and Environmental Science, and Journal of Materials Chemistry.
Prof Sun, 52, from NTU’s School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, said such a low-cost and easily produced nanomaterial is expected to have immense potential to help tackle ongoing global challenges in energy and environmental issues.
With the world’s population expected to hit 8.3 billion by 2030, there will be a massive increase in the global demand for energy and food by 50 per cent and 30 per cent for drinking water (Population Institute report, titled 2030: The “Perfect Storm” Scenario).
“While there is no single silver bullet to solving two of the world’s biggest challenges: cheap renewable energy and an abundant supply of clean water; our single multi-use membrane comes close, with its titanium dioxide nanoparticles being a key catalyst in discovering such solutions,” Prof Sun said. “With our unique nanomaterial, we hope to be able to help convert today’s waste into tomorrow’s resources, such as clean water and energy.”
Prof Sun’s multi-use titanium dioxide can:
1. concurrently produce both hydrogen and clean water when exposed to sunlight
2. be made into a low-cost flexible filtration membrane that is anti-fouling
3. desalinate water as a high flux forward osmosis membrane
4. recover energy from waste desalination brine and wastewater
5. be made into a low-cost flexible solar cell to generate electricity
6. doubles battery life when used as anode in lithium ion battery
7. kill harmful microbial, leading to new antibacterial bandages
How the wonder material was found
Prof Sun had initially used titanium dioxide with iron oxide to make anti-bacterial water filtration membranes to solve biofouling - bacterial growth which clogs up the pores of membranes, obstructing water flow.
While developing the membrane, Prof Sun’s team also discovered that it could act as a photocatalyst, turning wastewater into hydrogen and oxygen under sunlight while still producing clean water. Such a water-splitting effect is usually caused by Platinum, a precious metal that is both expensive and rare.
“With such a discovery, it is possible to concurrently treat wastewater and yet have a much cheaper option of storing solar energy in the form of hydrogen so that it can be available any time, day or night, regardless of whether the sun is shining or not, which makes it truly a source of clean fuel,” said Prof Sun.
“As of now, we are achieving a very high efficiency of about three times more than if we had used platinum, but at a much lower cost, allowing for cheap hydrogen production. In addition, we can concurrently produce clean water for close-to-zero energy cost, which may change our current water reclamation system over the world for future liveable cities.”
Hydrogen is a clean fuel which can be used for automotive fuel-cells or in power plants to generate electricity.

Producing hydrogen and clean water
This discovery, which was published recently in the academic journal, Water Research, showed that a small amount of nanomaterial (0.5 grams of titanium dioxide nanofibres treated with copper oxide), can generate 1.53 millilitre of hydrogen in an hour when immersed in one litre of wastewater. This amount of hydrogen produced is three times more than when Platinum is used in the same situation.
Depending on the type of wastewater, the amount of hydrogen generated can be as much as 200 millilitres in an hour. Also to increase hydrogen production, more nanomaterial can be used in larger amounts of wastewater.
Producing low-cost flexible forward osmosis membranes

Not only can titanium dioxide particles help split water, it can also make water filter membranes hydrophilic - allowing water to flow through it easily, while rejecting foreign contaminants, including those of salt, making it perfect for desalinating water using forward osmosis. Thus a new super high flux (flow rate) forward osmosis membrane is developed.
This discovery was published recently in last month’s journal of Energy and Environmental Science. This is the first such report of TiO2 nanofibres and particles used in forward osmosis membrane system for clean water production and energy generation.

Producing new antibacterial bandages
With its anti-microbial properties and low cost, the membrane can also be used to make breathable anti-bacterial bandages, which would not only prevent infections and tackle infection at open wounds, but also promote healing by allowing oxygen to permeate through the plaster.
The membrane’s material properties are also similar to polymers used to make plastic bandages currently sold on the market.

Producing low-cost flexible solar cells
Prof Sun’s research projects have shown out that when treated with other materials or made into another form such as crystals, titanium dioxide can have other uses, such as in solar cells.
By making a black titanium dioxide polycrystalline sheet, Prof Sun’s team was able to make a flexible solar-cell which can generate electricity from the sun’s rays.

Producing longer lasting lithium ion batteries
Concurrently, Prof Sun has another team working on developing the black titanium dioxide nanomaterial to be used in Lithium ion batteries commonly used in electronic devices.
Preliminary results from thin coin-like lithium ion batteries, have shown that when titanium dioxide sphere-like nanoparticles modified with carbon are used as the anode (negative pole), it can double the capacity of the battery. This gives such batteries a much longer lifespan before it is fully drained. The results were featured prominently in a highly respected Journal of Materials Chemistry on its cover page last year.

Next step – commercialisation
Prof Sun and his team of 20, which includes 6 undergraduates, 10 PhD students and 4 researchers, are now working to further develop the material while concurrently spinning off a start-up company to commercialise the product.
They are also looking to collaborate with commercial partners to speed up the commercialisation process.
***END***
Media contact:
Lester Kok
Assistant Manager
Corporate Communications Office
Nanyang Technological University
Tel: 6790 6804
Email: lesterkok@ntu.edu.sg



TOPICS: Business/Economy; Extended News; Technical
KEYWORDS: desalination; science

1 posted on 03/25/2013 3:27:53 PM PDT by Kevmo
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: Kevmo

Can it fry an egg over easy?


2 posted on 03/25/2013 3:31:44 PM PDT by TigersEye (The irresponsible should not be leading the responsible.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Kevmo

This is vastly over-hyped. Always be careful of Chinese scientific literature. Much is good but much is not so good.


3 posted on 03/25/2013 3:37:53 PM PDT by wjr123
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: TigersEye
Can it fry an egg over easy?

Ignite the hydrogen.

4 posted on 03/25/2013 3:38:44 PM PDT by Pearls Before Swine
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: Kevmo

Sounds like with this wonder-material he should go for the Bill Gate’s Condom Award!


5 posted on 03/25/2013 3:41:00 PM PDT by 21twelve ("We've got the guns, and we got the numbers" adapted and revised from Jim M.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: wjr123

Always be careful of Chinese scientific literature.
***NTU is in Singapore, not China. But your bigotry is duly noted.


6 posted on 03/25/2013 3:41:08 PM PDT by Kevmo ("A person's a person, no matter how small" ~Horton Hears a Who)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: Pearls Before Swine

:-) Excellent! I’ll take two.


7 posted on 03/25/2013 3:41:50 PM PDT by TigersEye (The irresponsible should not be leading the responsible.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 4 | View Replies]

To: TigersEye

Sure.

But it’s over medium that’s difficult!


8 posted on 03/25/2013 3:43:57 PM PDT by DakotaGator (Weep for the lost Republic! And keep your powder dry!!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: Kevmo

is it’s name “Ginger”?


9 posted on 03/25/2013 3:47:36 PM PDT by TurboZamboni (Looting the future to bribe the present)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Kevmo
I already have that stuff.

It's called "Duct Tape".

10 posted on 03/25/2013 3:49:55 PM PDT by elkfersupper ( Member of the Original Defiant Class)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: TigersEye
Can it fry an egg over easy?

It's also a floor wax and dessert topping.

11 posted on 03/25/2013 3:50:30 PM PDT by Moonman62 (The US has become a government with a country, rather than a country with a government.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: Moonman62
Sounds like the perfect kitchen companion for my Bass-O-Matic! ;^)
12 posted on 03/25/2013 3:59:29 PM PDT by TigersEye (The irresponsible should not be leading the responsible.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 11 | View Replies]

To: Kevmo
This is the first and last we will ever hear of it.
13 posted on 03/25/2013 4:01:42 PM PDT by E. Pluribus Unum ("Somebody has to be courageous enough to stand up to the bullies." --Dr. Ben Carson)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Kevmo

This was first invented by cartoonist Al Capp in 1948. It is called a Shmoo.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shmoo

According to Capp, the US government rounded up all the Shmoo and put them on a guarded, high security reservation, noting that they would be bad for the economy, and while the people have a right to pursue happiness, they do not have a right to achieve it.


14 posted on 03/25/2013 4:06:46 PM PDT by yefragetuwrabrumuy (Best WoT news at rantburg.com)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Kevmo

He wasn’t the only guy to think it was bogus because he thought it was Chinese. I did too. The Chinese aren’t world famous for original research and they have only recently begun to target desalination.

Singapore however is very different. They have a world class desalination program. Not only do their plants produce some of the cheapest desalinized water in the world—but their research is also first rate. So their guy might be on to something.

Desalination membrane research in the USA has been very hot lately. I’ve seen two published reports about world beating membranes. One from MIT
http://www.desalination.biz/news/news_story.asp?id=6791&title=MIT+engineers+tiny+graphene+desalination+membrane
http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2013/smithsonian-nanoporous-graphene.html

The other is from Lockheed
http://www.pacetoday.com.au/news/lockheed-martin-awarded-patent-for-molecular-filtr
http://www.popularmechanics.com/how-to/blog/lockheeds-better-faster-way-to-desalinate-water-15216615?click=pm_latest

Your guess is as good as mine as to what’s smoke and what’s fire. But the more announcements you see like this the greater are the chances that one will make the great breakthrough that allow fresh water to pass through a membrane without the need for great pumps pressure electricity and hugely added expense.

When that happens —the world changes in a very big way. Because then desalinized water becomes cheap enough for agriculture. You’re basically positioned to turn the world’s deserts green & double the size of the habitable planet.

(another invention will be need however to make this work. That will be something like thorium powered nuclear reactors which will collapse the cost of energy.)


15 posted on 03/25/2013 4:17:01 PM PDT by ckilmer
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: Kevmo

Is it bullet-proof? Can I pound nails in with it? Does it taste good and can it sustain life indefinitely? Can I cut down a tree with it? Is it stronger than steel? Does it turn water to gold?

If so, I want some!


16 posted on 03/25/2013 4:22:14 PM PDT by Right Wing Assault (Dick Obama is more inexperienced now than he was before he was elected.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: ckilmer

(another invention will be need however to make this work. That will be something like thorium powered nuclear reactors which will collapse the cost of energy.)
***LENR is on its way.
http://www.freerepublic.com/tag/coldfusion/index?tab=articles


17 posted on 03/25/2013 4:23:06 PM PDT by Kevmo ("A person's a person, no matter how small" ~Horton Hears a Who)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 15 | View Replies]

To: Right Wing Assault

I don’t care what it CAN do- if it can’t reach over a few inches to hit the up and down channel button on my remote for me, I don’t want it


18 posted on 03/25/2013 4:39:49 PM PDT by CottShop (Scientific belief does not constitute scientific evidence, nor does it convey scientific knowledge)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 16 | View Replies]

To: Kevmo

Yeah, I’ve followed the LENR research. If that succeeds, the world really changes. They’ll make electricity 10-100 times cheaper than today. It would be on the order of fireboxes and steam power pushing trains in the early 19th century.

That’s really speculative but possible.

The liquid fluoride thorium reactor lftr reactors operate with already fairly proven technology. They’ll knock down the price of electricity to maybe 1/4 of current cheapest coal powered electricity. That’s cheap enough to push water cheaply quite a distance inland.


19 posted on 03/25/2013 4:42:12 PM PDT by ckilmer
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 17 | View Replies]

To: Kevmo

Pretty cool.

On a somewhat related side note, check this out. You can buy aerogel and other cool stuff like this.
http://www.buyaerogel.com/

I thought NASA was keeping this close to the chest but apparently it is available to the public, albeit expensive.

I am tempted to get some just for the heck of it (and rabid curiosity).


20 posted on 03/25/2013 4:53:58 PM PDT by mnehring
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Right Wing Assault

The desalinization properties put it up there with sustaining life. Efficient and cheap desalinization is one of those grails innovators have been pursuing.


21 posted on 03/25/2013 4:56:28 PM PDT by mnehring
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 16 | View Replies]

To: Kevmo

TiO2 is decades old stuff that was promoted for destruction of hazardous material like PCBs and other organics. It works on small scale but has never been practical. The way it works is to absorb UV energy and use it to create radicals from water which are highly reactive ions that combine with organic molecules to destroy them. The need for UV limits its application. There are formulations of TiO2 called low band-gap that can work with regular light instead of UV. As some have said you have to be skeptical about research from some parts of the world. I dont know about singapore but India is rampant with BS research.


22 posted on 03/25/2013 4:59:54 PM PDT by Brooklyn Attitude (Obama being re-elected is the political equivalent of OJ being found not guilty.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: ckilmer

There’s also this recent development

http://www.domain-b.com/technology/2010/20100505_discover_inexpensive.html

[quote]The molybdenum-oxo complex that Karunadasa, Chang and Long discovered is
a high valence metal with the chemical name of (PY5Me2)Mo-oxo. In their
studies, the research team found that this complex catalyzes the generation of
hydrogen from neutral buffered water or even sea water with a turnover
frequency of 2.4 moles of hydrogen per mole of catalyst per second.[/quote]
What is a turnover rate? If I wanted a specific number of liters per minute
and converted this to moles per minute the ratio they mention
Of 2.4 moles of hydrogen per mole of catalyst doesn’t include a time rate.


23 posted on 03/25/2013 5:05:42 PM PDT by Kevmo ("A person's a person, no matter how small" ~Horton Hears a Who)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 15 | View Replies]

To: wjr123

This university is in Singapore not the mainland PRC. There’s good reason to be skeptical of anything that sounds too good to be true. And if this was out of the PRC you could multiply that about a thousand times. But Singapore is a very westernized and advanced little island country where the principal academic influences are the UK, Australia, and the USA. So this may be worth taking more than a glance at.


24 posted on 03/25/2013 5:37:56 PM PDT by katana (Just my opinions)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: TigersEye

Yes, and boy can it catch fish!


25 posted on 03/25/2013 6:21:50 PM PDT by DManA
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: Kevmo

Yes, Singapore. My bad.. Still, and all, Chinese scientific literature is extremely untrustworthy. I read a lot of it and this is true. They recognize this as well.

BRW, this is still hype of the first magnitude.


26 posted on 03/25/2013 8:47:39 PM PDT by wjr123
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: Kevmo

yeah, hydrogen could also power pumps— to pump water inland from the ocean—especially if the price were cheap enough. Wouldn’t it be neat to use water as a fuel? We’ll just have to see how the new catalyst works out.


27 posted on 03/25/2013 10:21:54 PM PDT by ckilmer
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 23 | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794
FreeRepublic.com is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson