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Sat Jan 18, 2020, 08:22 PM

Using an Engineered Nanomaterial and Sunlight to Decontaminate Pesticide-Polluted Water

By INRS JANUARY 18, 2020

Two Teams of INRS Join Forces and Develop a New Ecological Process to Degrade Atrazine
Atrazine is one of the most widely used pesticides in North America. Professors My Ali El Khakani and Patrick Drogui of INRS have developed a new method to degrade it which combines a new nanostructured material and sunlight.

Atrazine is found throughout the environment, even in the drinking water of millions of people across the country . Conventional water treatments are not effective in degrading this pesticide. Newer processes are more effective, but use chemicals that can leave toxic by-products in the environment.

Professor My Ali El Khakani, an expert in nanostructured materials (Centre-EMT), and Professor Patrick Drogui, a specialist in electrotechnology and water treatment (Centre-ETE), have joined forces to develop a new ecological degradation process for atrazine that is as chemical-free as possible. “By working synergistically, we were able to develop a water treatment process that we would never have been able to achieve separately. This is one of the great added values of interdisciplinarity in research,” says Professor El Khakani, lead author of the study, whose results were published on January 15, 2020, in the journal Catalysis Today.

Professor My Ali El Khakani (left) a researcher and an expert in nanostructured materials at the INRS and Professor Patrick Drogui (right), a researcher and a specialist in electrotechnology and water treatment at the INRS. Credit: Christian Fleury

The researchers use an existing process, called photoelectro-catalysis or PEC, which they have optimized for the degradation of atrazine. The process works with two photoelectrodes (light-sensitive electrodes) of opposite charges. Under the effect of light and an electrical potential, this process generates free radicals on the surface of the photoelectrodes. Those radicals interact with atrazine molecules and degrade them. “The use of free radicals is advantageous because it does not leave toxic by-products as chlorine would do. They are highly reactive and unstable. As their lifetime is very short they tend to disappear quickly,” explains Professor Drogui, co-author of the study.


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