Giving waste a second life

Methods that remove and recycle organic pollutants from industrial wastewater are usually complex and costly. Thanks to a new material invented by Prof Zhang Hua from NTU’s School of Materials Science and Engineering, the recycling of wastewater may soon become cheaper, more efficient and sustainable.

The researchers developed a carbon fibre aerogel that can absorb organic waste such as industrial oils, food oils, solvents and chemicals from water. The aerogel can absorb waste of up to 190 times its own weight and remove up to 99% of the waste from the water. In many cases, the processed wastewater can be released directly into sewers or the sea.

The technology is also eco-friendly since the organic waste can be recycled and the aerogel is manufactured from cellulose-based waste material like cotton wool or paper in a process known as pyrolysis.

Twenty times cheaper than commercial alternatives, the technology has received early-stage investment from NTU’s commercialisation arm, NTUitive, and is being commercialised by NTU spin-off EcoWorth Tech in collaboration with two multinational companies.

This article appeared first in NTU’s research & innovation magazine Pushing Frontiers (issue #12, December 2017).

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