Occurrence and removal of nanoparticles in influent and effluent of drinking water and wastewater treatment plants

The motivation of this research arises from the increasing use of engineered nanoparticles (eNPs) in consumer products, pharmaceutical products, etc. which could lead to an increased release in the environment, making eNPs and emerging source of pollutants in air, soil and water systems.

Many aspects related to eNPs are largely unknown or not well understood yet, for instance their toxicity, their health effects, their fate and their behavior in the environment. In addition, especially also the effect of such particles in drinking and waste water treatment plants needs further understanding and the sufficient analytical techniques to analyse them are required. This lack of knowledge makes eNPs removal from water a technological and societal priority with respect to water safety.

Water Treatment Plants (WTPs) are key nodes within the eNPs lifecycle because they represent the first barrier against the release of eNPs in the environment. WTPs however, are not specifically designed to remove them. Technical issues surrounding eNPs in water treatment plants are: (i) Do eNPs occur in water sources? (ii) How do they affect the performances of present WTPs? (iii) Will they be removed during water treatment processes?

In order to address the research questions mentioned above first an overview and inventory will be made mostly by reviewing available literature and investigating databases on produced and (commercially) available nanomaterials on the market. Second, because in the last decades membrane separation techniques have emerged as the most viable solution to problems such as virus, micro pollutants and ion rejection and separation, the effect of different types and structures of eNPs on the performance of WTPs and the removal efficiency of eNPs using membrane separation techniques will be evaluated (i.e. by characterization eNP rejection and permeability in relation to other components) using a lab-scale set-up designed to evaluate membrane performance under different operating conditions.

This research is carried out within the NanoNextNL program in collaboration with KWR Watercycle Research Institute, Nieuwegein.