Occurrence and removal of nanoparticles in drinking water treatment

Emile Cornelissen PhD MSc, Danny Harmsen BSc, Wolter Siegers, Erwin Beerendonk BSc

  • Start date
    01 Jan 2013
  • End date
    31 Dec 2016
  • Principal
    BTO CO
  • collaborating partners
    Pentair, Universiteit Wageningen, TU Twente en Vitens

Because of the global increase in the use of nanoparticles, in consumer and pharmaceutical products for example, it is expected that they will increasingly become a source of environmental (air, soil and water) contamination. The more nanoparticles are used, the more these materials will be released into the environment and drinking water sources.

The risks associated with nanoparticles in drinking water sources are still for the most part unknown. This is due to a lack of knowledge about (I) a the toxic effects of nanoparticles, (II) the fate and behaviour of nanoparticles in the environment, and (III) the removal of nanoparticles in water treatment processes; moreover (IV), there are insufficient analytical techniques for the measurement of nanoparticles. These knowledge lacunae make the removal of nanoparticles from water a relevant technological and societal subject with regard to the provision of healthy and safe drinking water.

Wastewater and drinking water treatment plants are important barriers in the life-cycle of nanoparticles in the environment. They also constitute a barrier against the potential release of nanoparticles into the environment, and provide important protection for public health. However, today’s water treatment plants were not (specifically) designed for the removal of nanoparticles. The objective of the research is to determine the occurrence of nanoparticles in drinking water sources, and also study the removal of these particles in existing drinking water treatment processes.

Nanoparticles on a membrane

Nanoparticles on a membrane

Research at wastewater and drinking water treatment plants

For classical treatment processes (sand filtration, coagulation/flocculation and activated carbon filtration) and more advanced treatment processes (membrane filtration), we answer the following open questions about nanoparticles in water treatment:

  • Do nanoparticles occur in drinking water sources?
  • Are nanoparticles removed by today’s treatment processes?

Occurrence and removal of nanoparticles

The expected products of the research are:

  • Information about the occurrence of nanoparticles in drinking water sources, and about the number and types of nanoparticles (possibly) present in drinking water treatment.
  • Insight into the effect of selected nanoparticles on the operational management of selected treatment processes.
  • Knowledge about the removal of nanoparticles in existing treatment processes.
  • Report/publication on the occurrence and removal of nanoparticles in water treatment.