Microspheres capture plastic contaminant


Rebecca Pool

Tuesday, October 9, 2018 - 12:45
Image: 'Petals' of a titanium dioxide sphere enhanced with cyclodextrin, [Alvarez Lab/Rice University].
US-based researchers have unveiled SEM imagery of a flower-like titanium dioxide particle that can catch and destroy micropollutant, bisphenol A.
BPA is a synthetic chemical that is used to make plastics and can be harmful if ingested, having been linked to poor child health and high blood pressure after prolonged exposure.
The 'petals' on the micron-sized spheres are decorated with cyclodextrin; benign, sugar-based molecules. 
When triggered by ultraviolet light, the spheres remove the BPA contaminants that can seep into food and water.
According to environmental engineer, Professor Pedro Alvarez, Rice University, the supple petals provide plenty of surface area to anchor the cyclodextrin molecules.
SEM image shows 'petals' of a titanium dioxide sphere enhanced with cyclodextrin. When triggered by ultraviolet light, the spheres are effective at removing bisphenol A contaminants from water, [Alvarez Lab/Rice University].
Cyclodextrin is a two-faced structure, with a hydrophobic cavity and hydrophilic outer surface.
BPA is hydrophobic and naturally attracted to the cavity; once trapped, hydroxyl radicals produced by the spheres, degrade BPA into harmless chemicals.
"This is an example of how advanced materials can help convert academic hypes into feasible processes that enhance water security," says Alvarez.
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