Doherty Center for Aviation and Health Research

Faculty Funded Work

The Efficacy of Photoactive Biomimetic Nanocomposite Membranes in the Degradation of Aquatic Contaminants

Dr. Jason Keleher, Dr. Jerry Kavouras
Biology and Chemistry


Water availability limits human and economic development. There are over 780 million people globally that do not have access to clean drinking water. Current water purification technologies are developed using a pollutant/contaminant adsorption mechanism on an activated carbon fluidized bed. Apart from being expensive, the adsorption process transports the contaminant rather than eliminating it from the environment. To counter the negatives of activated carbon, the combination of adsorption with photocatalytic reagents have been examined. A biomimetic polymer will serve as the foundational membrane in which photo-reactive semiconducting nanoparticles are embedded. The proposed project will develop a synthetic nanocomposite filtration media (membrane or fiber) that contains biomimetic building blocks (such as cellulose) coupled with photo-catalytic antimicrobial nanoparticles to aid in pollutant degradation. The ability of the media to degrade contaminants to a level that is safe for living organisms will be evaluated using bacteria and fresh water mussels, Dreissena polymorpha and D.bugensis as test organisms. The national and international impact of the proposed project ranges from the purification of contaminated well water in the state of Illinois, cleanup of industrial pollutant waste streams, and the implementation of sunlight promoted systems in developing nations for acceptable drinking water.