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Luz para desinfectar el agua

27 enero 2010 - 19:22 - Autor:

bacteria-ecoli

Peluche de la bacteria E-coli, según la obtusa óptica de ThinkGeek.

Una quinta parte de la población mundial vive en zonas donde el agua potable es casi una entelequia y otro cuarta parte adicional se enfrenta a un futuro de escasez del líquido elemento. Un equipo de investigación internacional ha desarrollado un proceso de catálisis que promete la desinfección rápida y efectiva de agua mediante el uso de luz solar o artificial. Según leemos en Technology Review, el sistema incluso sigue funcionando en la oscuridad, una vez la luz se ha apagado.

Hasta la fecha se había utilizado asiduamente luz ultravioleta de alta intensidad para matar las bacterias. Es el método que utilizan, por ejemplo, los filtros de agua de los campistas. El siguiente paso fue añadir fotocatalizadores que se activaban con la luz ultravioleta para generar componentes químicos reactivos que convertían los microbios en dióxido de carbono y agua.

Los nuevos fotocatalizadores mejoran esa técnica utilizando luz visible en lugar de ultravioletas. El prototipo sintetizado por el equipo de ciencias materiales de la Universidad de Illinois, está construido a partir de fibras de óxido de titanio cubiertas de nitrógeno para absorber la luz visible, en el espectro de 400-550 nanómetros.

El óxido de titanio, junto con las nanopartículas de paladio que impregnan el catalizador, liquidan las bacterias del agua. En una prueba realizada en una solución con alta concentración de bacteria E.coli, el sistema logró reducir el número de bacterias desde 10 millones por litro a 1 por 10.000 litros.

Una segunda prueba realizada en la oscuridad también demostró que 24 horas después de retirar la fuente de luz, el fotocatalizador seguía matando bacterias. Los resultados del experimento aparecen publicados en el Diario de Materiales Químicos.

Posibilidades de comercialización: Esperemos que altas, aunque: 1. Está en sus primeras fases de desarrollo, de modo que tardará en producirse en volumen. 2. Sus clientes potenciales no son precisamente pudientes, así que tardará aún más en tener viabilidad económica, y 3. De no mediar los puntos 1 y 2, qué bien les hubiera venido a esos amigos rusos.

Visto en Technology Review.

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