Treating Water by Degrading Oxyanions Using Metallic Nanostructures
Consideration of the water–energy–food nexus is critical to sustainable development, as demand continues to grow along with global population growth. Cost-effective, sustainable technologies to clean water of toxic contaminants are needed. Oxyanions comprise one common class of water contaminants, with many species carrying significant human health risks. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) regulates the concentration of oxyanion contaminants in drinking water via the National Primary Drinking Water Regulations (NPDWR). Degrading oxyanions into innocuous compounds through catalytic chemistry is a well-studied approach that does not generate additional waste, which is a significant advantage over adsorption and separation methods. Noble metal nanostructures (e.g., Au, Pd, and Pt) are particularly effective for degrading certain species, and recent literature indicates there are common features and challenges. In this Perspective, we identify the underlying principles of metal catalytic reduction chemistries, using oxyanions of nitrogen (NO2–, NO3–), chromium (CrO42–), chlorine (ClO2–, ClO3–, ClO4–), and bromine (BrO3–) as examples. We provide an assessment of practical implementation issues, and highlight additional opportunities for metal nanostructures to contribute to improved quality and sustainability of water resources.