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Degrade dyes and remove contaminants from wastewater

The textile dyes have always been a hot topic discussion internationally and a cause of worry. Recently a new method for degrading the dyes and purifying the wastewater has been developed at the Swedish University of Borås.

University of Boras Degrade dyes
Figure: Doctoral student of the University of Borås May Kahoush working in her research project. Courtesy: University of Borås

Doctoral student of the university May Kahoush in her research project has examined three altered methods, all of which ease a solution that benefits both the environment and the textile industry by reducing the consumption of water and energy, as well as the emission of hazardous chemicals.

May Kahoush said “In the dyeing process, the excess dyes and chemicals are flushed out with the wastewater, which causes great damage to the environment. My goal is to develop an eco-friendly method of purifying the wastewater before it is emitted.”

She has examined three different methods. All these can help find a solution beneficial to the textile industry and the environment by reducing the use of energy and water, as well as the release of harmful chemicals. The difficult task is to find ways to bind the enzymes to appropriate material.

“In the dyeing process, the excess dyes and chemicals are flushed out with the wastewater, which causes great damage to the environment. My goal is to develop an eco-friendly method of purifying the wastewater before it is emitted.”

May Kahoush

To solve this problem enzymes are used to initiate a degradation process of dyes and other chemicals.

Kahoush added, “The carbon fiber also has good electrically-conductive properties, which is a prerequisite for getting the desired properties in electro-chemical applications.”

Using felted carbon fiber textiles the enzymes can attach and help degrade the dye molecules. One difficulty, however, is that the carbon fiber textile is water repellent. In this case, she needed a water-absorbing material that could really allow the enzymes to bind to it. Thus, there has to be a pre-treatment of the material.

In the second method, she used an environment-friendly ingredient from the gardenia flower to facilitate the enzymes to bind directly to the carbon fiber material surface.

Lastly, in the third method, she performed a cold plasma treatment. Of the three methods, the first two required only little water; by contrast, in the plasma method, there was no need for water or chemicals and required low energy.

The methods for binding the enzymes offer many paybacks, for example, these provide a stable mechanism and facilitate reuse of the enzymes. If enzymes had circulated freely instead, it would have been dangerous as residues of the enzymes might remain on the dyed textiles, leading to allergies and other undesirable effects.

Besides water purification, the method is also used to detect substances to which the enzyme being discussed reacts; here, it is glucose. There is a possibility of producing electricity from biological substances that can generate alcohol or sugar.

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