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Frontiers of Chemical Science and Engineering

Front. Chem. Sci. Eng.    2020, Vol. 14 Issue (6) : 1124-1135
Efficient elimination of environmental pollutants through sorption-reduction and photocatalytic degradation using nanomaterials
Njud S. Alharbi1, Baowei Hu2(), Tasawar Hayat1,3, Samar Omar Rabah1, Ahmed Alsaedi1, Li Zhuang4, Xiangke Wang1,5()
1. Department of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Science, King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah 21589, Saudi Arabia
2. School of Life Science, Shaoxing University, Shaoxing 312000, China
3. Department of Mathematics, Quaid-I-Azam University, Islamabad 44000, Pakistan
4. College of Environmental Science and Engineering, North China Electric Power University, Beijing 102206, China
5. State Key Laboratory of Radiation Medicine and Protection, School of Radiation Medicine and Protection, Soochow University, Suzhou 215123, China
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With the rapid development of industrial, large amounts of different inorganic and organic pollutants are released into the natural environments. The efficient elimination of environmental pollutants, i.e., photocatalytic degradation of persistent organic pollutants into nontoxic organic/inorganic chemicals, in-situ solidification or sorption-reduction of heavy metal ions, is crucial to protect the environment. Nanomaterials with large surface area, active sites and abundant functional groups could form strong surface complexes with different kinds of pollutants and thereby could efficiently eliminate the pollutants from the aqueous solutions. In this review, we mainly focused on the recent works about the synthesis of nanomaterials and their applications in the efficient elimination of different organic and inorganic pollutants from wastewater and discussed the interaction mechanism from batch experimental results, the advanced spectroscopy techniques and theoretical calculations. The adsorption and the photocatalytic reduction of organic pollutants and the sorption/reduction of heavy metal ions are generally considered as the main methods to decrease the concentration of pollutants in the natural environment. This review highlights a new way for the real applications of novel nanomaterials in environmental pollution management, especially for the undergraduate students to understand the recent works in the elimination of different kinds of inorganic and organic chemicals in the natural environmental pollution management.

Keywords nanomaterials      sorption-reduction      photocatalytic degradation      organic pollutants      heavy metal ions     
Corresponding Author(s): Baowei Hu,Xiangke Wang   
Just Accepted Date: 09 March 2020   Online First Date: 09 April 2020    Issue Date: 11 September 2020
 Cite this article:   
Njud S. Alharbi,Baowei Hu,Tasawar Hayat, et al. Efficient elimination of environmental pollutants through sorption-reduction and photocatalytic degradation using nanomaterials[J]. Front. Chem. Sci. Eng., 2020, 14(6): 1124-1135.
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Njud S. Alharbi
Baowei Hu
Tasawar Hayat
Samar Omar Rabah
Ahmed Alsaedi
Li Zhuang
Xiangke Wang
Methods Advantages Disadvantages
Sorption/adsorption Easy operation in large scale for separation of metal ions and organic pollutants Difficult for separation from solutions
Photocatalytic degradation For the degradation of organic pollutants at low concentration Difficult for the elimination of metal ions
Precipitation Different kinds of metal ions could be precipitated simultaneously The solution pH should be adjusted for precipitation
(Electro)coagulation Different kinds of pollutants could be coagulated together in the coagulation process Need further separation of the coagulates and parts of pollutants could still present in solution
(Ultra)filtration Different kinds of pollutants could be separated through the control of filter size Can not be used in large scale and high cost
Extraction Pollutants could be selectively extracted through the addition of special extraction agent Need special extraction agents which are pollutants themselves and need further treatment
Reduction/oxidation High valent metal ions could be reduced to low valent and in-situ solidified Only suitable for organic pollutants and metal ion with different valent
Biological degradation Environmentally friendly methods for the preconcentration of metal ions and degradation of organic pollutants Need long time for the treatment process and strict condition for microorganism
Membrane separation Easy operation in the separation of pollutants from one solution to another solution Is not in large scale and high cost
Tab.1  Summary of the advantages and disadvantages of different methods in the elimination of pollutants
Nanomaterials Advantages Disadvantages
GO High sorption capacity; easy surface modification; sufficient functional groups; large surface area; easy modification Difficult for separation from solutions; high cost in synthesis; poor selectivity;
difficult for synthesis in large scale
CNTs Easy synthesis; high external surface area; high stability in vigorous low or high pH conditions Relatively high cost in synthesis; low selectivity in sorption; low sorption capacity
COFs High sorption capacity; high chemical and thermal stability; easy modification with functional groups High cost for synthesis; difficult for separation; difficult to control the structure and layer stacking
MOFs Easy synthesis in large scale; easy modification with functional groups; high specific surface area; easy to adjust the pore size High cost in synthesis; low hydrolytic stability; difficult to be separated from solutions
C3N4 Easy synthesis; easy doping to improve the photocatalytic property Low sorption capacity for metal ions; high photocatalytic degradation of organic pollutants
MXenes Enough sorption sites; high ion exchangeable ability with metal ions; easy controllable layered structure High cost in the synthesis; poor selectivity; collapse at high temperature
Tab.2  Summary of the advantages and disadvantages of different nanomaterials
Fig.1  (a) Hydrated intercalation activation and fast calcination strategy of Ti3C2Tx MXene for U(VI) sorption and encapsulation [83] (reprinted with permission from RSC); (b, c) U L3 edge XANES spectra and the Fourier transforms of k3-weighted EXAFS spectra of U-loaded MXene samples [62,84] (reprinted with permission from ACS, copyright 2018).
Fig.2  (a) XANES spectra, and (b) EXAFS spectra of reference samples and reacted samples of Se(IV) on CNT, nZVI and nZVI/CNT samples [67] (reprinted with permission from Elsevier).
Fig.3  (a) The photocatalytic degradation of BPA on C3N4 and DMCN; (b) the proposed mechanism schematic for the separation and transfer of charge carriers in BPA degradation by DMCN under visible light irradiation [82] (reprinted with permission from RSC).
Fig.4  (a) The active sites of BPA for OPCN attacks. DFT calculated structures of reactants, intermediates and transition state for the degradation of BPA attacked by OPCN catalysts with (b) N atoms or (c) doped O atoms as reactive sites (white, red, gray and blue balls represented H, O, C and N elements, respectively) [29] (reprinted with permission from Elsevier).
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