The presences of heavy metals, organic contaminants and natural toxins in natural water bodies pose a serious threat to the environment and the health of living organisms. Therefore, there is a critical need to identify sustainable and environmentally friendly water treatment processes. In this dissertation, I focus on the fundamental studies of advanced oxidation processes and magnetic nano-materials as promising new technologies for water treatments.
Advanced oxidation processes employ reactive oxygen species (ROS) which can lead to the mineralization of a number of pollutants and toxins. The rates of formation, steady-state concentrations, and kinetic parameters of hydroxyl radical and singlet oxygen produced by various TiO2 photocatalysts under UV or visible irradiations were measured using selective chemical probes. Hydroxyl radical is the dominant ROS, and its generation is dependent on experimental conditions. The optimal condition for generation of hydroxyl radical by of TiO2 coated glass microspheres is studied by response surface methodology, and the optimal conditions are applied for the degradation of dimethyl phthalate. Singlet oxygen (1O2) also plays an important role for advanced processes, so the degradation of microcystin-LR by rose bengal, an 1O2 sensitizer was studied. The measured bimolecular reaction rate constant between MC-LR and 1O2 is ~ 106 M-1 s-1 based on competition kinetics with furfuryl alcohol.
The typical adsorbent needs separation after the treatment, while magnetic iron oxides can be easily removed by a magnetic field. Maghemite and humic acid coated magnetite (HA-Fe3O4) were synthesized, characterized and applied for chromium(VI) removal. The adsorption of chromium(VI) by maghemite and HA-Fe3O4 follow a pseudo-second-order kinetic process. The adsorption of chromium(VI) by maghemite is accurately modeled using adsorption isotherms, and solution pH and presence of humic acid influence adsorption. Humic acid coated magnetite can adsorb and reduce chromium(VI) to non-toxic chromium (III), and the reaction is not highly dependent on solution pH. The functional groups associated with humic acid act as ligands lead to the Cr(III) complex via a coupled reduction-complexation mechanism. Extended X-ray absorption fine structure spectroscopy demonstrates the Cr(III) in the Cr-loaded HA-Fe3O4 materials has six neighboring oxygen atoms in an octahedral geometry with average bond lengths of 1.98 Å.