Harnessing the power of the sun to clean water

SCIENTISTS in Scotland are leading research to develop new technology that can harness the power of the sun to clean up polluted water - while producing electricity at the same time.

At the heart of the research at Aberdeen University is a new type of fuel cell that is capable of using sunlight to break down various pollutants in water and produces electricity as a byproduct.

The results of a 1.2 million three-year research initiative, announced yesterday, could eventually be used to treat water in third world countries as well as provide cheap water treatment in the oil and gas and water industries.

The research is led by scientists at the university’s department of chemistry and school of biological sciences and has attracted funding from the Department of Trade and Industry and three industrial partners, Yorkshire Water, Scotoil Services, a North Sea oil service company, and OpTIC Technium, a manufacturing technology company based in North Wales.

Dr Donald Macphee, head of the research team, said the project was based on the development of a "photoelectrocatalytic" fuel cell, which contains a catalyst capable of degrading organic pollutants by using light from the sun.

The cell exploits electrochemistry to enhance the rate of pollutant degradation and produces an electric current at the same time. The aim is to develop the laboratory-tested technology for a wide range of uses. Dr Macphee said: "The photoelectrocatalytic fuel cell is environmentally friendly technology aimed at cleaning up pollutants in the water supply."

Back to the top of the page