Wrap, Trap and Zap
A shield of graphene-wrapped nanospheres can help particles destroy antibiotic-resistant bacteria and free-floating antibiotic-resistant genes in wastewater treatment plants. The innovation comes from researchers in the NSF Nanosystems Engineering Research Center for Nantechnology Enabled Water Treatment Systems (NEWT), based at Rice University, together with researchers at Tongji University.
Credit: National Science Foundation/Karson Productions
I'm Bob Karson with the Discovery Files, from the National Science Foundation.
(Sound effect: water sounds) If you're like me, when it comes to thinking about wastewater treatment, it's pretty much, out of sight, out of mind. But researchers have been working on a solution to a wastewater issue since they first brought it to the surface in 2013. They're part of 'NEWT' -- an engineering research center exploring use of nanotechnology to improve water treatment.
Antibiotic-resistant bacteria breed in wastewater treatment plants. When they're killed, they release antibiotic resistance genes that in reservoirs and storage tanks can later transform harmless bacteria into drug-resistant superbugs.
Collaborating with a team at Tongji (tone-jee) University, the researchers developed a way to destroy antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and free-floating resistance genes, in treatment plants -- before the water gets released.
They created tiny nanospheres -- from bismuth, oxygen and carbon and made them three times more efficient by wrapping them in a graphene shell.
Part of a strategy the team calls, "Wrap, Trap and Zap." Light activated, the spheres capture and kill bacteria and degrade the resistant genes -- before they can contaminate the water. The outer wrapping gives them more time to work and makes the spheres re-usable.
Better wastewater treatment? It's a wrap.
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