The Innovative Approach of Spanish Researchers to Purify Wastewater Using Micromotors and AI

2023-11-15 20:10:00

In an innovative approach, Spanish researchers have designed autonomous micromotors to purify wastewater. The process generates ammonia, potentially usable as a green energy source. An artificial intelligence method will be used to optimize the performance of these micromotors.

THE micromoteurs have proven to be a promising tool for environmental remediation, mainly due to their ability to navigate autonomously and accomplish specific tasks on a microscopic scale. The micromotor is made of a tube of silicon and manganese dioxide in which chemical reactions cause bubbles to be released at one end. These bubbles act like a motor that sets the tube in motion.

The researchers of theInstitute of Chemical Research of Catalonia (ICIQ) built a micromotor coated with the chemical compound laccase, which accelerates the conversion of urea in polluted water into ammonia when it comes into contact with the motor.

A source of green energy

« This is an interesting discovery. Today, wastewater treatment plants struggle to break down all the urea, leading to eutrophication when the water is released. This is a serious problem in urban areas especially “, comments Rebeca Ferrer, doctoral student in Dr. Katherine Villa’s group at the ICIQ.

Converting urea to ammonia also offers other benefits. If you can extract ammonia from water, you also have a green energy source, because ammonia can be converted to hydrogen.

Development work to continue

There is still a lot of work to be done, with the bubbles produced by the micromotors posing a problem for researchers. “ We need to optimize the design so that the tubes can purify water as efficiently as possible. For this we need to see how they move and how long they continue to work, but this is difficult to see under a microscope because the bubbles obscure the view », explains Rebeca Ferrer.

Left / Giovanni Volpe, professor at the University of Gothenburg. Right / Katherine Villa, group leader at the Chemical Research Institute of Catalonia (ICIQ).

However, thanks to an AI method developed by researchers at the University of Gothenburg, it is possible to estimate the movements of micromotors under a microscope. Machine learning allows multiple motors to be monitored simultaneously in the liquid.

« If we can’t monitor the micromotor, we can’t develop it. Our AI works well in a lab environment, which is where development work currently takes place “, adds Harshith Bachimanchi, doctoral student in the Department of Physics at theUniversity of Gothenburg.

Synthetic

Researchers are hard-pressed to say how long it will be before urban wastewater treatment plants can also become energy producers. Much development work remains to be done, such as on the AI ​​method, which needs to be modified to work in large-scale trials.

« Our goal is to tune engines to perfection », concludes Harshith Bachimanchi. This innovative research paves the way for new perspectives for water sanitation and green energy production, demonstrating once once more the importance of technology and artificial intelligence in solving environmental challenges.

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For a better understanding

What is a micromotor?

A micromotor is a small device that can move autonomously thanks to chemical reactions occurring inside it. It is made of a silicon tube and manganese dioxide.

Micromotors can be coated with a chemical compound called laccase that accelerates the conversion of urea in polluted water into ammonia when it comes into contact with the motor.

What is the role of ammonia in this process?

Ammonia produced by urea conversion can be extracted from water and used as a green energy source, as it can be converted into hydrogen.

What are the challenges to overcome in the development of micromotors?

Much work remains to be done to optimize the design of micromotors. The bubbles produced by micromotors pose a problem because they obscure the view under the microscope, making it difficult to observe their movement and operating time.

An AI method developed at the University of Gothenburg makes it possible to estimate the movements of micromotors under a microscope. Machine learning makes it possible to monitor multiple motors in the liquid simultaneously, which is crucial for the development of micromotors.

Main lessons

Lessons Micromotors can help purify water by converting urea into ammonia. The ammonia produced can be used as a green energy source. An AI method developed at the University of Gothenburg can estimate the movements of micromotors. AI makes it possible to monitor multiple motors in the liquid simultaneously. Much work remains to be done to optimize the design of micromotors.

References

ICIQ, University of Gothenburg

Main illustration legend: The exterior of the micromotor in this study is covered with a chemical compound, laccase. This allows the engine to convert the urea in the water into ammonia.” Credit: Institute of Chemical Research of Catalonia (ICIQ)

Article : “Bubble-propelled micromotors for ammonia generation†” – DOI:10.1039/D3NR03804A

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#Micromotors #purify #wastewater #produce #green #energy

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