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A novel composite material developed by scientists in the Energy Safety Research Institute (ESRI) at Swansea University in the UK shows promise as a catalyst for the degradation of environmentally-harmful synthetic dye pollutants. These are released at a rate of nearly 300,000 tonnes a year into the world’s water.

This novel, non-hazardous photocatalytic material effectively removes dye pollutants from water, adsorbing more than 90% of the dye and enhancing the rate of dye breakdown by almost 10 times using visible light. The scientists, led by Charles Dunnill and Daniel Jones, reported their discovery in a paper in Scientific Reports.

The composite is synthesized by growing ultra-thin ‘nanowires’ of tungsten oxide on the surface of tiny particles of tantalum nitride within a sealed container at high temperatures and pressures. Due to the incredibly small size of the two material components – both the tantalum nitride nanoparticles and tungsten oxide nanowires are typically less than 40nm in diameter – the composite provides a huge surface area for dye capture.

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