Textiles for more efficient wastewater treatment

Households, industries, and agriculture around the world produce tonnes of toxic wastewater daily. Despite the scale of the problem, we have for decades adhered to conventional biological methods for wastewater treatment, methods that in many cases fail to eliminate complex toxins. Over time, new and advanced purification methods based on oxidation have emerged. But not even the best of them, due to their complexity, have the potential to be put into practice. This is something that Mohammad Neaz Morshed wants to change through his research.

The doctoral thesis Immobilizing catalyst on textiles – case of zerovalent iron and glucose oxidase enzyme focuses on how one of the new advanced purification methods can be made less complex – and the proposed solution involves textiles. More specifically, it is a matter of recreating the aforementioned advanced system for wastewater treatment by using textiles that have specific catalysts* on their surface.    

Textiles an ideal material  

He points out that there is no easy money to be made in this area, so in order for people and industries, especially in developing countries, to be encouraged to purify their wastewater before releasing it back to the surface water, a cheap, fast, simple and at the same time efficient purification process is needed. And for that purpose, textiles fit perfectly, according to the conclusions that Mohammad Neaz Morshed has come to through his research.  

“Textiles are cheap, strong, and flexible and can vary in design so that they fit any purification container. I am convinced that it is an ideal material for this purpose.”  

He points out that textiles, thanks to their many benefits, can be used in a more far-ranging way than their original purpose (clothing), and are gaining more and more uses, for example in medicine and chemistry. And according to Mohammad Neaz Morshed, it's just the tip of the iceberg.  

“Textiles will soon be able to be used everywhere. Why not also in wastewater treatment?”  

Innovative concept 

This study is one of the first to present a textile-based solution for such purification. The central question in the doctoral thesis is whether it is possible to recreate advanced purification systems by using textiles to immobilise (bind) catalysts. Immobilisation means that the catalysts are bound to a solid support material, in this case textiles. This enables the catalysts to be easily separated, a process which in turn is necessary for a catalytic system to function. Immobilised catalysts can be reused and often have better stability than those that are not immobilised, but the process is lengthy as it has, so far, required a complex sequence of events and rare support materials.

Several experimental methods have been used to modify the surface of the textiles and thus maintain the function of the catalysts after they have been immobilised (bound) to the textiles. Based on these laboratory experiments, Mohammad Neaz Morshed has shown that it is possible to use textiles to bind catalysts and recreate advanced purification systems.   

Helps solve global problems 

The results of the study highlight several possibilities for how catalysts can be bound to textiles without having to compromise on their function.  

“The research is now at a basic level, but I have managed to establish that textiles have the potential to be used for purification – thus and change the rules of the game.”

Further review is needed before the concept can be taken from the laboratory environment to industry. But Mohammad Neaz Morshed maintains that because the problem with wastewater is global, his findings will, on the whole, benefit the whole world. He emphasises that the concept can be applied to far more areas than wastewater treatment; it is just a matter of choosing the right catalysts for each application.  

“I feel proud to be able to contribute to solving a global problem and creating a better environment for future generations,” said Mohammad Neaz Morshed.  

Wants to continue his research career 

He has worked on his doctoral thesis within the framework of an Erasmus programme for doctoral education, Sustainable Management and Design for Textiles (SMDTex), where doctoral students study at three different universities.  

“The University of Borås is one of the best institutions for textile research. I have appreciated every minute of my time here,” he said, happy to have now finally defended his doctoral thesis.

"Finally, I have reached my goal after a four-year journey to scientific and personal development with the highest possible academic degree. Now I want to continue my career as a researcher and keep contributing to my domain of research,” said Mohammad Neaz Morshed.   

*Catalytic systems are one of the most efficient technologies for modern chemical processes. The process uses a molecule, a catalyst, which is capable of driving a chemical reaction without being consumed during the process.

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Title of the thesis: Immobilizing catalysts on textiles-case of zerovalent iron and glucose oxidase enzyme
Link to thesis