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UA researchers design a new compound for the removal of pollutants in water and air

Titanium oxide colour has been modified from white to black thanks to nanotechnology to take advantage of its excellent environmental applications based on sunlight



Images of Elena Serrano at UA Molecular Nanotechnology Lab with titanium oxide samples in black and white


Alicante. Friday, 5 February 2016

Focused on the production of activated titanium, researcher Elena Serrano, along with UA research group at the Molecular Nanotechnology Laboratory (NANOMOL) altered the colour of titanium oxide from white to black to exploit its excellent environmental applications based on sunlight. These materials have many different application areas, including degradation of organic pollutants, either in soil or water, or removal of atmospheric pollutants such as nitrogen oxides in asphalt.

Titanium dioxide known as  (white) titanium is an excellent photocatalyst widely used in tanning products, soaps, paints, cosmetic powders, toothpaste, lotions, etc as it is a non-toxic and inexpensive compound. However, its photocatalytic activity under sunlight is extremely low as it is limited to the UV range (approximately 5% of the solar spectrum). Thanks to the simple and economical method of synthesis obtained by Serrano, black titanium show excellent photocatalytic activity in both the ultraviolet and the visible light range, taking advantage of a large part of the radiation emitted by the sun.

"Our challenge has been to expand the activity of titanium under solar radiation with a very simple and economical  method of synthesis as we only need water, alcohol and work under very mild conditions of temperature", UA researcher explained and "to do this, we simply add a compound found in hair dye for preparing the compound thus obtaining a black titanium" she added.



Black titanium is able to work as a photocatalyst for water purification and organic contaminants compounds removal under visible light spectrum which represents a breakthrough in water treatment plants and pool cleaning. Also, aware of the current problem of environmental pollution in many Spanish cities, this "black powder" can be applied to roads, facades or terraces to remove nitrogen oxide and improve air quality.

Elena Serrano is aware that there are similar technologies and materials can behave as decontaminants but they generally require the use of noble metals such as gold or very complicated synthesis procedures, which are both expensive, so the use of our black titanium is much more effective and profitable. 

This breakthrough developed by a UA research group in collaboration with lecturers Jesús Berenguer and Elena Lalinde from the University of La Rioja, along with Dr. Angel Sepulveda, has been protected by a the patent "Method for the synthesis of in- situ functionalised titanium and their use" owned by Elena Serrano and Director of NANOMOL Group Javier García, the first Spanish scientist to receive the American Chemical Society Emerging Researcher Award in 2015 and Rey Jaume I on New Technology 2014, along by UA PhD Marisa Rico.



UA Molecular Nanotechnology Laboratory is devoted to research in the field of nanomaterials and subsequent applications in the production and storage of energy in the area of heterogeneous catalysis. At present, the main research areas in which they work are the development of new nanomaterials to increase the performance of catalysts used in oil refining, the production of nanotitanium for their applications in photocatalysis and solar cells and the development of catalysts capable of producing biofuels with the same petrol and diesel properties.


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