Science

Multi-use Titanium Dioxide claimed to be the next "wonder material"

Multi-use Titanium Dioxide cla...
Associate Professor Darren Sun with some of his Multi-use Titanium Dioxide, prior to its integration into membranes
Associate Professor Darren Sun with some of his Multi-use Titanium Dioxide, prior to its integration into membranes
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One of the Multi-use Titanium Dioxide membranes
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One of the Multi-use Titanium Dioxide membranes
Associate Professor Darren Sun with some of his Multi-use Titanium Dioxide, prior to its integration into membranes
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Associate Professor Darren Sun with some of his Multi-use Titanium Dioxide, prior to its integration into membranes

Graphene could soon be facing some competition for the unofficial title of “World’s Most Useful New Substance.” Led by Associate Professor Darren Sun, a team of scientists at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University have spent the past five years developing a material known as Multi-use Titanium Dioxide. Their research indicates that it can be used to produce hydrogen and clean water from wastewater, double the lifespan of batteries, create antibacterial wound dressings ... and more.

Sun first got the idea for Multi-use Titanium Dioxide when he was trying to develop antibacterial water filters that resisted biofouling. The material is made by converting inexpensive titanium dioxide crystals into nanofibers, which are then incorporated into flexible filter membranes. Depending on the intended use of the material, those membranes can also include a mixture of carbon, copper, zinc and/or tin.

One of the Multi-use Titanium Dioxide membranes
One of the Multi-use Titanium Dioxide membranes

When used to treat wastewater, the substance does two main things. First, it serves as an efficient, anti-fouling, low-cost filtration membrane, allowing water molecules to flow through easily while blocking the passage of contaminants – when used as a forward osmosis filter, it also keeps salt from passing through, allowing it to be used in desalination plants.

Secondly, when exposed to sunlight, it separates hydrogen from the wastewater for subsequent use in fuel cells or power plants. It’s able to generate 1.53 milliliters of hydrogen from one liter of wastewater per hour, which is reportedly three times better than what’s currently possible using the traditional costly catalyst, platinum.

The scientists have also created a black version of the material in which the titanium dioxide is in crystalline form. This was used in a functioning flexible solar cell, and may find use in next-generation lithium-ion batteries. In a previous study, it was found that li-ion batteries with anodes made from carbon-modified titanium dioxide nanoparticles had twice the capacity of their conventional counterparts.

Additionally, Multi-use Titanium Dioxide’s anti-microbial qualities could allow the membranes to be used in breathable, bacteria-killing wound dressings.

Sun and his team are now in the process of forming a spinoff company to develop the technology further, and are seeking partners to help commercialize the material.

Source: Nanyang Technological University

7 comments
5318008
I think if graphene and MU titanium dioxide had a love child, you'd get Mithril.
Siegfried Gust
What exactly is a "forward osmosis filter"? Reverse osmosis filters use pressure to extract purified water against the osmotic pressure between the purified and unpurified water. But forward osmosis, that's pretty much the opposite of filtering. It's taking purified water and letting it mix with water that has a high content of dissolved solids.
Fretting Freddy the Ferret pressing the Fret
@Siegfried Gust,
You apply forward osmosis, so that your feed (seawater) flows into a reusable brine solution (salt) that is concentrated by osmostic pressure. In a second step, you apply reverse osmosis which requires energy and you get purified water. The advantage of doing this is that forward osmosis filters are more resistance to fouling than reverse osmosis filters are.
Buellrider
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forward_osmosis
Aeronick
Problem is, titanium (though abundant) is obtained using one of the worst forms of surface level strip mining going.
Frank191
Depollution of municipal and diverse industries waste water by conversion of the organic matter to hydrogen is already feasible by the use of microorganisms with as good or even better performance that what is achieved with this material. However, selection of the good bacteria is an issue and this is where the titanium oxide should be used. The combination of this material with the good bacteria could be very powerful.
pmshah
Just wondering ....
If it separates hydrogen from waste water what would be left behind? Hydrogen peroxide ? If I remember my chemistry correctly platinum catalyst based hydrogen generators give you both, hydrogen and oxygen at the 2 electrodes.