Access to clean drinking water remains an issues around the globe, with 663 million people lacking access to safe water sources. Current scientific methods that work to remove small and diluted pollutants from water tend to be either energy or chemical intensive. New research from a team at MIT provides insight into a new process of removing even extremely low levels of unwanted compounds.

This from MIT:

The system uses a novel method, relying on an electrochemical process to selectively remove organic contaminants such as pesticides, chemical waste products, and pharmaceuticals, even when these are present in small yet dangerous concentrations. The approach also addresses key limitations of conventional electrochemical separation methods, such as acidity fluctuations and losses in performance that can happen as a result of competing surface reactions.

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Water purificationAccess to adequate water and sanitation is a major obstacle that impacts nations across the globe. Currently 1 in 10 people – or 663 million – lack access to safe water. Due to the global water crisis, more than 1.5 billion people are affected by water-related diseases every year. However, many of those disease causing organisms could be removed from water with hydrogen peroxide, but production and distribution of hydrogen peroxide is a challenge in many parts of the world that struggle with this crisis.

Now, a team of researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University have develop a small device that can produce hydrogen peroxide with a little help from renewable energy sources (i.e. conventional solar panels).

“The idea is to develop an electrochemical cell that generates hydrogen peroxide from oxygen and water on site, and then use that hydrogen peroxide in groundwater to oxidize organic contaminants that are harmful for humans to ingest,” says Chris Hahn, a SLAC scientist.

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HIV and hepatitis C are among the leading causes of worldwide death. According to amfAR, an organization dedicated to eradicating the spread of HIV/AIDS through innovative research, nearly 37 million people are currently living with HIV. Of those 37 million, one third become co-infected with hepatitis C.

The threat of HIV and hepatitis C

The regions hit the hardest by this co-infection tend to be developing parts of the world, such as sub-Saharan Africa and Central and East Asia.

While these developing regions have measures to diagnosis HIV and hepatitis C, the rapid point-of-care tests used are typically unaffordable or unreliable.

An electrochemical solution

A group from McGill University is looking to change that with a recently developed, paper-based electrochemical platform with multiplexing and telemedicine capabilities that may enable low-cost, point-of-care diagnosis for HIV and hepatitis C co-infections within serum samples.

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Super-Sensor Spots Cancer Markers

Logan Streu, ECS Content Associate & Assistant to the CCO, recently came across this article detailing an electrochemical device’s life saving potential in cancer treatment.

A new electrochemical sensor is paving the way for quick and affordable “liquid biopsies,” opening the possibility of detecting deadly cancer markers in minutes. This new development could help tailor treatments to specific patients and improve the accuracy of initial diagnosis.

Personalized medicine is a huge part of a new, promising future in cancer treatment. With the ability to tailor treatment to each individual tumor, treatments can become more effective and yield less side-effects.

In an effort to get closer to the ultimate goal of tailored cancer treatment, Shana Kelley and her team at the University of Toronto joined forces with a researcher from the Montreal Children’s Hospital in Quebec to develop the new electrochemical super-sensor.

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Brightman (right) and Hinds (left) have developed a novel electrode to boost green hydrogen research.Image: National Physical Laboratory

Brightman (left) and Hinds (right) have developed a novel electrode to boost green hydrogen research.
Image: National Physical Laboratory

ECS members Edward Brightman and Gareth Hinds of the National Physical Laboratory have developed a novel reference electrode that will aid in the development of hydrogen production technologies for renewable energy storage.

Both Brightman and Hinds will present their work on reference electrodes at the 227th ECS Meeting in Chicago this May. (Get an advanced look at that presentation here.)

Brightman and Hinds’ work deals with polymer electrolyte membrane water electrolysers (PEMWEs), which convert electricity and water into hydrogen and oxygen using two electrodes separated by a solid polymer electrolyte. While scientists have been looking and PEMWEs as a promising technology for some time now, researchers have been stifled in utilizing them due to the expensive catalyst materials needed and the general poor understanding of the degradation of these catalysts.

Now, Brightman and Hinds have tackled this issue by finding a way to produce PEMWEs with a cost-effective design and extended lifetime. This development allows for in situ measurement of the electrochemical process at the anode and the cathode.

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Google Celebrates Electrochemistry

In honor of Alessandro Volta’s 270th birthday, Google is celebrating the man best known for inventing the first battery with today’s Google Doodle.

While Volta was a trained physicist, many consider him to be the first great electrochemist. By inventing the first battery, which he called the electric “pile”, he established the starting point of electrochemical science and technology with the first notable electrochemical storage device.

The turning point for Volta’s development of the battery came in 1780, when his collaborator Luigi Galvani discovered that the contact of two different metals with the muscle of a frog leg resulted in the generation of electric current.

Volta respectfully disagreed with Luigi’s theory that animal tissue was essential in the creation of electricity, arguing that the frog legs served only as an electroscope and further suggested that the true source of stimulation was the contact between dissimilar metals. With this theory, he began experimenting with metals alone in 1794.

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