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Development of a Solar Photocatalytic Reactor for Sustainable Water Purification Open Access

As lack of access to clean drinking water continues to be a problem, especially in rural areas and developing countries, the challenge of finding innovative ways to treat drinking water in secluded areas with few resources must be met. Additionally, the presence of persistent and emerging organic micropollutants and pathogens further challenges the safety of treated water. A potential solution is the solar-energy-enabled photocatalysis, a sustainable advanced oxidation process that can destruct organic micropollutants and inactive pathogens. Because operating a photocatalytic reactor can be solely dependent on renewable solar energy, the process is sustainable and can be used in areas where electricity and chemicals are not readily accessible. The purpose of this research project is to develop a solar photocatalytic reactor for sustainable water purification. Among various types of photoreactor designs, the compound parabolic collector (CPC) design was chosen due to its capability to collect high solar radiation at any angle of acceptance, its ability to operate on industrial scale applications, and its low fabrication, operation, and maintenance costs. Titanium dioxide (TiO2) photocatalysts were loaded on glass beads, and used for the photoreactor. The effectiveness of the photocatalyst for the degradation of pollutants was tested, by using methyl orange as a model contaminant under ultraviolet light irradiation. Based on the results, the photocatalytic beads were effective in degrading the methyl orange. In addition to the development of the photocatalyst, we applied 3D printing to fabricate a solar reflector in the CPC. Future work on this project will include the use of another promising yet underexplored photocatalyst, graphitic carbon nitride, which can harvest more visible sunlight to enhance photocatalytic performance. Additionally, the type, geometry, and operational parameters of the reactor will be tested in order to optimize reactor performance. Overall, the goal of the project is to find the optimum CPC design and promote the practical application of solar photocatalytic water treatment technology for rural areas and developing countries. The project has the potential for broad impact, as it can be adapted for many locations and situations.

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