Scientists from Cardiff University have said that a water disinfectant—created on-the-spot using just hydrogen and the air around us—is "millions of times more effective at killing viruses and bacteria than traditional commercial methods".
Reporting their findings in the journal 'Nature Catalysis', the team says that the results could revolutionise water disinfection technologies and present an unprecedented opportunity to provide clean water to communities that need it most.
It is estimated that around 785 million people lack access to water and 2.7 billion experience water scarcity at least one month a year.
In addition to this, inadequate sanitation—a problem for around 2.4 billion people around the world—can lead to deadly diarrheal diseases, including cholera and typhoid fever, and other water-borne illnesses.
Their new method works by using a catalyst made from gold and palladium that takes in hydrogen and oxygen to form hydrogen peroxide— a commonly used disinfectant that is currently produced on an industrial scale.
Over four million tonnes of hydrogen peroxide are made in factories each year, where it is then transported to the places it is used and stored. This means that stabilising chemicals are often added to the solutions during the production process to stop it degrading but these reduce its effectiveness as a disinfectant.
The new catalyst-based method was shown to be ten million times more potent at killing the bacteria than an equivalent amount of the industrial hydrogen peroxide, and over one hundred million times more effective than chlorination, under equivalent conditions.
In addition to this, the catalyst-based method was shown to be more effective at killing the bacteria and viruses in a shorter space of time compared to the other two compounds.
The study was led by Cardiff University’s School of Chemistry and School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, accompanied by researchers from Swansea University, Lehigh University, National University of Singapore and the University of Bath, and experts at Dŵr Cymru.