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University Fiber Captures Wastewater Hormones

Friday, January 31, 2020

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Research scientists from VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and Aalto University (Espoo, Findland) have developed a wood-based cellulose fiber yarn, intended for pharmaceutical substance capture in wastewater.

The research has since been published in Biomacromolecules.

How It Works

According to reports, scientists working on the development attached cyclic sugar onto the surface of cellulose wood-pulp-based fiber yarn, which created a material that efficiently captures ethinylestradiol (EE2)—a hormone used in contraceptive pills.

The wood-pulp-based fiber yarn was previously developed by VTT, using deep eutectic solvents to manufacture the material. For this research study, only DES organic solvents were used.

Because the sugars are bonded chemically onto the yarn’s surface, they’re able to form pockets where hydrophobic pharmaceutical substances can enter, bonding themselves to the cyclodextrins coupled within the surfaces and cavities of the fiber.

"Hormone capture would be most effective in wastewater treatment plants and hospitals, since the wastewater in these facilities contains a higher concentration of the compounds,” reported VTT's Senior Scientist, Hannes Orelma.

“We are developing a wood-based affordable material that could be thrown into a tank in a wastewater treatment plant or used as a filter in a pipe connected to the tank. After some time, the material is collected mechanically. It is disposed of by incineration, but it is also possible to separate the pharmaceuticals and reuse the material.”

Already, test results have revealed that one gram of fiber yarn can capture approximately 2.5 milligrams of hormones.

"It would be interesting to test how effectively the cellulose yarns can capture hormones and pharmaceuticals from wastewater at a larger scale," said Orelma.

As reported by, concentrations of estrogen hormones have already reached up to 0.83 micrograms per liter in parts of Central Europe and the United States. This challenging issue is heightened by the fact that wastewater treatment plants are unable to capture the substances efficiently enough. Currently, pharmaceuticals are caught inside activated sludge tanks, however, a portion of the compounds end up in bodies of water.


Tagged categories: Colleges and Universities; EU; Europe; Health & Safety; Health and safety; non-potable water; Research and development; Safety; Wastewater Plants

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