Old CDs Can Be Used For Water Purification

Written By: Thatcher Michelsen October 7, 2013 0
Scientists were able to grow zinc oxide nanorods on the flat side of a disc, which can be used to filter water.

Photo: Estonian Science Photo Competition
Scientists were able to grow zinc oxide nanorods on the flat side of a disc, which can be used to filter water. Photo: Estonian Science Photo Competition

Scientists at the National Taiwan University, National Applied Research Laboratories in Taiwan, and the Research Center for Applied Sciences in Taiwan have developed a system that uses old optical discs, such as CDs and DVDs, to clean contaminants from water. If successful, the process could provide impoverished communities with access to potable drinking water where none had previously been available.

The system, which will be presented at the Optical Society's Annual Meeting in Orlando, Florida, this week, uses the flat side of discs to grow zinc oxide nanorods, thin structures that resemble hairs. Afterward, the scientists ran water from a hose over the surface and placed them discs under UV light. They found that the nanorods broke down 95 percent of the contaminants in the water, making it consumable again.

"Optical disks are cheap, readily available, and very commonly used," Din Ping Tsai, a physicist at National Taiwan University, said in a news release.

According to the researchers involved in the project, about 20 billion CDs, DVDs and Blu-Rays are produced every year, and 100,000 tons of these end up in landfills. When optical discs compose, the produce chemicals that can lead to brain damage and other harmful effects. Therefore, developing a system that recycles these discs not only helps those areas lacking safe drinking water, it also removes dangerous compounds from dumps that could eventually leak underground and contaminate water supplies. 

The optical disc water filtration system will also be cheap to produce and distribute, which is especially important given how difficult it often is for residents of impoverished countries to purchase life saving equipment and technologies.

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