April 4 - Titanium oxide, a chemical used as a pigment in paint and plastics, could also hold the secret to cleaner water and longer-lasting batteries. A scientist in Singapore has discovered that by manipulating its structure, the commonly-found chemical takes on extraordinary properties. Rob Muir reports.
A beaker of wastewater dyed orange is treated with nanofibres made of titanium oxide, a chemical commonly used as a pigment in paint and plastics. But in this form, the chemical takes on extraordinary powers. Among other things, when exposed to sunlight, it removes the pollutants, leaving clean, fresh drinking water behind. Not only that, but Nanyang Technological University Professor Darren Sun says the process itself generates hydrogen, a source of clean fuel. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR DARREN SUN - NANYANG TECHNOLOGICAL UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF ENVIRONMENTAL AND WATER RESOURCES ENGINEERING, SAYING: "Normally the waste water, can be found for example, from your shower, your shampoo, it's organic material. So these two materials they are added together. If we add sunlight, this material will actively transfer the energy from the sun, and help remove the pollutants, which is the discharge from your shower, from your toilet, and convert this into energy sources." But Sun says the material can also be applied in other fields like medicine. Comparative petri dish experiments reveal it has antibacterial qualities that could be adapted for future bandages. Experiments have also revealed that when combined with carbon, titanium dioxide nan-particles can double the lifespans of lithium ion batteries commonly used in electronic devices. Suns says tweaking the structure of this common, inexpensive chemical, has transformed it. He says the next step is to commercialize the substance, putting it into the marketplace where he says its potential can be fully realized.