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Light driven degradation of persistent organic pollutants

Scientists are seeking students to undertake an environmental remediation project which will develop skills in inorganic synthesis, light initiated reactions, liquid and gas chromatography, electron microscopy, x-ray diffraction and analytical chemistry.

Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) can cause cancer and birth defects in humans and are destructive to animal and aquatic lifeforms.1

POPs are by-products of some agricultural and industrial processes and do not degrade naturally due to their strong chemical bonds (e.g. C-Cl, C-F) which are resistant to chemical- and bio-degradation. Example POPs are shown below in in Figure 1.

    Furthermore, POPs are mobile in the environment with the ability to move around the globe via waterways and in the atmosphere which has led to POPs accumulating worldwide.2

    The concentration of POPs measured in humans,3 including in Australia,4 is increasing with adverse health affects (growth, reproduction) with direct correlation to POP content reported with mounting evidence.3

    There is a need to develop methods and processes for effective degradation of POPs to mitigate their emerging health and environmental effects. Research projects in this field will focus on the synthesis of new photocatalytic materials with designed electronic band structure to break C-Cl or C-F bonds (which are present in all POPs). Materials of interest are titanium and tantalum based perovskites such as SrTiO3 and NaTa2O3.

    Recent insights in photocatalysis have discovered that significant improvement in photocatalytic efficiency is possible with metal ion doping of semiconductors and this may prove to be critical in the efficient degradation of POPs.

    A final aspect of this research is the translation of research to commercial application and photocatalytic processes and reactors will be developed with close ties to industry to degrade pollutants relevant to Australia (Figure 1).

    This environmental remediation project will develop skills in inorganic synthesis, light initiated reactions, liquid and gas chromatography, electron microscopy, x-ray diffraction and analytical chemistry.

    References

    1. Global assessment of organic contaminants in farmed salmon
    2. Multi-scale spatial modeling of human exposure from local sources to global intake
    3. Modeling the Time-Variant Dietary Exposure of PCBs in China over the Period 1930 to 2100
    4. Expert Health Panel for PFAS Report, Australian Government
    Cameron Shearer researcher photo

    Supervisor

    Dr Cameron Shearer

    Research area: Advanced photocatalytic materials for environmental and renewable energy applications
    Department of Chemistry, School of Physical Sciences

    Recommended honours enrolmentHonours in Chemistry

    Tagged in Honours projects - Chemistry, Honours projects - Ecology and environmental science, Honours projects - Cameron Shearer