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Development of a Scalable, Low-Cost, Ultrananocrystalline Diamond Electrochemical Process for the Destruction of Contaminants of Emerging Concern (CECs)

EPA Contract Number: EPD11053
Title: Development of a Scalable, Low-Cost, Ultrananocrystalline Diamond Electrochemical Process for the Destruction of Contaminants of Emerging Concern (CECs)
Investigators: Arumugam, Prabhu
Small Business: Advanced Diamond Technologies Inc.
EPA Contact: Manager, SBIR Program
Phase: I
Project Period: March 1, 2011 through August 31, 2011
Project Amount: $79,995
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase I (2011)
Research Category: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) , SBIR - Drinking Water Treatment and Monitoring


This Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) project will develop and ready for commercialization a scalable, low-cost process for purification of water containing Contaminants of Emerging Concern (CECs) using anodic oxidation with boron-doped ultrananocrystalline diamond (UNCD®) thin films. Recent research has demonstrated that there is considerable potential for the development of electrochemical methods to remove contaminants from potable water. Most current treatment methods, such as adsorption on granular activated carbon, ion exchange, or reverse osmosis, merely transfer or concentrate the contaminants from water to another medium, thus producing a concentrated waste residual that requires further treatment or disposal. Disposal often involves interment in hazardous waste landfills, incineration, or deep well injection. Additionally, recent studies have shown that CECs are present in drinking water sources and are not adequately removed using existing water treatment methods. These trace contaminants include hormones, alkylphenols, BPA, endocrine disrupting compounds, and pharmaceutical and personal care products. UNCD films are phase pure diamond consisting of 2-5 nm diamond grains with atomically abrupt grain boundaries. Compared to traditional diamond films, UNCD can be deposited more rapidly in thinner, more uniform, low pin-hole density layers that are highly resistant to grain boundary ion transport, and have lower residual stresses than traditional diamond films. These attributes substantially lower the cost of UNCD compared to traditional diamond materials and greatly improve the yield and lifetime of electrodes fabricated with UNCD. These electrode reliability improvements have been demonstrated during a recent NSF SBIR awarded to Advanced Diamond Technologies. The goal of this EPA project is to develop and test low-cost anodic oxidation techniques using large area UNCD electrodes on estrogen and its chemical analogs. Estrogen itself is an important endocrine disruptor found in drinking water; however, the goal of this project is to use this example to demonstrate the applicability of UNCD electrochemical oxidation techniques to high revenue applications such as the destruction of pharmaceutical drug residues and other CECs in drinking water. As a gauge of the market size, the 2009 U.S. market for non-chemical water treatment was > $4.0 billion. The 2007 worldwide market for an alternative but roughly analogous and more expensive water treatment technology (ozonolysis) was $277 million. The potential market for an improved low-cost water purification technology is therefore expected to be greater than the current ozonolysis market, especially considering the likelihood that, unlike ozonolysis, UNCD electrochemical water treatment can be applied to the home/municipal/small business markets.

Progress and Final Reports:
Final Report

SBIR Phase II:

Development of a Scalable, Low-cost, Ultrananocrystalline Diamond Electrochemical Process for the Destruction of Contaminants of Emerging Concern (CECs)

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The perspectives, information and conclusions conveyed in research project abstracts, progress reports, final reports, journal abstracts and journal publications convey the viewpoints of the principal investigator and may not represent the views and policies of ORD and EPA. Conclusions drawn by the principal investigators have not been reviewed by the Agency.

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