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Seashells offer 'significant savings' for wastewater treatment

Seashells left over from restaurants, hotels, commercial farming and other foodservice outlets could be used to treat wastewater, research by scientists at Bath University has revealed. And the scientists believe the system could produce "significant savings" if it can be scaled up to industrial level.

Mussel shells were used for the research, but the university said all types of seashell could be usedMussel shells were used for the research, but the university said all types of seashell could be used

The photocatalysis of water to remove any final trace contaminants is one of the most effective methods of tertiary treatment. However, the process normally uses titanium dioxide, which is expensive. 

By replacing this with a material from the calcium-derived from seashells called hydroxyapatite − which can also be found in teeth and bones − researchers are aiming to significantly reduce the cost of wastewater treatment by reusing a renewable unwanted waste product. 

Darrell Patterson, from the University's Department of Chemical Engineering, explained: "Mussel and other seashell farming is a fast growing industry around the world and the increase in the production of shellfish generates a large amount of shell waste. 

"Shells are a calcium rich resource that can be used to produce calcium oxide (lime). This lime can be used in several different ways in environmental technologies, and our study has shown that the hydroxyapatite formed from them is an effective, green and potentially cost-efficient alternative photocatalyst for wastewater treatment." 

The research was carried out using mussel shells, but other types of seashell could feasibly be used to produce photocatalysts, making this technique globally applicable, said Patterson. 

The project will now look at wider applications of the technology and the scaling up of shell-based photocatalysts to industrial level.

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