Research Highlight

Biodegradable nanocomposite purifies drinking water  

doi:10.1038/nindia.2017.33 Published online 13 February 2017

Researchers have synthesized a porous silica-based nanocomposite that can kill water-borne bacteria and degrade toxic dyes, making it potentially a useful material for purifying water for drinking1.

Potable water is mainly sourced from the ground and rivers which can be contaminated with disease-causing bacteria and toxic dyes. The provision of safe drinking water could save millions from water-borne diseases, particularly children.

To devise an effective way to purify drinking water, scientists from Indian Institute of Science, Karnataka and Gandhi Institute of Technology and Management University, Andhra Pradesh prepared a nanocomposite by coating silver nanoparticles on porous silica flakes

At a dose of 110 mg  the nanocomposite inhibited the growth of Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli, two pathogenic bacteria commonly found in drinking water. It also catalysed the degradation of toxic dyes such as eosin red and methylene blue.    

The nanocomposite prevented the formation of biofilm by the bacteria, indicating its potential to stop water-borne diseases spreading through biofilm formation. When passed through a funnel packed with the nanocomposite, contaminated water was efficiently filtered of microbes.

Since the silica-based nanocomposite is biodegradable and can be removed via the kidneys, it will help develop an eco-friendly process for purifying drinking water, the researchers say.


1. Ghosh, S. et al. Nanostructured mesoporous silica/silver composite: Synthesis, characterization and targeted application towards water purification. Mater. Res. Bull. 88, 291-300 (2017)