The Future of Nanotechnology Wastewater Treatment

By: Adam Stephenson

Nanotechnology is a new, exciting, and futuristic field in science and engineering that deals with the manipulation of materials at the atomic and molecular level. Nanotechnology wastewater treatment is the process of using nanoparticles, particles smaller than 1 micron, to clean wastewater.

Nanotechnology and Wastewater Treatment

Wastewater contains a variety of contaminants including heavy metals, organic compounds, and microorganisms. Nanotechnology is being investigated for its potential to remove these contaminants from water. Researchers are looking at a variety of nanomaterials for their ability to adsorb, catalyze, or otherwise remove contaminants from water. Carbon nanotubes, for example, have a large surface area and can adsorb heavy metals from water. Nano-sized titanium dioxide can catalyze the breakdown of organic compounds in water. And nanoscale zerovalent iron can remove a variety of contaminants from water.

Treatment processes utilizing nanotechnology

Adsorption and Nanofilters

Adsorption is the process of binding molecules of a contaminant to the surface of particles. Biosorption is a similar process that uses living organisms to bind contaminants to their surfaces. These processes can remove a variety of contaminants from water, including heavy metals, oil, and dyes.

Nanofilters are made of materials that have a very high surface area to volume ratio. This high surface area to volume ratio allows nanofilters to adsorb a large amount of contaminants from water. Nanofilters can also provide a substrate for microorganisms to attach to, and these microorganisms can adsorb contaminants as well.


Photocatalysis is an advanced oxidation process that uses light and a catalyst to break down contaminants in water. Some nanomaterials have photocatalytic properties and can be used in the photocatalysis of wastewater. The nanomaterials increase chemical reactivity in the treatment process.


In order to disinfect the water and make it safe for human use, nanotechnology is used to kill pathogenic microorganisms that may be present. This is done by using nanoparticles that are specifically designed to target and destroy these microorganisms. This process is extremely effective and has been shown to be more effective than traditional methods of water disinfection.

Nanotechnology in sensing and monitoring

The term “sensing” in wastewater treatment generally refers to the ability to monitor conditions within the wastewater itself or within the environment surrounding the treatment process. Sensors can be used to detect a number of different conditions, including pH levels, temperature, the presence of certain chemicals, and the flow rate of wastewater. This information can be used to optimize the wastewater treatment process and ensure that it is running smoothly and efficiently.

Nanotechnology can be used to create sensors that are more sensitive and accurate than those that are currently available. This can help to improve the monitoring and control of wastewater treatment processes, and ultimately lead to better treatment outcomes. In addition, nanotechnology can be used to create self-cleaning sensors that are less likely to become fouled or damaged over time. This can further improve the efficiency and effectiveness of wastewater treatment.

Nanotechnology Barriers and Risks

Nanotechnology wastewater treatment (NWT) is a new and innovative approach to wastewater treatment that holds great promise for more effectively and efficiently treating wastewater. However, there are also potential barriers and risks associated with NWT that need to be considered.

One potential barrier to the widespread adoption of NWT is the lack of understanding and awareness of the technology. This lack of understanding can lead to hesitancy and resistance from potential users, as well as regulatory agencies. Additionally, the cost of NWT systems may also be a barrier, as they are currently more expensive than traditional wastewater treatment systems.

There are also potential risks associated with NWT that need to be considered. These risks include the potential for the release of nanomaterials into the environment and the potential for negative health effects from exposure to nanomaterials. Additionally, the long-term effects of NWT are not yet known, and further research is needed to understand the potential risks and benefits of this technology.


Nanotechnology is an emerging tool in the toolbox for wastewater treatment. This technology is just beginning to be understood and applied to water treatment. Our hope is that this information will open the idea of alternative materials and processes for wastewater treatment in the future.