Multifunctional zwitterionic hydrogels for the rapid elimination of organic and inorganic micropollutants from water

Abstract: The elimination of micropollutants from water is challenging due to their chemical diversity, low concentrations and slow uptake by industrial adsorbents. Here we report a tunable multifunctional hydrogel platform for the rapid absorption of organic and inorganic micropollutants in a single step. Zwitterionic backbones increase mesh size while simultaneously adding counterion-free adsorption sites, enabling the removal of diverse micropollutants at least 10 times more rapidly than a commercial activated carbon–ion exchange resin mixture and 100 times faster than other multifunctional adsorbents. The hydrogels are prepared by a facile synthesis and form factors can be tailored for specific applications, such as microparticles for use in packed beds or tablets in portable water treatment. We demonstrate their effectiveness in treating complex contaminant mixtures, including in the presence of background hardness. Lower compressibility, rapid mass transport and high stability make zwitterionic hydrogels scalable for real-world applications in the efficient treatment of highly contaminated water to below regulatory limits for extended periods of time.


Nature Water