Noble metal nanoparticles for water purification: A critical review
Water is one of the essential enablers of life on earth. Beginning with the origin of the earliest form of life in seawater, it has been central to the evolution of human civilizations. Noble metals have been similarly associated with the prosperity of human civilizations through their prominent use in jewellery and medical applications. The most important reason for the use of noble metals is the minimal reactivity at the bulk scale, which can be explained by a number of concepts such as electrochemical potential, relativisitic contraction, molecular orbital theory, etc. Recently, water quality has been associated with the development index of society. A number of chemical and biological contaminants have endangered the quality of drinking water. An overview of important events during last 200 years in the area of drinking water purification is presented. Realizing the molecular nature of contamination in drinking water, significant progress has been made to utilize the chemistry of nanomaterials for water purification. This article summarizes recent efforts in the area of noble metal nanoparticle synthesis and the origin of their reactivity at the nanoscale. The application of noble metal nanoparticle based chemistry for drinking water purification is summarized for three major types of contaminants: halogenated organics including pesticides, heavy metals and microorganisms. Recent efforts for the removal, as well as ultralow concentration detection of such species, using noble metal nanoparticles are summarized. Important challenges during the commercialization of nano-based products are highlighted through a case study of pesticide removal using noble metal nanoparticles. Recent efforts in drinking water purification using other forms of nanomaterials are also summarized. The article concludes with recent investigations on the issue of nanotoxicity and its implications for the future.