We are applying our expertise in advanced materials to develop a new generation of sustainable technologies to tackle problematic pollutants in water, a big world issue

Water purification catalyst

As part of our new business development activities we are working on high technology purification products for industrial applications in the water industry. Alarmingly, there isn't a single country in the world whose regulations meet or exceed all of the World Health Organization's recommended limits for pollutants in water. While this can be a result of economic factors, in some cases it is simply because there isn't effective technology to meet the recommendations.

There isn't a single country in the world whose regulations meet or exceed all of the World Health Organization's recommended limits for pollutants in waterAt Johnson Matthey we are focusing our R&D efforts on technology to remove a range of low level toxic contaminants, including mercury, from water.

Mercury is a particularly harmful environmental pollutant which can enter the water cycle from many sources and is present as a mixture of chemical species.

Targeting mercury effectively

Creating a product to remove mercury effectively is a tough chemistry challenge. First of all, our product must selectively isolate the range of mercury species in a soluble form from the water – which also contains a wide range of other chemical species. It must then convert the mixture of soluble mercury species into an inert, solid form which can be removed.

We are using chemical modelling to design the best materials to strongly bind mercury. We then take our designs and develop complex lab based chemistries to create materials that can be tested and scaled up for manufacture. We are making good progress and our products are being trialled by customers on three continents.

From lab to market

To complement our R&D programmes we have recently acquired new advanced ion exchange technology to strengthen our position in the market and inform our in house developments.

We are especially targeting the mining and chemicals industry where complex problems exist today. Our water technologies team is working closely with customers on new processes from our applications centres in the US, China and Europe.

Customer focus

We are working with a major Chinese nickel producer that generates silver as a byproduct of its nickel mining operations. This silver is then refined electrochemically in a liquid phase process to finally produce silver ingots. The customer was experiencing process inefficiencies and effluent issues as some contaminants in its liquid phase were affecting the final quality of the silver product.

Using our advanced ion exchange technologies, the customer is now able to selectively remove the contaminants, solving both its quality and effluent issues. Furthermore, our materials can be washed and reused, making them an efficient option that minimises natural resource use.

Regulatory drivers

Environmental regulation is one of the four global drivers that provide opportunities for growth in many of our business, and with strong legislative and environmental drivers to improve water quality, there is demand for more effective solution for water purification.