Skip to main content
University of Wisconsin–Madison

Novel Electrodes for Hydroxyl Radical Production to Enable Low-Cost Water Treatment

Billions of people worldwide lack safe, clean water. Motivated by this need, the “Novel Electrodes for Hydroxyl Radical Production to Enable Low-Cost Water Treatment” project will focus on developing new electrode materials to form highly reactive hydroxyl radicals (∙OH) to purify water. The project will develop energy-efficient means to create hydroxyl radicals and evaluate the effectiveness the purification methods developed to inactivate bacteria and viruses.

Efficiently creating hydroxyl radicals by electrolysis in sufficient quantities to sterilize water is challenging because the formation of molecular hydrogen and oxygen is favored instead. Exploiting insights gained from attempts to purposely produce molecular hydrogen and oxygen from water, this project will investigate a potentially economical and scalable technology: nanostructured carbon-bearing polymer film electrodes. To reach the goal of forming sterilizing reactive species from water itself, the project aims to manipulate the chemistry and surface contours of the film and control the electrical charge. In addition to testing for sterilization of model bacteria and viruses, the researchers will test for the formation of toxic byproducts that may result when hydroxyl radicals react with constituents in natural water.

Principal Investigators

  • Joel A. Pedersen
    Rothermel Bascom Professor
    Departments of Soil Science, Chemistry, and Civil & Environmental Engineering
  • Robert J. Hamers
    Steenbock Professor of Physical Science
    Director, Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology
    Department of Chemistry