Phosphate Elimination and Recovery Lightweight (PEARL) membrane: A sustainable environmental remediation approach

Stephanie M. Ribet, Benjamin Shindel, Roberto dos Reis, Vikas Nandwana, Vinayak P. Dravid*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Aqueous phosphate pollution can dramatically impact ecosystems, introducing a variety of environmental, economic, and public health problems. While novel remediation tactics based on nanoparticle binding have shown considerable promise in nutrient recovery from water, they are challenging to deploy at scale. To bridge the gap between the laboratory-scale nature of these nanostructure solutions and the practical benchmarks for deploying an environmental remediation tool, we have developed a nanocomposite material. Here, an economical, readily available, porous substrate is dip coated using scalable, waterbased processes with a slurry of nanostructures. These nanomaterials have tailored affinity for specific adsorption of pollutants. Our Phosphate Elimination and Recovery Lightweight (PEARL) membrane can selectively sequester up to 99% of phosphate ions from polluted waters at environmentally relevant concentrations. Moreover, mild tuning of pH promotes at will adsorption and desorption of nutrients. This timed release allows for phosphate recovery and reuse of the PEARL membrane repeatedly for numerous cycles. We combine correlative microscopy and spectroscopy techniques to characterize the complex microstructure of the PEARL membrane and to unravel the mechanism of phosphate sorption. More broadly, through the example of phosphate pollution, this work describes a platform membrane approach based on nanostructures with specific affinity coated on a porous structure. Such a strategy can be tuned to address other environmental remediation challenges through the incorporation of other nanomaterials.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2102583118
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number23
StatePublished - Apr 29 2021


  • Adsorption
  • Electron microscopy
  • Eutrophication
  • Nanotechnology
  • Nutrient pollution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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