New tech could convert COVID waste into green hydrogen using sunlight

New tech could convert COVID waste into green hydrogen using sunlight

November 16, 2020 0 By Julie Campbell
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The hazardous medical waste resulting from the pandemic could be turned into renewable energy.

The glut of additional hazardous medical COVID waste could be converted into green hydrogen fuel using a sunlight-based technique created by a Swansea University research team including researchers from Wales and India.

The Welsh government has already awarded this renewable energy project £47,000 in funding.

Before the pandemic, the NHS was already spending £700 million per year for the disposal of medical waste. That said, the pandemic has brought copious amounts of additional COVID waste, including protective equipment such as masks. The team of researchers led by Swansea University is now developing a photoreforming process.

Photoreforming would use sunlight to convert non-recyclable waste into green hydrogen fuel while it simultaneously kills off viruses and other types of pathogen. This uses nanostructured semiconductors to push waste breakdown and the degradation of the pathogens using the power of sunlight.

This would help to divert the COVID waste from the traditional medical garbage incineration disposal

Incineration can generate greenhouse gases and produces a substantial amount of heat as it is, after all, burning. On the other hand, photoreforming occurs at ambient temperature and does not produce greenhouse gases. Instead, the process generates several usable products which include green hydrogen fuel. Beyond that, it also generates organic feedstocks which can be used by the chemical industry.

This research is the latest stage of the team’s work which has previously focused on hydrogen production using waste plastics.

The research team includes the participation of epidemiology experts from the King Institute of Preventive Medicine & Research and from Thiruvalluvar University in India. They are working to examine the antiviral activity of photocatalysts on a spectrum of different types of pathogen which do include SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the COVID-19 behind the current pandemic crisis. Also partnering in this project are the members of the nanomaterials group at the Indian Institute of Technology Mandi.

“Applying our technology to reprocess just 1% of this waste would save millions and mitigate pollution at the same time,” said senior lecturer in Chemistry at Swansea University, Dr. Moritz Kuehnel, project lead.

COVID waste - researchThe researchers are actively seeking industry partners to be able to commercialize this new COVID waste to green hydrogen technology.