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Georgia Journal of Science

Article Title

SYNTHESIS AND APPLICATION OF HYDROGELS FOR NUTRIENT RECYCLING

Abstract

Hydrogels are derived from either natural or synthetic polymers and are characterized by the ability to swell with large amounts of water without dissolving. For this reason, hydrogels have found applications primarily in absorbing large amounts of liquids, such as in diapers. However, in addition to the capability for a high swelling rate, hydrogels have also been shown to be effective in absorbing organic compounds. Current treatment methods of organic compounds from (waste) water are costly and inefficient. Valuable nutrients that could be recovered and reused are being lost while at the same time adding to water treatment loads. In addition, large amounts of these organic compounds can be harmful to the aquatic life of the water bodies in which they are deposited. Hydrogels with the ability to absorb organic compounds are a practical solution to the current treatment of nutrients from wastewater. Hydrogels also have the ability to release back these nutrients which could largely eliminate the current net loss of nutrients. This study investigates the synthesis of hydrogels using co-polymerization of cellulose and urea with a chemical cross-linker, epichlorohydrin. The physiochemical properties of the gels such as molecular structure, swelling capacity, and nutrient absorption/desorption behavior are investigated by a series of syntheses and batch experiments of uptake/release of nutrients and using UV-Vis and IR Spectroscopy. The parameters derived from those tests are then correlated to the properties of the hydrogels to determine the most effective synthesis and the application methods of hydrogels for the purpose of nutrient treatment from water bodies and recycling.

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