Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Magnetic nanoparticle recovery device (MagNERD) enables application of iron oxide nanoparticles for water treatment

  • 40 Accesses


An optimized permanent magnetic nanoparticle recovery device (i.e., the MagNERD) was developed and operated to separate, capture, and reuse superparamagnetic Fe3O4 from treated water in-line under continuous flow conditions. Experimental data and computational modeling demonstrate how the MagNERD’s efficiency to recover nanoparticles depends upon reactor configuration, including the integration of stainless-steel wool around permanent magnets, hydraulic flow conditions, and magnetic NP uptake. The MagNERD efficiently removes Fe3O4 in the form of a nanopowder, up to > 95% at high concentrations (500 ppm), under scalable and process-relevant flow rates (1 L/min through a 1.11-L MagNERD reactor), and in varying water matrices (e.g., ultrapure water, brackish water). The captured nanoparticles were recoverable from the device using a simple hydraulic backwashing protocol. Additionally, the MagNERD removed ≥ 94% of arsenic-bound Fe3O4, after contacting As-containing simulated drinking water with the nanopowder. The MagNERD emerges as an efficient, versatile, and robust system that will enable the use of magnetic nanoparticles in larger scale water treatment applications.

To aid potable water treatment, a magnetic nanoparticle recovery device (MagNERD) containing removable permanent magnets was optimized and operated to capture superparamagnetic nanoparticles from polluted water in-line under flow conditions.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7


  1. Ambashta RD, Sillanpää M (2010) Water purification using magnetic assistance: a review. J Hazard Mater 180:38–49. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhazmat.2010.04.105

  2. Deen WM (2011) Analysis of transport phenomena, 2nd edn. Oxford University Press

  3. Gerber R (1978) Theory of particle capture in axial filters for high gradient magnetic separation. J Phys D Appl Phys 11:2119–2129. https://doi.org/10.1088/0022-3727/11/15/009

  4. Gómez-Pastora J, Bringas E, Ortiz I (2014) Recent progress and future challenges on the use of high performance magnetic nano-adsorbents in environmental applications. Chem Eng J 256:187–204. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cej.2014.06.119

  5. Gutierrez AM, Dziubla TD, Hilt JZ (2017) Recent advances on iron oxide magnetic nanoparticles as sorbents of organic pollutants in water and wastewater treatment. Rev Environ Health 32:111–117. https://doi.org/10.1515/reveh-2016-0063

  6. Hatch GP, Stelter RE (2001) Magnetic design considerations for devices and particles used for biological high-gradient magnetic separation (HGMS) systems. J Magn Magn Mater 225:262–276. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0304-8853(00)01250-6

  7. Kikoin K, Drechsler S, Koepernik K et al (2015) Magnetic moment formation due to arsenic vacancies in LaFeAsO-derived superconductors. Sci Rep 5:1–11. https://doi.org/10.1038/srep11280

  8. Larumbe S, Gómez-Polo C, Pérez-Landazábal JI, Pastor JM (2012) Effect of a SiO2 coating on the magnetic properties of Fe3O4 nanoparticles. J Phys Condens Matter 24:266007. https://doi.org/10.1088/0953-8984/24/26/266007

  9. Mahmoudi M, Sant S, Wang B, Laurent S, Sen T (2011) Superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles (SPIONs): development, surface modification and applications in chemotherapy. Adv Drug Deliv Rev 63:24–46. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.addr.2010.05.006

  10. Mariani G, Fabbri M, Negrini F, Ribani PL (2010) High-gradient magnetic separation of pollutant from wastewaters using permanent magnets. Sep Purif Technol 72:147–155. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.seppur.2010.01.017

  11. Moeser GD, Roach KA, Green WH et al (2004) High-gradient magnetic separation of coated magnetic nanoparticles. AICHE J 50:2835–2848. https://doi.org/10.1002/aic.10270

  12. National Science Foundation (2013) NSF/ANSI 61 - 2013 drinking water system components - health effects. http://www.nsf.org/newsroom_pdf/NSF_61-13_-_watermarked.pdf

  13. Oberteuffer J (1973) High gradient magnetic separation. Magn IEEE Trans 9:303–306. https://doi.org/10.1109/TMAG.1973.1067673

  14. Oberteuffer J (1974) Magnetic separation: a review of principles, devices, and applications. Magn IEEE Trans 10:223–238. https://doi.org/10.1109/TMAG.1974.1058315

  15. Qu X, Alvarez PJJ, Li Q (2013) Applications of nanotechnology in water and wastewater treatment. Water Res 47:3931–3946. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.watres.2012.09.058

  16. Reza A, Mirrahimi MA (2010) Efficient separation of heavy metal cations by anchoring polyacrylic acid on superparamagnetic magnetite nanoparticles through surface modification. Chem Eng J 159:264–271. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cej.2010.02.041

  17. Ringler E, Chatterton B, Philbrook D, Treatment MW (2018) An advanced clarification process for treating produced waters. SPE prod Oper 154–163

  18. Rossi LM, Costa NJS, Silva FP, Wojcieszak R (2014) Magnetic nanomaterials in catalysis: advanced catalysts for magnetic separation and beyond. Green Chem 16:2906. https://doi.org/10.1039/c4gc00164h

  19. Tang T, Liu F, Liu Y, et al (2014) Identifying the magnetic properties of graphene oxide 123104:27–32. doi: https://doi.org/10.1063/1.4869827

  20. Toh PY, Yeap SP, Kong LP et al (2012) Magnetophoretic removal of microalgae from fishpond water: feasibility of high gradient and low gradient magnetic separation. Chem Eng J 211–212:22–30. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cej.2012.09.051

  21. Veligatla M, Katakam S, Das S, Dahotre N, Gopalan R, Prabhu D, Arvindha Babu D, Choi-Yim H, Mukherjee S (2015) Effect of iron on the enhancement of magnetic properties for cobalt-based soft magnetic metallic glasses. Metall Mater Trans A 46:1019–1023. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11661-014-2714-2

  22. Westerhoff P, Alvarez P, Gardea-Torresdey J et al (2016) Overcoming implementation barriers for nanotechnology in drinking water treatment. Environ Sci Nano 3:1241–1253. https://doi.org/10.1039/c6en00183a

  23. Yavuz CT, Mayo JT, Suchecki C, Wang J, Ellsworth AZ, D’Couto H, Quevedo E, Prakash A, Gonzalez L, Nguyen C, Kelty C, Colvin VL (2010) Pollution magnet: Nano-magnetite for arsenic removal from drinking water. Environ Geochem Health 32:327–334. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10653-010-9293-y

  24. Yavuz CT, Mayo JT, Yu WW et al (2006) Low-field magnetic separation of Monodisperse Fe3O4 Nanocrystals. Science 314(80):964–967. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1131475

  25. Zborowski M, Sun LP, Moore LR et al (1999) Continuous cell separation using novel magnetic quadrupole flow sorter. J Magn Magn Mater 194:224–230. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0304-8853(98)00581-2

  26. Zhu Q, Ma J, Chen F et al (2019) Treatment of hydraulic fracturing flowback water using the combination of gel breaking , magnetic- enhanced coagulation , and electrocatalytic oxidation. Sep Sci Technol:1–8. https://doi.org/10.1080/01496395.2019.1614061

Download references


The authors wish to acknowledge the staff and facilities of the Shared Equipment Authority at Rice University.


This work was funded by the National Science Foundation (EEC-1449500) Nanosystems Engineering Research Center on Nanotechnology-Enabled Water Treatment, and the Lifecycle of Nanomaterials funded by US Environmental Protection Agency through the STAR program (RD83558001).

Author information

Correspondence to Michael S. Wong.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Additional information

Publisher’s note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

This article is part of the topical collection: Nanotechnology Convergence in Africa

Guest Editors: Mamadou Diallo, Abdessattar Abdelkefi, and Bhekie Mamba

Electronic supplementary material


(PDF 411 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Powell, C.D., Atkinson, A.J., Ma, Y. et al. Magnetic nanoparticle recovery device (MagNERD) enables application of iron oxide nanoparticles for water treatment. J Nanopart Res 22, 48 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11051-020-4770-4

Download citation


  • Environmental nanotechnology
  • Adsorption
  • Nano-magnetism
  • Arsenic