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Can radiation chemistry supply a highly efficient AO(R)P process for organics removal from drinking and waste water? A review


The increasing role of chemistry in industrial production and its direct and indirect impacts in everyday life create the need for continuous search and efficiency improvement of new methods for decomposition/removal of different classes of waterborne anthropogenic pollutants. This review paper addresses a highly promising class of water treatment solutions, aimed at tackling the pressing problem of emerging contaminants in natural and drinking waters and wastewater discharges. Radiation processing, a technology originating from radiation chemistry studies, has shown encouraging results in the treatment of (mainly) organic water pollution. Radiation (“high energy”) processing is an additive-free technology using short-lived reactive species formed by the radiolysis of water, both oxidative and reducing, to carry out decomposition of organic pollutants. The paper illustrates the basic principles of radiolytic treatment of organic pollutants in water and wastewaters and specifically of one of its most practical implementations (electron beam processing). Application examples, highlighting the technology’s strong points and operational conditions are described, and a discussion on the possible future of this technology follows.

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  1. 1.

    Electron-volt (eV) (1 eV = 1.60217662e−19 J), by definition, is the amount of energy gained (or lost) by the charge of a single electron moving across an electric potential difference of 1 V. Not a SI unit, it is, however, commonly used in nuclear, radiation, and particle physics as a measure of energy, which follows the metric convention for magnitudes (e.g., 1 keV = 1000 eV).

  2. 2.

    The Gray [Gy] is a SI unit defined as the absorption of 1 J of radiation energy per kilogram of matter. It is used as a measure of absorbed dose and imparted specific energy. It is a physical quantity, does not take into account biological contexts, unlike its non-SI predecessor, the roentgen [R], measuring exposure, and the Sievert [Sv], measuring a dose equivalent. Its corresponding cgs unit, the rad (1 rad = 0.01 Gy), is still used occasionally in USA-originated literature.


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This work was partly supported by a grant from the Polish National Center of Science (NCN), project OPUS 8, number 2014/15/B/ST4/04601. The authors wish to thank Prof. Krzysztof Bobrowski (INCT, Warsaw) for valuable discussion and help in editing the final version of this manuscript.

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Correspondence to Andrea G. Capodaglio.

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Responsible editor: Vítor Pais Vilar

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Trojanowicz, M., Bojanowska-Czajka, A. & Capodaglio, A.G. Can radiation chemistry supply a highly efficient AO(R)P process for organics removal from drinking and waste water? A review. Environ Sci Pollut Res 24, 20187–20208 (2017).

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  • Ionizing radiation
  • Advanced oxidation–reduction process
  • Wastewater treatment
  • Organic pollutants
  • Radiolytic decomposition
  • Gamma rays
  • Electron beam