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


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.

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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).

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Correspondence to Michael S. Wong.

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

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

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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).

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  • Environmental nanotechnology
  • Adsorption
  • Nano-magnetism
  • Arsenic