Reclaiming Nano Silver From Water


Another student has won an award for developing a device to remove silver particles from water—it’s based on the same principle as a previous winning device: an algae filter.

This version of the algae filter is getting more attention than the one developed by Florida’s students, namely because of the research Adam Noble, the inventor, put with it: the yearly value of collected silver particles would be about 4.2 million dollars, meaning that it’s more than practical for every water treatment plant in the country to adopt one.

This is great news for environmentalists. Despite there being no research suggesting that nano silver particles are harmful to human health, researchers worry about the smallest creatures on the food chain, tiny microorganisms that are important to lake and river health, even if they aren’t something humans want to drink! In a sane world, adopting a cheap, easy way to remove nano silver particles from wastewater should reduce concern from organizations like the EPA, but I don’t actually think things will go that way.

Where do nano silver particles come from? Last year it was discovered that all silver objects give off nano silver particles, meaning that humans have been exposed to them for centuries. Today, nano silver is used to fight microbial growth that causes stink, food spoilage, and infection by coating things like socks, washing machines, food storage containers and hospital materials. These nanosilver coatings gradually wash off into wastewater.

Supplements like colloidal silver also contribute to nano silver particles in wastewater (non-ionic silver either exits through urine or sweat, so it goes into your toilet or shower drain). Of course, even medications from common antibiotics to antidepressants to hormones end up in wastewater (and eventually return to drinking water), and these DO have a (sometimes immediate) effect on humans and animals in the ecosystem.

What do you think? Should nano silver continue to be an environmental concern, even if we can profitably remove it from wastewater?


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