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Wood-based yarn captures hormones from wastewater

Pharmaceutical substances such as ethinylestradiol from contraceptive pills are harmful for natural waterbodies. VTT and Aalto University have developed a cellulosic fiber yarn that would be an affordable solution for capturing these substances in wastewater treatment plants.

Scientists are developing a wood-based affordable material that could be thrown into a tank in a wastewater treatment plant or used as a filter in a pipe connected to the tank. After some time, the material would be collected mechanically. It could be disposed of by incineration, but it would also possible to separate the pharmaceuticals and reuse the material.

Cellulose fiber yarn that has chemically bound cyclic sugars on the surface is an efficient capturer of ethinylestradiol (EE2), a hormone used in contraceptive pills. The sugars form a pocket into which hydrophobic pharmaceutical substances seek to enter. It only takes a few minutes for pharmaceutical compounds to become bound to the cyclodextrins coupled to the surfaces and cavities of the fiber.

Hormones and other pharmaceutical agents ending up in bodies of water are a major problem in Central Europe and the United States, where the reported concentrations of oestrogen hormones have reached up to 0.83 micrograms per liter.

The test results demonstrate that one gram of treated fiber yarn can capture approximately 2.5 milligrams of hormone.

For detailed information, please contact

Hannes Orelma, Senior Scientist, Principal Investigator, tel +358 40 3543 143, hannes.orelma@vtt.fi

Also, please check out

VTT's press release


The scientific publication

Cyclodextrin-Functionalized Fiber Yarns Spun from Deep EutecticCellulose Solutions for Nonspecific Hormone Capture in AqueousMatrices published in BioMacromolecules in 2018, https://pubs.acs.org/doi/pdf/10.1021/acs.biomac.7b01765

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