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Solar-Powered Catalyst Generates Hydrogen Peroxide for Water Disinfection


Low-Cost Catalyst for Safe Water

Ensuring safe use and consumption of water is crucial, especially in areas deprived of sanitized drinking water. To address this issue, scientists at Stanford University have recently developed a low-cost catalyst that can make a significant difference.

The Science Behind the Catalyst

The catalyst takes the form of nano-sized particles consisting of aluminum oxide, molybdenum sulfide, copper, and iron oxide. When exposed to sunlight, these particles perform like a photon-sensitive semiconductor/metal junction (Cu-MoS2). The dislodged electrons react with the surrounding water, resulting in the formation of hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) and hydroxy radicals.

Eradication of Waterborne Diseases

Bacteria like Escherichia coli (E. coli) are predominant in aquatic environments and can cause severe waterborne diseases. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 7,000 deaths and 120,000 hospitalizations in 2021 in the US alone. By using the catalyst powder in contaminated water, the researchers found that E. coli colonies in test samples were fully eradicated after a 60-second exposure to sunlight.

Short-Lived but Highly Reactive Oxygen Species

Hydrogen peroxide and similar reactive oxygen species are highly destructive to living cells but are very safe since they are short-lived and unstable. These properties make them suitable for treating contaminated water.

Easily Separated and Reusable

The catalyst is ferromagnetic and can be easily separated from water using a magnet. It is not consumed or contaminated, making it an attractive alternative to water purification tablets and expensive filtration systems.


The low-cost catalyst developed by researchers at Stanford University is an innovative approach to address the issue of unsafe drinking water. The use of nanoflake particles that chemically react with water when exposed to sunlight destroys harmful bacteria like E. coli and other waterborne diseases that cause illness and death worldwide. This development is encouraging and gives hope that affordable and practical solutions to water safety problems are within reach.


What is a catalyst?

A catalyst is a substance that increases the rate of a chemical reaction without being consumed or changed chemically in the process.

How does the catalyst work?

The catalyst consists of nanoflake particles that react with water when exposed to sunlight. This reaction produces hydrogen peroxide and hydroxy radicals, which have disinfectant properties that can eradicate harmful bacteria in contaminated water.

What are waterborne diseases?

Waterborne diseases are caused by drinking or using contaminated water containing microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, and parasites, which can cause serious illness and death.

How can the catalyst be separated from water once it has treated the contaminated water?

The catalyst is ferromagnetic and can be separated from water using a magnet.

Can the catalyst be reused?

Yes, the catalyst can be reused since it is not consumed or contaminated.


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