Visible and Ultraviolet Light Side-Emitting Optical Fibers Enable Water Purification

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Description

Light-driven reactions can replace chemical and material consumption of advanced water treatment technologies. A barrier to light-driven water treatment is optical obstructions in aquafers (i.e. granular media) or built infrastructures

Light-driven reactions can replace chemical and material consumption of advanced water treatment technologies. A barrier to light-driven water treatment is optical obstructions in aquafers (i.e. granular media) or built infrastructures (i.e. tubing) that limits light propagation from a single source such as the sun, or lamps. Side emitting optical fibers (SEOFs) can increase light distribution by > 1000 X from one-point source, but absorbance of UV light by conventional optical fibers limits their application to visible light only.

This dissertation assessed how SEOFs can enable visible through ultraviolet light-driven processes to purify water. I first used an existing visible light polymer SEOF and phototrophic organisms to increase the dissolved oxygen level of a granular sand reactor to > 15 mg DO/L. The results indicated that SEOFs successfully guide light past optical obstructions for environmental remediation which encouraged the fabrication of UV-C SEOFs for microbial inactivation.

I was the first to obtain consecutive UV-C side emission from optical fibers by placing nanoparticles on the surface of a UV transmitting glass core. The nanoparticles induced side-emission via Mie scattering and interactions with the evanescent wave. The side emission intensity was modulated by tuning the separation distance between the nanoparticle and fiber surface. Coating the fiber with a UV-C transparent polymer offered the optical fiber flexibility and prevented nanoparticle release into solution. One SEOF coupled to a 265 nm LED achieved 3-log inactivation of E. coli. Finally, a method was developed to quantify the zone of inhibition obtained by a low flux output source. By placing a SEOF connected to a UV-C LED over a nutrient-rich LB agar plate, I illustrated that one SEOF inhibited the growth of P. aeruginosa and E. coli within 2.8 cm along the fiber’s length. Ultimately this research informed that side-emitting optical fibers can enable light-driven water purification by guiding and distributing specific wavelengths of light directly to the microbial communities of interest.