Non-ionic surfactants are so named because, once dissolved in water, they have no net charge.
They are amphiphilic molecules, i.e., they have both a hydrophilic group (from the Greek like water, “hỳdor” water and “philìa” friendship) and a hydrophobic group (i.e., afraid “phóbos” of water “hýdōr“). They are used as degreasers in detergents, household cleaners, and dish soaps.
They offer excellent solubility, without changing the pH of the solution, and produce low amounts of foam. They can be combined with cationic and anionic surfactants to offer better detergent performance.
Some non-ionic surfactants have been included by the ECHA (European Chemicals Agency) in the list of Substances of Very High Concern (SVHC), as they are ecotoxic.
Removal of non-ionic surfactants from wastewater with zeolite
Natural zeolite can retain certain organic species by physical adsorption but does not have strong chemical interactions with them.
The ZEOCEL ITALIA research and development team has developed a new product based on chemically modified natural zeolite, which can remove non-ionic surfactants from waste and domestic water.
Although natural zeolite already does an excellent job in the removal of non-ionic surfactants by physical adsorption, its chemical modification allows the level of removal to be increased through hydrophobic interaction mechanisms.
Our natural and modified zeolites were placed in contact with a wastewater sample containing approx.
40 mg/L of non-ionic surfactants. After only 30 minutes, a surfactant removal of 77% was recorded with natural zeolite, and 86% with the modified zeolite.
Content of non-ionic surfatctants in the initial solution, after treatment with the natural zeolite and after treatment with the chemically modified zeolite. The initial concentration of non-ionic surfactants in the wastewater is 40 mg/L.
We are working to increase the non-ionic surfactant adsorption capacity of our modified zeolite!
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