How UV can inactivate biologically active compounds

Biologically active compounds such as antibiotics and estrogens which escape untreated from pharmaceutical factories can cause great harm to the ecosystem. While there are many existing methods to inactivate such compounds, a combination of hydrogen peroxide and ultraviolett radiation can be quite effective, as this article explains.

The industrial production of biologically active compounds such as antibiotics and estrogens results in waste water containing remains of these compounds. It is easily understandable that these biologically active remains have to be inactivated in the pharmaceutical factories before the wastewater is conducted into a municipal wastewater treatment plant, because antibiotics would disturb the bacteria of the plant, and estrogens would, to some degree, pass the plant and subsequently could affect the fertility of fish and other aquatic organisms. The inactivation of biologically active compounds can be accomplished by thermal processes, i. e. heating in the presence of acids or bases, and by chemical processes such as catalytic reduction or oxidation by means of ozone or hydrogen peroxide. Simple oxidation processes usually require comparatively long reaction times for the inactivation of 99 or more per cent of the compounds. The reaction times can be shortened by a combination of ozone or hydrogen peroxide with ultraviolet (UV) radiation. UV-activated oxidation can be demonstrated as an efficient procedure to inactivate biologically active substances. Using this technique, molecules are excited by UV light and as a result, their reactivity increases. Simultaneously, highly reactive oxidation reagents are produced by the UV radiation. A case in point would be hydroxyl-radicals from hydrogen peroxide. The excited molecules are oxidized by the hydroxyl-radicals and thus inactivated. In this application field the focus is on inactivation of the biological activity which already can be achieved by partial oxidation of the molecules. Complete oxidation which would require more energy and hydrogen peroxide is not necessary for inactivation. It is of interest that partial oxidation, i.e. the introduction of hydroxyl groups into molecules, renders molecules more susceptible to bacterial digestion in municipal wastewater treatment plants.

Copyright: © Steinbeis-Transferzentrum Umwelttechnik
Quelle: Fachbeiträge (April 2005)
Seiten: 6
Preis inkl. MwSt.: € 6,00
Autor: Professor Dr. Bernd Wurster

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