The broader impact/commercial potential of this I-Corps project is to provide consumers a promising solution to purify indoor air, decontaminate water, and inactivate environmental pathogens to prevent infectious disease outbreaks. Conventional strategies for pollution and pathogen control face great challenges of a high cost in operation, intensive energy consumption, and complicated and frequent maintenance. The project aims to advance a new technology and material, graphitic carbon nitride (g-C3N4), for pollution and pathogen control with reduced cost, energy footprint, and maintenance, and promote commercialization for diverse applications in both U.S. and abroad. g-C3N4 is a visible-light-responsive photocatalyst that can be synthesized from inexpensive earth abundant chemicals, and the material holds promise for a broad range of applications, including indoor air purifiers, point-of-use or point-of-entry water treatment reactors, self-cleaning and antimicrobial paintings/coatings by utilizing sunlight (a type of renewable energy) or indoor light. Moreover, the project will be the first to explore the potential market of g-C3N4 as a promising advancement for current commercial photocatalysts (e.g., titanium dioxide), accelerate the implementation of innovative materials for industrial, civil, and military applications, and enable a new sustainable strategy of pollution and pathogen control that will be beneficial for our societal development.
This I-Corps project will advance the commercial application of visible-light-responsive g-C3N4 for indoor air purification, water decontamination, and antimicrobial applications in different environments (e.g., healthcare, food). The team has developed g-C3N4 with enhanced photocatalytic performance under visible light irradiation and with excellent stability, robustness, and biocompatibility. The team has demonstrated g-C3N4 effectively degraded organic contaminants in water and inactivated pathogens in the form of planktonic bacterial cells and biofilms, under the irradiation of both simulated visible sunlight and white light emitting diodes. Reactive species for contaminant degradation and pathogen inactivation have been identified, and the mechanisms have been elucidated. The team has also initiated the collaboration with an industrial partner to fabricate antimicrobial coatings with g-C3N4 for both healthcare and food applications.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.