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Polykarpos Falaras, researcher at the National Centre of Scientific Research ‘Dimokritos’ and coordinator of the European Cleanwater programme, received the international Alternative Water Resources Prize in recognition of this contribution to research into alternative water resources. The prize was conferred on 15 December 2014 in Riyadh by Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia.

The method proposed by Dr. Polykarpos Falaras’ research team entails developing a new innovative technology for cleaning water, which utilises the natural energy of sunlight and cutting-edge titanium photocatalysts coupled with ceramics and composite membranes.

While conventional cleaning methods such as adsorption and filtration -which are not always completely successful- are based on physically separating water from pathogens, micro-organisms and pollutants, the new method uses nanotechnology and cutting-edge oxidising anti-pollutant technologies to achieve photocatalytic breakdown of the pollutants, thereby more effectively cleaning the water. All this with no excessive cost, and is environmentally friendly since it utilises sunlight!

The new innovative technology is covered by an international patent. A model water cleaning unit (a photocatalytic reactor) has already been built to evaluate and optimise new nano-photocatalysts and composite modified membranes that operate in the visible spectrum of light. The system is also expected to be self-powered using fibre optic technologies and photovoltaic systems, and there are plans to scale up the model, which opens up prospects for practical application of the new technology for homes, production plants and remote areas.

This international scientific prize for water, the Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz International Prize for Water, established in 2002 by the government of Saudi Arabia and named after the man who was inspiration behind it, is awarded every 2 years in recognition of innovative research and ground-breaking applications with global impact which seek to protect water against pollution, improve its quality, and maintain and manage a good of vital importance for both man and the environment.

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