Smart Composite Materials for Environmental Decontamination
The global population increase, climate change, depleting water resources and increased discharge of wastes from manufacturing industries are some of the current planetary issues with serious implications for the state of the environment. The magnitude of environmental pollution is exacerbated by the complexity of the pollutants and the rate at which they are generated. Traditional decontamination technologies remain ineffective in providing a cleaner environment owing to stringent health guidelines and the occurrence of emerging contaminants. Nanotechnology offers opportunities to develop next-generation environmental decontamination systems that are capable of completely eliminating most of the problematic pollutants. Multifunctional and highly efficient smart composites, fabricated using cheap, readily available materials, are currently the focus of extensive studies for providing affordable solutions to environmental pollution. Their major advantage is that they do not rely on large infrastructure or centralized systems, making them attractive options for environmental decontamination. The incorporation of inorganic nanoparticles into another phase modifies the physical and chemical properties and imparts new features in the resulting composite material. Different smart composites have been fabricated based on the desired physical and chemical properties of the constituent components. This chapter covers the most important smart composites for environmental decontamination. Composites types, synthesis methods, properties and their innovative environmental applications are summarised. The chapter gives an overview of wide ranging environmental studies of smart composite materials for the adsorption of hazardous materials, photocatalytic degradation of pollutants for water remediation, pollutant sensing, water splitting and energy generation.