Sargassum, the brown algae that invades Caribbean beaches, could be used in wastewater treatment, since the activated carbon produced from it is capable of eliminating caffeine from the water, a new study reveals.

The research is a regional project of the Instituto Tecnológico de Santo Domingo (INTEC), Dominican Republic; the University of the Antilles (L'Université des Antilles), Guadeloupe; the University of Havana, Cuba; and the University of Quisqueya and the University of the State, Port-au-Prince, Haiti; with the financial support of the National Office of Industrial Property (ONAPI) and the French-Dominican company TECMALAB.

The study points out the concern for the contamination of wastewater, highlighting caffeine as one of the contaminating agents, also present in natural sources of water, such as rivers, lakes and the maritime coast. One of the main conclusions of the study is that "activated carbon prepared with the invasive algae (sargassum) was successfully used as a sorbent to eliminate caffeine from water".

Ulises Jáuregui-Haza, PhD in Technical Sciences and coordinator of the PhD in Environmental Sciences at INTEC, explains that, although the caffeine load found is not toxic to humans, it does represent an imminent danger to aquatic organisms that are continuously exposed to this pollutant.

An available, renewable and sustainable resource

The use of activated carbon from sargassum for water treatment is considered a good alternative technique "due to its high efficiency, lower costs and simplicity compared to other methods," says Jáuregui-Haza. This is partly because this macroalgae has a higher level of pure carbon than other algae. "Sargassum contains more ash compared to other biomass feedstocks, such as sugarcane bagasse," he adds.

"Activated carbon prepared from the invasive algae (sargassum) was successfully employed as a sorbent to remove caffeine from water," concludes the study published in the Journal of Environmental Chemical Engineering, a global forum for the publication of original research on the development of sustainable technologies.

This work is part of the efforts of INTEC researchers in scientific research and innovation in the search for solutions to the situation that sargassum poses to both the Dominican Republic and other Caribbean countries. The scientific academic article is entitled "Activated carbon synthesized from sargassum (sp) for adsorption of caffeine: Understanding the adsorption mechanism using molecular modeling".

The researchers who participated in the published study are Marckens Francoeur, Christelle Yacou, Corine Jean-Marius and Sarra Gaspard, University of the Antilles, Guadeloupe; Anthuan Ferino-Pérez, University of Havana, Cuba; Evens Emmanuel, Quisqueya University, Port-au-Prince, Haiti; Yvens Cheeremond, State University, Port-au-Prince, Haiti; and Ulises Jáuregui-Haza, INTEC, Dominican Republic.