Project No: 16306322

Title: Metal-organic framework hierarchical metastructures for chemical separation and reaction

Principal Investigator: Prof. King Lun YEUNG


The worldwide prevalence of antibiotics and antimicrobial-resistant genes (ARG) in water threatens the health of people, wildlife, and the environment. Moreover, it catalyzes the emergence of new drug-resistant and tolerant organisms, drastically diminishing our ability to treat new diseases and infections. Each year more than 100,000 tons of antibiotics are used, and in Hong Kong, more than 55 million defined daily doses are prescribed. The situation is exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, as indicated by the sharp increase in antibiotics found in the Kai Tak River nullah in the ongoing 2-year surveillance study by the team. Many antibiotics exceed their PNEL (Predicted No Effect Level), and their corresponding resistant organisms were found in the water. Moreover, the presence of multi-drug resistant organisms in coliform, aerobic, and anaerobic samples is particularly worrying, as it signals widespread ARG proliferation. There is an urgency to develop new and efficient technologies to treat antibiotic contaminants in water and mitigate the spread of ARG. This project aims to explore hierarchical metal-organic framework (MOF) metamaterials to provide an efficient and sustainable treatment technology for antibiotic pollutants in water with minimum energy use and maintenance. The metastructures will be crafted from the versatile MOF materials to channel and direct the flow, separate and concentrate the pollutants, and gather, transmit, and focus light energy to carry out efficient photocatalytic remediation using visible-light MOF photocatalysts. A prototype device will be designed and built for testing to assess the hierarchical MOF metamaterials’ engineering performance under practical use conditions. It will include both mass, bioactivity, and water quality measurements using online and offline equipment.