Preprint / Version 1

How Can Dangerous Levels of Nitrogen in Water be Remediated Using Nanofibers


  • Madeline Pinches Polygence



Nitrogen, Water Treatment, Nanofibers


Freshwater is vital for plant, animal, and human life. Due to increased demand for agricultural and animal products, excess reactive nitrogen species are seen in the environment as synthetic fertilizers. Consequently, increased instances of eutrophication occur in surface waters coupled with increased levels of nitrates in groundwaters. Both of these are common drinking water sources. Current nitrate treatment technologies require expensive infrastructure to build and maintain, have long treatment periods due to biological processes, and can generate copious amounts of waste and byproducts (ex: granular activated carbon and anion exchange resins). Safe, affordable, and sustainable reactive nitrogen removal water treatment technologies are needed. Nanotechnologies are an emerging, novel treatment for the removal of reactive nitrogen species in the form of nitrate in both drinking water and wastewater. In particular, chitosan nanofiber mats with algal substrate show promise in removing nitrate from water sources and have the added benefit of providing a sustainable source of biofuel. This article includes a review of nitrate contamination in the environment and chitosan nanofiber mats with an algal substrate possible solution. 


Abascal, E., Gómez-Coma, L., Ortiz, I., & Ortiz, A. (2022). Global diagnosis of nitrate pollution in groundwater and review of removal technologies. Science of The Total Environment, 810, 152233.

Alvarez, P. J. J., Chan, C. K., Elimelech, M., Halas, N. J., & Villagrán, D. (2018). Emerging opportunities for nanotechnology to enhance water security. Nature Nanotechnology, 13(8), 634–641.

Aneesh P & Jishna M. (2017). Adsorption of Nitrates Using Quaternized Chitosan Resin. Journal of Chemical Engineering & Process Technology, 8(5).

ATSDR (2021) Nitrate/Nitrite Toxicity: What Are U.S. Standards and Regulations for Nitrates and Nitrites Exposure? Environmental Medicine and Health Education.

ATSDR (2021). Nitrate/Nitrite Toxicity: Where Are Nitrates and Nitrites Found? Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

Cui, C., Sun, S., Wu, S., Chen, S., Ma, J., & Zhou, F. (2021). Electrospun chitosan nanofibers for wound healing application. Engineered Regeneration, 2, 82–90.

de Farias, B. S., Sant’Anna Cadaval Junior, T. R., & de Almeida Pinto, L. A. (2019). Chitosan-functionalized nanofibers: A comprehensive review on challenges and prospects for food applications. International Journal of Biological Macromolecules, 123, 210–220.

Office of Water. (2000). Wastewater Technology Fact Sheet: Trickling Filter Nitrification [Fact sheet]. United States Environmental Protection Agency.

Environmental Working Group. (2020). NITRATE IN DRINKING WATER. Environmental Working Group.

Eroglu, E., Agarwal, V., Bradshaw, M., Chen, X., Smith, S. M., Raston, C. L., & Iyer, K. S. (2012). Nitrate removal from liquid effluents using microalgae immobilized on chitosan nanofiber mats. Green Chemistry, 14(10), 2682–2685.

Garcia Segura, S., Lanzarini-Lopes, M., Hristovski, K., & Westerhoff, P. (2018). Electrocatalytic reduction of nitrate: Fundamentals to full-scale water treatment applications. Applied Catalysis B: Environmental, 236, 546–568.

Islam, M. S., Ang, B. C., Andriyana, A., & Afifi, A. M. (2019). A review on fabrication of nanofibers via electrospinning and their applications. SN Applied Sciences, 1(10), 1248.

Kabita Sharma. (2022, December 14). Differences between chemisorption and physisorption.

Mauter, M. S., Zucker, I., Perreault, F., Werber, J. R., Kim, J.-H., & Elimelech, M. (2018). The role of nanotechnology in tackling global water challenges. Nature Sustainability, 1(4), Article 4.

Prakasa Rao, E. V. S., Kavi, P., Sooryanarayana, K. R., Biswas, A., & Arunkumar, J. S. (2017). Assessment of Nitrate Threat to Water Quality in India. In The Indian Nitrogen Assessment (pp. 323–333).

Riofrio, A., Alcivar, T., & Baykara, H. (2021). Environmental and Economic Viability of Chitosan Production in Guayas-Ecuador: A Robust Investment and Life Cycle Analysis. ACS Omega, 6(36), 23038–23051.

The World Bank Group. (2022, February 11). Solid Waste Management. World Bank.

Tyagi, S., Rawtani, D., Khatri, N., & Tharmavaram, M. (2018). Strategies for Nitrate removal from aqueous environment using Nanotechnology: A Review. Journal of Water Process Engineering, 21, 84–95.

Ward, M. H., Jones, R. R., Brender, J. D., de Kok, T. M., Weyer, P. J., Nolan, B. T., Villanueva, C. M., & van Breda, S. G. (2018). Drinking Water Nitrate and Human Health: An Updated Review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 15(7), 1557.

United Nations. (n.d.). Goal 6: Ensure access to water and sanitation for all. Sustainable Development Goals. Retrieved May 9, 2023, from

Water Resources Mission Area. (2019, March 3). Nutrients and Eutrophication. U.S. Geological Survey.

World Population Clock: 8 Billion People (LIVE, 2023) - Worldometer. (n.d.). Retrieved May 25, 2023, from