Natural water has been disinfected using TiO2 as the fixed catalyst incorporated in a homemade photoreactor, in which the dimensions and the design parameters are representative of devices that are currently employed at larger scale. The catalyst was immobilized on the external surface of a cylinder of frosted glass situated in the longitudinal axis of a tubular glass reactor. Two alternative methods of immobilizing the catalyst on glass were studied: in the first, a commercial titanium oxide powder (Aeroxide® TiO2 P25) was mounted on a polymeric support; and in the second, it was applied by sol-gel deposition. Illumination was effected by installing the glass reactor in the irradiation chamber of a solar simulator. Under laboratory conditions, groundwater contaminated with cultured and wild bacteria was treated photocatalytically, and the influence of the photolysis, the pumping, and the catalysts was studied. The results obtained have demonstrated that the catalyst immobilized in the interior of the photoreactor presents similar results, in the disinfection of E. coli, as 0.5 g/l of TiO2 P25; and that, in 1.5 h approximately of simulated solar illumination (167 kWUVA s/m2) on the sol-gel deposit of TiO2, it is possible to eliminate 100% of the bacteria covered by international regulations in respect of water for human consumption. With regard to the aging assay of the system, it was observed at 250 h of operation a reduction in the effectiveness of the disinfection process. At 0 and 250 h of operation, the percentages of elimination of E. coli after 50 min of illumination were 100% and 99.5%, respectively. This reduction in the effectiveness of the process was due to the formation of a film of calcium carbonate adhering to the internal glass wall of the photoreactor, which is in contact with the liquid being treated, and to the presence of calcium carbonate precipitates on catalyst surface.

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