News Release

Novel material degrades a widely used antibiotic that contaminates water

An electrode with films of iridium dioxide and niobium oxide on a titanium substrate removed molecules of the drug levofloxacin, considered an emerging pollutant.

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo

Novel material degrades a widely used antibiotic that contaminates water


The study obtained excellent results in terms of degrading the drug in simulated and real water samples 

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Credit: CDMF

Levofloxacin is a widely used antibiotic prescribed to treat pneumonia, bacterial rhinosinusitis, bacterial prostatitis, pyelonephritis, urinary tract infections, skin disorders and skin structure infections, among other conditions. The drug is prevalent in aqueous environments owing to its low degradability in wastewater treatment plants and is therefore considered an emerging pollutant.

In light of its high toxicity and possible endocrine-disrupting effects, widespread consumption of levofloxacin makes its impact on the environment particularly harmful. Researchers at several universities and institutions in São Paulo state (Brazil) have joined forces to develop ways of removing it from aqueous environments or converting it to biodegradable by-products with low toxicity.

Funded by FAPESP (projects 14/50945-4 and 17/11986-5), the study obtained excellent results, degrading the antibiotic in simulated and real water samples with the aid of an electrode comprising iridium dioxide and niobium oxide films on a titanium substrate.

The results are described in an article published in the journal Electrochimica Acta.

The films were obtained by the modified Pechini method, and the electrode, after morphological, structural and electrochemical characterization, was used to degrade the antibiotic using different processes, including electrolysis and photoelectrolysis. The material displayed excellent photoelectrocatalytic activity and stability, as well as a large electrochemically active surface area. The results were considered highly satisfactory, with promising prospects for treatment and removal of organic pollutants in water.

The authors of the article include Lucia Helena Mascaro, a professor at the University of São Carlos (UFSCar), co-principal investigator at the Center for Development of Functional Materials (CDMF), and a researcher at the Center for Innovation in New Energies (CINE).

CDMF is a Research, Innovation and Dissemination Center (RIDC) established by FAPESP at UFSCar. CINE is an Engineering Research Center (ERC) supported by FAPESP and Shell.

About São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP)

The São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) is a public institution with the mission of supporting scientific research in all fields of knowledge by awarding scholarships, fellowships and grants to investigators linked with higher education and research institutions in the State of São Paulo, Brazil. FAPESP is aware that the very best research can only be done by working with the best researchers internationally. Therefore, it has established partnerships with funding agencies, higher education, private companies, and research organizations in other countries known for the quality of their research and has been encouraging scientists funded by its grants to further develop their international collaboration. You can learn more about FAPESP at and visit FAPESP news agency at to keep updated with the latest scientific breakthroughs FAPESP helps achieve through its many programs, awards and research centers. You may also subscribe to FAPESP news agency at

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