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Wastewater filtration with graphene oxide Australian SMEs Clean TeQ and Ionic Industries have joined forces with a leading graphene researcher to develop next-gen water and wastewater filtration technology. The R&D team behind the project recently won funding through the Australian Government’s © stock.adobe.com/au/Couperfield

Cooperative Research Centres Projects (CRC-P) program. The wastewater filtration products will be based on the latest advances in nanotechnology, using graphene oxide to dramatically improve performance and reduce current energy use. Their development will be led by Associate Professor Mainak Majumder from Monash University, who last year helped perfect a technique that could create graphene filters on an industrial scale. “Graphene has special properties which could disrupt current

water provided they can be economically treated,” said Voigt. “We

commercial filtration techniques and significantly reduce the energy

plan to be the first to take this breakthrough technology to market

required to filter wastewater,” Associate Professor Majumder said.

in Australia and in developing countries such as China, India, South

Indeed, with incredible performance characteristics and a range of

America and South Africa, where access to clean fresh water is

potential applications, graphene has long been lauded as something

a significant issue.”

of a wonder material.

Water researcher Professor Ana Deletic, director of Monash

Clean TeQ Executive Director Peter Voigt said the CRC-P funding

Infrastructure, said the new system will “modernise Australia’s

will support the delivery of low-energy, continuous flow processes

current wastewater management from the traditional treatment

for the water and wastewater treatment market — processes which

approach to a low energy consumption, resource recovery approach”.

will be critical to overcoming the freshwater scarcity that currently

She and her fellow team members aim to deliver working products

plagues the energy, food and industrial markets.

in the next 2–3 years.

“Contaminated freshwater sources, such as ground and surface

Monash University

water and municipal wastewater, are excellent sources of fresh

www.monash.edu

Reshaping wastewater treatment using bacteria Researchers have come across a type of bacteria that could

ammonia into nitrates. Traditionally, this vital step in removing

fundamentally reshape efforts to cut the huge amount of electricity

nitrogen from wastewater has involved using two different

consumed during wastewater clean-up.

microorganisms in a two-step approach: ammonia is oxidised

The serendipitous discovery was made by scientists working on the Healthy Drinking Water project, funded by the Engineering

into nitrites that are then oxidised into nitrates, which are turned into nitrogen gas and flared off harmlessly.

and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). The project is

Research team leader Dr Ameet Pinto said the discovery of

being led by the University of Glasgow, working in collaboration

the bacteria in a US drinking water system “took us completely

with the University of Michigan.

by surprise”.

The newly discovered microorganisms, known as comammox

Wastewater treatment is a huge consumer of electricity,

(complete ammonia oxidising) bacteria, can completely turn

accounting for 2–3% of all power usage in western countries, and no less than 30% of its energy bill results from the need to remove nitrogen. Furthermore, most of the sector’s efforts to reduce its energy use have focused on the two-microorganism approach. The discovery of a microorganism capable of full nitrification will therefore have a significant impact on efforts to manage nitrogen pollution, said Dr Pinto. “The potential is there for the wastewater treatment sector to exploit this breakthrough, which other teams in Europe have made in parallel with us,” he said. “That would be an important step towards informing the development of robust approaches in terms of cutting costs and reducing carbon emissions associated with generating the huge amounts of electricity that the sector uses.”

14 Sustainability Matters - Jun/Jul 2017

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Sustainability Matters Jun/Jul 2017  

Sustainability Matters is a bi-monthly magazine showcasing the latest products, technology and sustainable solutions for industry, governmen...

Sustainability Matters Jun/Jul 2017  

Sustainability Matters is a bi-monthly magazine showcasing the latest products, technology and sustainable solutions for industry, governmen...