Bacteria and Nanofilters: The Future Of Clean Water Technology


Bacteria and Nanofilters:The Future of Clean Water Technology

Bacteria often get bad press, with those found in water often linked to illness and disease. But researchers at The University of Nottingham are using these tiny organisms alongside the very latest membrane filtration techniques to improve and refine water cleaning technology.

These one-celled organisms eat the contaminants present in water — whether it is being treated prior to industrial use or even for drinking — in a process called bioremediation.

The water is then filtered through porous membranes, which function like a sieve. However, the holes in these sieves are microscopic, and some are so small they can only be seen at the nanoscale. Pore size in these filters can range from ten microns — ten thousandths of a millimetre — to one nanometre — a millionth of a millimetre.

These technologies can be developed into processes which optimise the use of water — whether in an industrial system or to provide drinking water in areas where it is a scarce resource.
The research is led by Nidal Hilal, Professor of Chemical and Process Engineering in the Centre for Clean Water Technologies — a world-leading research centre developing advanced technologies in water treatment.

Current membrane technology used in water treatment processes can decrease in efficiency over time, as the membranes become fouled with contaminants. By using bioremediation the membranes can be cleaned within the closed system, without removing the membranes. Researchers at the centre have developed the technology in partnership with Cardev International, an oil filtration company based in Harrogate.

As well as being highly effective in the water treatment process, transforming industrial liquid waste contaminated with metals and oils into clean water, ultrafiltration and nanofiltration membranes have a useful side effect. The waste products have a very high calorific value, and can be used as fuel.
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More on bioremediation from the USGS:

Why bioremediation works

This sounds like a good technology, though I admit I do not know all there is to know about it. As with anything of this nature the carbon footprint of it is something that needs to be considered. However, the fact that this process has the ability to provide clean water to those who would otherwise have to drink contaminated water is one I am certainly interested in, and one that may be viable in places experiencing drought.

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