There have been several studies that have investigated making wastewater treatment more efficient and environment friendly. The latest endeavor is using solar power. This comes from a team of researchers from Linköping University in Sweden that have explored the potential to purify wastewater and desalinate seawater using the solar power.
The researchers are able to improve the evaporation process to generate a higher volume of purified water using a steam generator than the conventional method of direct water evaporation. The product of their efforts have been published in the Advanced Sustainable Systems journal.
Simone Fabiano, Associated Professor and head of the Organic Nanoelectronics group in the Laboratory of Organic Electronics, says that their process of steam production is 4-5 times higher than that of direct water evaporation, which results in the production of a much larger volume of water.
Their steam generator is made up of an aerogel that has a cellulose based structure paired with an organic conjugated polymer. The polymer is responsible for absorbing the solar energy while the aerogel absorbs the water because of its uniquely porous nanostructure. This combination is capable of vaporizing large quantities of water efficiently without reliance on any powered heat source.
The material can absorb 99% of energy of the solar power spectrum even with layer that is just 2mm thick, according to Fabiano. Aside from the aerogel and polymer, an insulating foam is added between the aerogel and the water so that the steam generating material can remain afloat. As the water evaporates, the impurities in the wastewater are left behind producing nothing but a pure water by-product.
“The aerogel is durable and can be cleaned in, for example, salt water such that it can be used again immediately. This can be repeated many times. The water that passes through the system by evaporation becomes very high-quality drinking water”, according to Tero-Petri Ruoko, one of the co-authors of the article.
Fabiano is particularly proud of the sustainability of their product. He highlights the fact that all the materials utilized in the system are ecologically sound. The team employs nanocellulose and a polymer that is environmentally friendly and safe for humans.
They also use just very small amounts of material; the aerogel is in fact made up of 90% air. It is hoped that this innovation can positively impact millions of people who don’t have access to clean water.
The collaboration was an international team effort. The aerogel that was used for the steam generator was developed by Shaobo Han from China as part of his doctoral degree with the Laboratory of Organic Electronics, under the guidance of Professor Xavier Crispin.
Promising studies like these are what drives researchers from around the world to figure out more efficient and sustainable solutions for our planet when it comes to wastewater management. It is expected that by 2040, millions of children will be denied access to clean drinking water unless steps are undertaken to mitigate the effects of global pollution on bodies of waters.
Efficiently harnessing solar power will provide unlimited energy for producing clean water with minimal environmental impact which generations of people will benefit from for years to come.
If you are a municipality in Ontario and in need of a biosolids management solution, please feel free to contact us at 1 (877) 479-1388.