Key find for treating wastewater on World Water Day

Mar 26, 2013

A newly developed membrane used to separate waste from water could become key in the treatment of pollutants ranging from acid mine drainage to oil-containing wastewater, as well as in processes ranging from desalination to kidney dialysis.

The research was published in Scientific Reports () on Friday, 22 March, coinciding with World Water Day and falling within South Africa's National Water Week.

The technology – which was developed by a team of researchers from Wits University, in collaboration with NASA – will make it easier to filter pure water from waste produced during mining, and production, and nuclear exploration, to name a few. Even medical purification processes such as could benefit.

A commercial product will hopefully be developed soon, and there are plans to approach the US government regarding their problems with contaminants such as arsenic, mercury, and other in their water. Closer to home, the technology could make huge inroads in dealing with the major issue of acid mine drainage.

According to the Head of the Wits School of Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering, Prof. Sunny Iyuke, who developed the product in collaboration with two PhD students, the membrane module (similar to a household water filter) could be used to catch water waste from mines before it entered drains or the water table. Water flow analytics could be used to track the direction and location of any escaped wastewater, where another membrane module (in the form of a borehole) could be stationed.

The nanocomposite membrane gives two products: a smaller amount of concentrated waste and water so clean it could be drinkable. The waste can be reused, as in the case of arsenic, which is used in preservatives for wood and leather, ammunitions manufacturing, and pest control. Even the waste from could be reused.

"Water is critical to sustaining life, and is becoming a huge problem not just in South Africa, but all over the world," said Iyuke. "This technology produces a win win situation, for industry and the environment."

Explore further: Efficient synthesis of polyurethane raw materials from carbon dioxide

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Filtering kitchen wastewater for plants

Jan 05, 2011

Water is a precious commodity, so finding ways to re-use waste water, especially in arid regions is essential to sustainability. Researchers in India have now carried out a study of various waste water filtration systems ...

Toxic spill from zinc mine in Peru

Sep 03, 2012

(AP)—Peruvian authorities say wastewater laced with heavy metals from a major zinc mine has spilled into a tributary of the Amazon, contaminating at least six miles of the waterway.

UM dorms will go 'off the water grid'

Nov 03, 2010

A $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) will allow the University of Miami (UM) College of Engineering to develop an autonomous net-zero water dormitory at UM. The project will make it possible for the ...

Recommended for you

Heat-conducting plastic developed

10 hours ago

The spaghetti-like internal structure of most plastics makes it hard for them to cast away heat, but a University of Michigan research team has made a plastic blend that does so 10 times better than its conventional ...

Electronic switches on the molecular scale

16 hours ago

A molecular electronic switch is a junction created from individual molecules that can alternate between two or more stable states, making the switch act as a conductor or an insulator. These switches show ...

Mimicking photosynthesis with man-made leaves

16 hours ago

Scientists have long been trying to emulate the way in which plants harvest energy from the sun through photosynthesis. Plants are able to absorb photons from even weak sunlight using light antennae made ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.