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CPUT professor develops solution to clean wastewater

Wastewater treatment is the process applied to remove contaminants from wastewater, so that is can be directly reused (reclaimed) or returned to the water cycle with a minimum impact on the environment. With water scarcity being a global concern, new technologies for the effective treatment of wastewater are needed more than ever before.

A one-stop treatment reactor for cleaning textile wastewater was developed by a professor at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT). The reactor was engineered using locally manufactured nano-powders. Professor Veruscha Fester, the project leader at CPUT, says that this treatment system offers an almost instantaneous removal of colour from water.

After testing, the initial results for re-using treated water for dyeing purposes showed a lot of promise. This treatment system can also treat wastewater so that it can be disposed of in municipal treatment systems.

Cleaning wastewater – millions of litres of potable water saved

The project team has already expanded its laboratory prototype from six litres per hour to 72 litres per hour. The team now has a fully automated mobile pilot plant, capable of treating in excess of 1000 litres per hour. This technology affords textile factories the opportunity to re-use their water, in the process saving millions of litres of potable water. 

“The next step is to get the treatment system to an installation in industry,” says Fester. She also explains that she is eager to quickly advance her concept to the product development phase, as there was a lot of interest shown in the technology at the CPUT Innovation Showcase in 2015. At the showcase, a syringe filter was used to produce a few milliliters per minute.

In order to secure funding, Fester and CPUT approached the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA). They initially benefitted from the TIA Seed Fund and then from the Technology Development Fund. “I really want to see my research being used in industrial applications, helping to create jobs at all levels,” says Fester.

Biosorbent for water treatment using fruit and vegetable waste

Professor Fester also received two weeks’ Leadership in Innovation training in London, in addition to the funding. Currently, Fester also has a TIA Seed Fund (2019) grant for developing a polymer control system for the optimum dewatering of wastewater treatment plants based on the sludge rheological properties. “I think it can potentially save up to R100 000 per dewatering plant a year,” explains Fester.

She is also currently developing a biosorbent for water treatment that uses fruit and vegetable waste. “I realised that my real interest is in innovation and not basic research,” states the scientist. “I have always dreamed of developing products and processes that can assist industries,” concludes Fester. 

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Written by Joshua Oates

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