Students from Monash Chemical Engineering have used the natural water treatment cycle found in nature as inspiration to develop a sustainable, stand-alone water treatment system that removes persistent organic pollutants from industrial wastewater.
Developed by Ph.D. students Mostafa Dehghani and Mahdi Naseri and undergraduate student Clare Carew, the unique Stand Alone Sunflow System (SASS) uses easily accessible and affordable materials to provide a stand-alone and sustainable water treatment option that requires less labor and maintenance compared to the traditional systems and will treat persistent organic contaminants of polluted water in small and medium industries.
Industrial wastewater is a global concern. Untreated wastewater from industrial sites can contain heavy metals, toxins and petroleum hydrocarbons which can have direct implications on aquatic ecosystems and subsequently impact food resources and water supply.
Appropriate operational management practices are needed to minimize the risk that industrial waste can have on the environment.
Ph.D. student Mostafa Dehghani says that the main motivation for developing the SASS technology was to curb the global impact of industrial wastewater.
“According to recent figures from the United Nations, by 2030, half of the world, including many in low resource areas, will face water scarcity. This was our main motivation to design a water treatment system inspired by nature, that takes advantage of sunlight, especially in areas with a high light intensity like Australia,” Mr Dehghani said.
“The available systems currently in the market are either inefficient or produce a secondary pollutant that needs to be disposed of in the environment. Our prototype seeks to provide a sustainable treatment of persistent organic pollutants such as fluorinated compounds in low resource settings.”
The SASS design, which was recently recognized by the James Dyson Foundation, avoids using fossil fuel-based energy sources or chemicals that pose a hazard to human or environmental health. The system also uses a cellulose/zinc oxide catalyst activated by sunlight to break down organic pollutants in water circulated through a treatment tank.
The pilot prototype takes advantage of sunlight and mounted UV lights powered by solar panels are activated…