Waste Not, Want Not: More Effective Wastewater Treatment
Wastewater treatment has become common place in the developed world and is taking on a growing role in developing economies. Standard biological treatment systems, however, have limitations including a large reactor size, and long processing time (typically 8 hours). In other words they are big, slow and inefficient. Faced with the challenge of developing a better biological wastewater treatment system a team at the NUS Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering is developing a faster process, with a smaller reactor size. These advances could yield significant savings in energy consumption, capital, operation and maintenance costs, while also taking up a smaller process footprint.
At the same time the treatment of wastewater has dual functions. Not only does it remove contaminants so that the water can be re-used, but it can be a way to recover valuable nutrients, such as phosphorous from the wastewater. Such reclaimed nutrients can be converted into fertilisers that are more environmentally-friendly and then for ecological or agricultural purposes.
The novel NUS biological treatment process is comprised of membranes which achieve wastewater treatment, water recovery and nutrient recovery simultaneously. The system also allows the controlled retention of contaminants, which reduces the time for wastewater treatment by almost 90% while simultaneously recovering up to 90% of the phosphorus without the addition of external calcium and magnesium. Another advantage of this process is that the reactor size is expected to be reduced by some 90%, resulting in approximately 50% savings in energy consumption, operational and maintenance costs. In other words the NUS system is smaller, faster, more efficient, environmentally friendly and less expensive to build and operate!
Applications and Advantages
This technology will be of interest to businesses engaged in the treatment of municipal and low strength industrial wastewaters, as well as resource recovery and water reclamation.
The NUS team has developed a laboratory process prototype and is seeking industry partners to help commercialise the technology.
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