Solar Technology Cleans Water, Runs System Simultaneously

Scientists at the University of Aberdeen in the United Kingdom are developing new technology that uses sunlight to treat dirty water and create electricity simultaneously.

The three industrial partners – OpTIC Technium, Yorkshire Water and Scotoil Services – together with the UK Government Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), have committed GBP 1.2 million (US $2.27 million) to commercially develop novel technology for breaking up pollutants found in all types of water supplies. The three-year research program was awarded to the Aberdeen-led consortium as part of the Micro and Nanotechnology Manufacturing Initiative. The project “Nanotechnology for Sustainable Water Purification” will receive up to 50 percent of the project value from the DTI. The DTI is contributing GBP 600,000 of the total budget towards the project, with the three industry partners contributing the other 50 percent between them. The sunlight-driven technology will clean ‘dirty’ water and will provide electricity as a by-product by a process similar to that used in fuel cells. The electrical energy delivered may be used to drive equipment such as pumps, valve controllers and remote sensing electronics. The industrial partners represent two potential end users along with a specialist manufacturing consultancy. Aberdeen-based Scotoil Services is examining the potential for the new technology in its mainstream oil industry environmental services business, along with other industrial and pollution control applications. Yorkshire Water is looking at the potential within the water supply industry and, like Scotoil, offers industry knowledge and testing facilities. OpTIC Technium, based in North Wales, provides the manufacturing expertise. Donald Macphee, who is the lead investigator and senior lecturer in the Department of Chemistry at the University, said, “The photoelectrocatalytic fuel cell (PECFC) is environmentally-friendly technology aimed at cleaning up pollutants found in the water supply. The technology at the centre of the project is a catalyst, which under illumination by visible light is capable of breaking up complex pollutants into harmless products whilst simultaneously producing an electrical current.” The Aberdeen scientists involved in the project include Donald Macphee, Richard Wells and Professor John Duffy – all from the Department of Chemistry; along with Professor Ken Killham from the School of Biological Sciences. They bring together a unique blend of materials chemistry and environmental microbiology to develop the cutting-edge nanotechnology aimed at solving both the chemical and microbiological decontamination of water.
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