The team of the University of New South Wales (UNSW) and the Centre for Transformational Environmental Technologies (CTET) won the WAITRO Innovation Award 2020. The awarded project was titled “Development of Low-Cost Solar-Powered Water Treatment for Remote Communities”
Sarah Großmann, as representative of the WAITRO Office Germany, asked Professor David Waite about new business opportunities resulting from previous years’ award. Professor Waite is Scientia Professor for Civil & Environmental Engineering at UNSW and Executive Chairman at CTET. “The WAITRO Innovation Award has certainly raised the profile of our operations and, once the current trials are complete, will no doubt facilitate locating a partner to assist in further development”, states Professor Waite. For WAITRO, he provided topic insights into the current interim status of the awarded project.
Significance of the awarded technology
The awarded solution purifies contaminated ground water from salts, arsenic or heavy metals. For this purpose, the prototype uses membrane capacitive deionization (mCDI) as a robust, affordable and energy- efficient technology. In this way, the prototype cleans groundwater 60% more effectively. Remote communities depend on financially viable and sustainable energy supply. Therefore, energy-efficient techniques to sanitize water are especially needed. Appropriately, the awarded prototype is powered by photovoltaics. The photovoltaic system is based on an energy recovery technology patented by the UNSW.
In addition, the team constructed a digital twin of the unit. The twin enables remote monitoring and control via Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality technology. Next to simplifying the collaboration between machine and human, “its key use lies in optimizing the developed technology”, explains Professor Waite.
Significance of the WAITRO Innovation Award
The WAITRO Innovation Award set the course for the future commercialization of the awarded technology. This seed funding enabled the project team to finalize the testing phase of the water purification unit. A research team analyzed the functionalities of the prototype for a one-month operating period. It could be shown that 90% of the water to be contaminated could be recovered. The conductivity, a measure for purity of water, increased by 60 %. Even the energy consumption decreased by 35 % compared to technologies without energy recovery system. “Trialing of new technology is never without hurdles”, Professor Waite points out. Anticipating this, the Digital Twin would be a key element in assessing potential hurdles and generating solutions. For the final touch, a second mCDI unit will shortly be relocated to a remote community 400 km away from Alice Springs, Australia.
Professor Waite is satisfied with the current development of the project and grateful for having the opportunity to take the project to the next level because of the WAITRO Innovation Award: “The trials in Dubbo, Australia, are expected to be completed within the next four months.” This will give the starting signal for an intensive search for cooperation.