New method could bring water pollution relief to world’s poor

Posted 14 March 2017

Water pollution in VietnamA new method for simply and affordably treating water pollution from arsenic has netted UTS researchers a $500,000 Technology Against Poverty prize.

The winners, Distinguished Professor Saravanamuth Vigneswaran and Dr Tien Vinh Nguyen, said they hope their technology will improve water quality for more than 130 million people experiencing toxicity from naturally occurring arsenic in more than 70 countries. 

“This sustainable system will both maximise locally sourced resources and minimise arsenic waste and environmental pollution, improving health and quality of life," said Vigneswaran.

He and his UTS Faculty of Engineering and IT colleague worked on their project in the Red River Delta of Vietnam.

They said current systems were neither cost-effective nor efficient at removing arsenic.

“There are three key components to this system: an organic membrane, a tank/drum in which the membrane is inserted, and an absorptive cartridge made from locally available industrial waste products,” Vigneswaran said.

“The filtration can be powered by gravity, solar or by hand pump. Membranes will last up to three years, while the cartridges absorb the arsenic and are replaced with new ones every three to six months. 

“The waste cartridges will be turned into safe building materials, so the system safely disposes of arsenic waste.”

Vigneswaran said local manufacturers could produce, install and maintain the membranes and the cartridges, creating local jobs in an area of high population growth.

“The system will also remove bacteria and solids from the contaminated groundwater, delivering water that is clean and safe to drink, and is scalable. For example, a 10m2 system will provide uncontaminated water for 100 people.”

The Technology Against Poverty prize is a partnership between the Australian Government’s innovationXchange and Google.org.