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WAstewater Treatment using Efficient Reactors integrated with Advanced Catalytic Technology

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - WATERACT (WAstewater Treatment using Efficient Reactors integrated with Advanced Catalytic Technology)

Reporting period: 2021-05-01 to 2022-04-30

Problem of micropollutants in wastewater effluents: Rapid industrialization, population growth
and long periods of drought impose an increasing demand on clean water sources worldwide. It is suggested that
more than 4 billion people have little to no access to clean water, and more than 14,000 deaths are reported daily
due to waterborne diseases. Moreover, we are witnessing an alarming contamination of surface and
groundwater ecosystems with micropollutants (MPs) such as antibiotics, pesticides, estrogens and
pharmaceuticals. Many of these substances are designed to be biologically active and, hence, can effect
sensitive aquatic organisms, even at very low concentrations (ng L-1 to μg L-1). For instance, endocrine
aberrations, such as feminization of male fish and reproductive disruptions on fertilization and survival rate
of eggs of fish and mussel populations at polluted sites have been observed. Besides exhibiting adverse effects
on aquatic life, these MPs can also have detrimental effects on humans upon long exposures during reactional use
of surface waters and drinking water consumption. Antibiotic resistance is an example of MP related global
crisis caused by their widespread use and inefficient removal from wastewaters, which results in 25,000 deaths in
Europe and 23,000 deaths in the United States, annually. In developed countries with existing sewer systems,
an important pathway for a continuous input for many of these problematic substances to the aquatic environment
is the effluent of municipal wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs). In conventional WWTPs, less than half of
the MP load is eliminated either by sorption to sludge or by degradation. Many of these harmful chemicals
are not biodegradable and do not adsorb easily, leading to their insufficient elimination and continuous discharge
into the receiving waters. These factors have led to a global interest in imposing stricter water quality standards
and reducing discharge of toxic micropollutants into our effluents.

The objective of our project is to provide an efficient wastewater treatment technology that can
eliminate >90% of MPs from effluents using sustainable materials and safe chemicals. Our technology can
be cost-effectively operated in a decentralized manner, enabling facile treatment of effluents from companies,
hospitals, and research facilities. Treatment of wastewater directly at the source has the advantage of avoiding
dilution due to mixing with the municipal wastewaters and minimizing their losses into the environment via
sewer leaks or overflows. The scalability of our technology will allow for treatment of large effluent
volumes e.g. in large hospitals, households, and WWTPs in a centralized cleaning.
The main results achieved so far include:
- We reduced catalyst production cost by 70% and implemented a green chemistry route tor our fabrication process.
- We scaled our catalyst production capacity and achieved 100x higher throughput and established SOP for catalyst production & quality assurance
- We investigated and optimized new actuation mechanisms for our catalyst that are highly scalable & energy efficient
- We developed a unit to test different energy sources for efficient, scalable and energy efficient treatment and are currently constructing demo units and looking for right manufacturing partner
- We integrated inline sensors to measure bulk water quality parameters & are correlating with them with high precision offline analytics, allowing us to easily implement precise control of our reactor units.
- We compiled Market research to identify ideal customers and developed a tailored customer acquisition strategy
Our core technology is based on our novel catalytic material that provides an effective
solution to overcome the shortcomings of existing and emerging treatments. Our material efficiently treats
wastewater by continuously generating high doses of oxidizing radicals that completely degrade MPs from water.
We have shown Over 90% degradation of a wide variety of micropollutants in a non-selective manner, with concentrations
ranging from gL-1 to ngL-1 while avoiding use of harmful chemicals and secondary waste production, unlike current treatments.
The newly investigated actuation methods for our catalytic materials allow our technology to be even more scalable and energy efficient allowing for many different application scenarios, both on the very small and very large scale.
This will allow us to tackle the problematic micropollutants at every possible contamination site which will be required to control this global issue.