Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS


NEFELE — Result In Brief

Project ID: 286061
Funded under: FP7-SME
Country: United Kingdom
Domain: Aquatic resources, Transport

Nanofibre system for water treatment demonstrates huge potential

Aircraft water quality has recently become a major health concern, triggering new legislation around the world. Researchers are addressing this issue by developing a nanotechnology-based filter to purify water for use on aircraft.
Nanofibre system for water treatment demonstrates huge potential
Contamination of aircraft water, either from the ground source or from the storage system itself, presents a significant health risk in the form of various pathogenic microorganisms. The water storage system on aircraft exacerbates the problem in that the water remains in the tanks and pipes, thereby encouraging bacterial growth.

The EU-funded project NEFELE (Nano- electrospun filter for efficient liberation & encapsulation of acticides for water treatment in transportation applications) was established to develop an economical and efficient solution. The aim was to create a system based on a hollow nanofibre matrix filled with a biocide, which traps and kills microorganisms entering the aircraft water system without affecting the taste of the water.

The result was a lightweight, retrofittable unit with replaceable nanofibre matrix packs that can effectively filter and destroy microorganisms without the need for power. The unit also introduced a biocide into the water supply to reduce the chances of subsequent contamination. The treatment system trapped and destroyed viruses and bacteria as the polymer fibres that form the matrix material are hollow, porous and contain a biocidal material at their core.

A test rig was designed, which incorporated the stainless steel outer containment vessel used in existing water filtration systems. Data from the NEFELE test rig included flow rate, timings and volumes of water required. Particular attention was given to the design of the NEFELE filter, which needed to handle the flow rate effectively, without being destroyed.

A test programme was carried out for the filter membranes to determine biocidal leakage and biocidal effect. Data was gathered for water contaminated with microorganisms and then with solids. Samples were analysed for total suspended solids, particle size distribution and ecological impacts. The effectiveness of the biocide was determined by exposing known cultures to the filter and then sampling the filtrate.

Finally, a study was conducted to determine the best way to integrate NEFELE technology into the aircraft industry and to identify the airline operators likely to take up the technology. In addition, the costs of implementing a full manufacturing and inspection facility together with its location were identified.

NEFELE work and outcomes will enable airlines to fulfill their duty of care to provide passengers with safe, potable water through an effective, lightweight, low-maintenance technology. The system therefore ensures the provision of safe drinking water regardless of source quality through a cost-efficient water purification system that has applications beyond the aviation industry.

Related information


Nanofibre, water treatment, aircraft water, NEFELE, biocide, drinking water
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