Universal access to clean drinking water is a challenge our world continues to face.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 2.1 billion people lack safe drinking water at home. That equates to 3 in 10 people worldwide. Moreover, twice as many people don't have access to basic sanitation.
The treatment of wastewater throughout the world is essential — that recycled water is used as drinking water in some cases.
Students and professors at the University of New South Wales and the Australian National University have for years been trying to develop what they believe is a new low-cost alternative to killing bacteria in wastewater.
Professor Ninham told The Australian:
“The work is the culmination of 40 years of pure undirected curiosity-driven research. In particular, the cost and destruction caused by viruses in water remains an unresolved challenge and poses a major limitation on the use of recycled water. Here, we develop an environmentally friendly technology for sterilising water.”
This particular methodology is being touted as a world first. The universities say their treatment methods have sterilized the water from bacteria, diseases, and drugs. These diseases include E-coli and potentially even Ebola.
The scientists engineered new technology that utilized carbon dioxide (C02) as a way of treating wastewater. They reached the conclusion that the C02 was instrumental in killing bacteria and eliminating the viruses present in the dirtiest kinds of water. The researchers noted that C02 was an essential factor in nature, in the way that it killed viruses and prevented infections.
These findings were published in the Nature journal. This treatment method had also proven useful for bringing the price of desalinating water down. Researchers found they were able to eliminate heavy metals like arsenic, lead, mercury, and radioactive waste through a novel bubbling process. Professor Ninham said:
“The technology bubbles heated unpressurised carbon dioxide or exhaust gases through wastewater in a bubble column, effectively destroying both bacteria and viruses. The process is extremely cost-effective, with no concerning by-products."
Similar work is being done all over the world, to develop new technologies for water treatment. Scientists and engineers are finding new ways to treat water that don't involve mechanical filters and membranes.
A system was also developed at Princeton University in 2017. The low-cost silicone rubber tube splits into two channels. Pressurized C02 goes through one of the channels, and the water goes through the other.
The carbon dioxide gas then mixes with the water, creating charged hydrogen and bicarbonate molecules. They separate the wastewater particles and let the filtered water pass through.
The Australian technology allows unpressurized C02 to be used in treating the water.
The Australian researchers say that their way of doing things will lead to less plastic bottle waste due to the treating of water straight from the source, and will also bring down the number of Ebola outbreaks in places like Africa.
Quick, Darren. “‘SodaStream’ Technique Delivers Low-Cost, Filter-Free Water Purification.” New Atlas - New Technology & Science News, New Atlas, 16 May 2017, newatlas.com/princeton-water-purification-filterless-c02/49534/.
The Australian. Carbon dioxide kills viruses, bacteria in the water. https://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/health-science/carbon-dioxide-kills-viruses-bacteria-in-water/news-story/a5e0f9d87f3b3a636eefc9d119175066