July Research News
Research Newsletter – July 2022
Welcome to our July 2022 research and innovation newsletter.

For some reason, there is a lot in this month’s edition about purifying water with natural products, including kombucha, okra and yeast from beer manufacture. No explanation. Just an observation. Maybe it’s something in the water.

Oh… and if you see any interesting articles, projects or news about research that others might be interested in, please send to [email protected] – it could even make the next newsletter due in August 2022.

If you’ve stumbled on this newsletter and would like to receive future editions please click this link. Or if you know someone who really needs this: forward to a friend.
Industry Innovation and Resilience
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Six Trends Shaping the Longer-Term Outlook for Water

Bluefield’s water experts discuss key trends shaping water infrastructure, investment, and strategies over the next three to five years, framing the longer-term market outlook for the water sector.

Interestingly, in the US anyway, the speakers see that changes in the demand side will help shape the near future.

Listen to the podcast at Bluefield

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Sharp Fall in Govt Spending on R&D Over Last Decade

The Australian Bureau of Statistics have released new data that shows that Government research and development expenditure fell sharply as a proportion of GDP over the near-decade, leaving Australia behind comparable nations which are increasing their spend.

Needless to say, investment in the water industry is not clearly visible within this data.

Read more at InnovationAus

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Leading Research Partnership Bolsters its Strength

Urban Utilities and the University of Queensland are formalising their ongoing collaboration with a new five-year strategic alliance agreement.

The agreement covers a range of activities including the use of the Urban Utilities Luggage Point Innovation Precinct, joint projects, student placements and knowledge sharing between Urban Utilities and the University of Queensland.

Urban Utilities Research and Development Business Partner Dr Jason Dwyer said the new agreement aimed to accelerate research and increase the adoption of new technology in the water sector.

Read more at the AWA

Photo by Hassan Pasha on Unsplash
Serious Games: Five Questions and Four Examples

KWR in the Netherlands is using serious games to support the development of sustainable integrated water planning for new residential districts.

A serious game looks a lot like an ‘ordinary’ game like Risk, or a computer game. ‘Serious’ refers to the game’s learning objective, such as gaining experience, understanding practical questions, or better comprehending each other’s circumstances and arguments.

This is very interesting!

Read more at KWR

water supply and security
Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash
Labor Promised to Fix Australia’s Big Water Problem. These 6 Things Must Top the To-Do List

During the federal election campaign, Labor promised to future-proof Australia’s water resources. Now, Stuart Khan says that the new Water Minister Tanya Plibersek must deliver on the policy – one vital to securing Australia’s future.

No messing around. Stuart outlines his recipe for the six things that the new Minister needs to do.

Read more at the Conversation

Energy and the Circular economy

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Long-Term Plan For Biosolid Residual Materials

An interesting article on the process of choosing an appropriate method for biosolids treatment by the US City of Detroit. The City considered anaerobic digestion pyrolysis, and anaerobic digestion followed by pyrolysis.

While the idea of using biosolids to create energy is not new, researchers claim that the methodical approach and time spent with modelling and research to reduce variables and potential risks are unique.

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Can Okra Help in the Fight Against Microplastics?

Recent research from Tarleton State University in Texas has found that when polysaccharides from okra are combined with those from fenugreek, the resulting compound was very effective at removing microplastics from seawater. And when the okra polysaccharides were paired with those from tamarind, the same positive effects were seen in freshwater.

As an added bonus, the okra compounds can be used as flocculants in existing water treatment plants, without any expensive modifications to the facilities or process.

Read more at The Optimist

Could Kombucha Help To Purify Drinking Water?

Researchers at Montana Tech in Butte have shown that a combination of bacteria and yeast mixed with water, black tea, sugar and vinegar makes a living filtration membrane.

The researchers claim that the living membrane is cheaper and more adaptable than synthetic filters used for specific purposes and must be replaced once broken.

Read more at the Montana Standard

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Slow Sand Filter Cleans 99.9 Percent of Nanoplastics From Drinking Water
Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science have found slow sand filtration “dominated” removal of the nanoplastic particles, successfully eliminating them with an efficacy of 99.9 percent.
The tests compared slow sand filtration with activated carbon filtration and ozonation.
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How Platinum Can Help Clean Up Wastewater

Researchers at the University of Southern California claim to have found that platinum can help clean even the most stubborn toxins from wastewater.

The process uses platinum in the same way that metal is used in catalytic converters to clean up air pollutants in car exhaust.

The secret it seems is that platinum is one of the few oxidants that is non-toxic and can use the oxygen in water to catalyse a reaction abiotically, that is without the use of microbes.

Read more at the The Water Network

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Polystyrene-Eating Beetle Larvae Could Help Us Recycle Plastics

Researchers from the University of Queensland have identified polystyrene-degrading bacterial species in the guts of Zophobas morio larvae.

The microbes apparently produced a class of enzymes called hydrolases that use water to degrade the plastic polymer into styrene monomers, which are then broken down inside bacterial cells.

This is really exciting stuff. If you are interested you can read more in the New Scientist.

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Could Used Beer Yeast be the Solution to Heavy Metal Contamination in Water?

Researchers at MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms (CBA) have found that inactive yeast could be effective in removing lead contamination from drinking water supplies. The yeast is a simple material that is inexpensive and abundant.

The method is so efficient that the team has calculated that waste yeast discarded from a single brewery in Boston would enough to treat the city’s entire water supply.

Read more at MIT

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Lithium Tech Start-Up Locks in Funding for Green Solution

ElectraLith, a start-up spun out of Monash University, has secured seed funding from Rio Tinto and IP Group to commercialise its lithium extraction and refining technology, believing it can materially reduce production costs and environmental harm.

The process uses sunlight to separate lithium from brine but claims to do it faster than using an evaporation pond; with higher recovery, higher purity and a significantly lower environmental impact.

Read more at the Financial Review

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Making Microplastic Identification More Accessible

Researchers at US EPA recently developed a new method for identifying and counting microplastics in environmental sediment samples, which they call the hybrid method.

The process includes a standardised method of extracting microplastics from water, determining which particles are microplastics and then counting the number of microplastics per sample.

Read more at Wateronline

Read a paper on ScienceDirect

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A New Communication Method for Identifying PFAS
This is an interesting item article that reminds us that there are over 6,000 known types of PFAS and that we only have a certified exact match for less than 100 of them.
Researchers at Iowa State University are developing a method for identifying and communicating new PFAS molecules.
Image of molecule from Wikipedia

The Where and What of PFAS Remediation

While we’re talking about PFAS, this is a very interesting summary of current methods for treatment of PFAS in water – it’s simply written and well structured.
Currently, no destructive technology has been demonstrated to remove PFAS at full scale for large volumes of contaminated water. Treatment is focussed on first ‘separating’, then ‘concentrating’ and finally ‘destroying’.
Liveability and health
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A Transformative Mission for Prioritising Nature in Australian Cities
Researchers from Australia, the Netherlands and the US have developed an organising framework to present proposed pathways to transform Australian cities to nature-positive places of the future.
The pathways include the adoption of evidence-based planning, collaborative planning and empowering communities to innovate with nature.
Working with the community
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The Language of Water

A team of researchers in Mexico are working to translate the water cycle into various Indigenous languages.

The Western world believes precipitation falls from the sky. In many Indigenous cultures, rain doesn’t fall – the sky gives it.

Trying to translate such a complicated process isn’t simple or easy: it involves meetings and presentations with scientists, linguists, teachers, and Indigenous communities to ensure that the translations are accurate and culturally appropriate.

Read more at Atmos

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Water Equity: Insights from the US Water Sector

The US Water Alliance released a report on the “Water Equity Taskforce: Insights for the Water Sector,” featuring the lessons and achievements from Atlanta, Buffalo, Camden, Cleveland, Louisville, Milwaukee, and Pittsburgh.

The report discusses the foundations for building cross-sector partnerships, presents key insights for a collaborative approach to water equity, and dives deeper into the ways each of the seven cities pushed programs and policies to advance equitable outcomes and tangible benefits for both utilities and the communities they serve.

Don’t go past this item without considering whether the conversation about equity and water’s role in ‘fostering community resilience’ is adequately discussed in the Australian water industry.

Read the report here

Read a commentary on WaterWorld

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US Future of Water Fund Invests In Hydraloop To Help Parched American West

The Future of Water Fund in the US is investing in Hydraloop in a bid to help the parched American West.

Hydraloop is a consumer-friendly water recycling system that its makers claim reduces water consumption by up to 45 per cent.

The system collects water from baths, showers, washing machines etc., cleans the water to the strictest global standards for non-potable use and redistributes water to washing machines, toilets and irrigation systems.

Read more at Wateronline

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New Technology Lights Up the Location of SS Lake Illawarra

New mapping by CSIRO and Jacobs has produced the first ever complete map of the wreck of the SS Lake Illawarra and its position beneath the Tasman Bridge in Hobart.

Despite more than 70,000 vehicles crossing the bridge each day (the highest volume road section in Tasmania), most travellers wouldn’t think of the wreck lying beneath the surface nearby.

Read more at CSIRO

Some interesting things
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Scientists Emulate Nature in Quantum Leap Towards Computers of The Future

A team of quantum computer physicists at UNSW Sydney have engineered a quantum processor at the atomic scale to simulate the behaviour of a small organic molecule, solving a challenge set some 60 years ago by theoretical physicist Richard Feynman.

The achievement, which occurred two years ahead of schedule, represents a major milestone in the race to build the world’s first quantum computer, and demonstrates the team’s ability to control the quantum states of electrons and atoms in silicon at an exquisite level not achieved before.

Read more here at UNSW

Why France Is Betting on Deep Tech Instead of the Metaverse

Deep tech, or technology based on scientific research and discoveries, is taking up more space at major innovation conferences.

In France, this approach is seen as particularly relevant to the problems of the 21st century, with the increase in epidemics and climate change – and the country hopes to play a serious role in this burgeoning field.

Read more at France24

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Aerogel Provides Better Insulation Than Plastic-Based Materials
Researchers from Stockholm have developed a new insulating material by creating an aerogel from wood.
The newly-developed material offers as good or even better thermal performance than ordinary plastic-based insulation materials, but without the addition of anything other than wood.
While aerogels are not new, the method represents a breakthrough in the controlled creation of insulating nanostructures in the pores of wood.
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Everything You Need to Know About Glass

Who knew glass could be this interesting? This article in PhysicsWorld is worth a cup of coffee and a biscuit. If, like me, you were taught that glass flowed over time like a liquid, prepare to be disappointed.
The most exciting developments in glass are the new metallic glasses; apparently, Apple have a patent for a metalic glass as smart phone covers but are yet to use it.
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La Nina Could be the New Normal

Some interesting research from Climate Extremes CRC that warns of the consequences of the collapse of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation.

The bottom line is that this could mean more flooding rains over eastern Australia and worse droughts and bushfire seasons over southwest United States.

Read more at Climate Extremes CRC

13th IWA Specialist conference on Wastewater Ponds and Algal Technologies
3-6 July 2022, Melbourne
The 13th IWA Specialist Conference on Wastewater Ponds and Algal Technologies (WPAT22) will be held as a hybrid event, combining a face-to-face program in Melbourne, Australia (3-6 July 2022), with virtual sessions for those unable to attend in person
  • Explore novel approaches to better engineer wastewater pond treatment for improved public health outcomes
  • Build knowledge of underlying photosynthetic &
    non-photosynthetic microbial ecology
  • Discover opportunities for knowledge exchange &
    networking with a global delegation
  • Join an environment that inspires innovative thinking & generates collaboration
CleanUp 2022 –  International Cleanup Conference
11 – 15 September 2022, Adelaide
The 9th International Contaminated Site Remediation Conference incorporating the 3rd International PFAS Conference.
A fantastic in-person event is being planned for Adelaide in September in a covid-safe environment. As well as access to live virtual sessions there will be on-demand content provided after the live conference.
Now in its ninth year, this highly respected, not-to-be-missed conference is an excellent opportunity to share expertise and make connections – as well as provide exposure to your organisation as a sponsor or exhibitor – before, during and after the event.

African Water Association Knowledge Management Platform

Sharing Africa’s water and sanitation sector knowledge
Australian Government – GrantConnect
Forecast and current Australian Government grant opportunities
Your one stop shop for water industry knowledge and resources