July Research News
Research Newsletter – July 2023
Welcome to our July 2023 Research and Innovation Newsletter.
This month’s newsletter is packed with sensory experiences. Don’t resist, scroll on…but beware the powerful allure of liquid waste, urine brine, biosolids, flocculants and predatory bacteria…
If you see any interesting articles, projects or news about new research that others might be interested in, please send to [email protected] – it could even make the next newsletter due in August 2023.
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Industry Innovation and Resilience
Image from Roadmap
Australian Biochar Industry 2030 Roadmap

The ANZ Biochar Industry Group (ANZBG) has developed a Roadmap for the biochar industry that aims to reduce Australia’s net carbon emissions by 10-15%, provide up to 20,000 permanent jobs improve soil health and agricultural productivity and return degraded lands to a higher value.


The Roadmap provides practical support for the industry to achieve these bold ambitions, helping the industry to the scale-up capability and capacity, support market development both here in Australia and New Zealand, as well as globally.


Read more at anzbig

Image from article
Quantifying the Effect of Algal Blooms on the Water Industry

New research from the University of New South Wales into the economic impact of algal blooms will help Australian water utilities better understand the cost of monitoring and maintaining water quality in coming years.


The researchers conducted a survey to collect a unique dataset that provides some very interesting insights into the operation of water businesses.


For instance, the research found that 21% to 40% of Australian utilities’ water quality concerns are due to problems related to algae and each bloom can result in eight to 15 hours of overtime work.


Read more at the AWA

Image from article

Waste Flushed Down Toilets to Begin Fuelling Gas Network

Jemena and Sydney Water have announced that they have begun injecting biomethane from the Malabar Waste Treatment Plant into Jemena’s gas distribution network.


Co-funded by Jemena and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, the biomethane demonstration project will at first produce about 95 terajoules each year – equivalent to the average yearly gas use of 6300 homes.


Jemena claim that blending even a small proportion of biomethane into their gas network could help significantly reduce emissions at far less cost than what it would take to build out the vast amount of new renewable energy, batteries and transmission lines that would be needed to replace all gas use with clean electricity.


Read more at the SMH

Image from North East Water
New Electrolyser at Wastewater Treatment Plant to Feed Hydrogen to Local Gas Network

North East Water in Victoria are investing $51 million in a 10 megawatt electrolyser for a local wastewater plant which will feed green hydrogen into the local gas network at a blend of up to 10 per cent.


Jo Murdoch, Managing Director of North East Water, says investment in the facility is part of their aspiration for the site to become a green resource recovery precinct and support their goal to achieve zero net emissions by 2035.


Read more at NEW


For a different angle on this innovation, an article from Renew Economy is not so positive about producing hydrogen from wastewater. The article reports that ‘using hydrogen for home use encourages Australia to remain dependent on gas while at the same time being extremely inefficient’.


Read more at Renew Economy

Image from paper
Floating Wetland System Pilot Project

Researchers from Deakin University, CSIRO are partnering with Westernport Water to trial a floating wetland system filled with 1800 native plants.


The research is helping to understand the effectiveness of the wetlands are at absorbing nutrients and assisting with wastewater treatment.


Read more at the PI Advertiser

Image from article
Collaboration Removes Heavy Metals from Biosolids
A collaboration between RMIT University, South East Water and Manipal University in India is advancing methods for heavy metal removal from biosolids by recycling the acidic liquid waste that is produced during the recovery phase, instead of throwing it away.
The key to this innovation is that the process recovers the metals one by one and did so within a closed-loop solution that causes least harm to the environment

Energy and the Circular economy

Image from paper
A New Approach to Water Purification Using Dialysis
Researchers at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science have developed new technology that uses an electrified version of dialysis to separate salt and other unnecessary particles from the potable product.
The salt separation technique uses a special polymer to trigger a redox reaction, changing the charge of water molecules and inducing separation across a membrane.
Image from article
This Salty Gel Could Harvest Water from Desert Air
Researchers from MIT have synthesized a superabsorbent hydrogel that can soak up a record amount of moisture from the air, even in desert-like conditions.
The transparent, rubbery material is made from a naturally absorbent material that is also used in disposable nappies.
The key to this innovation is the addition of lithium chloride, a salt that is capable of absorbing over 10 times its own mass in moisture. The hydrogel provides a hugely efficient storage for all that water.
Image from article
Brine Crystalisation for Zero Liquid Discharge
Researchers led by Vanderbilt University have developed a cutting-edge method that makes removal of salt from hypersaline industrial wastewater far more energy-efficient and cost-effective.
The process, called electrodialytic crystallization (EDC) uses an electric field to pull ions through an ion exchange membrane. 
The novel feature is that EDC can keep the brine within the integrated system and uses an electric field to induce salt crystallization without using costly evaporation methods.
Image from Bing AI
Could Coffee Grounds Clean Wastewater
Researchers from Mendel University in the Czech Republic are experimenting with the use of coffee grounds in wastewater treatment.
The research is testing the replacement of polyacrylamide flocculant with the tannin present in coffee grounds and waste from wine processing.
Image from article
Tiny Gold Particles Harness the Sun to Break Down Pollution

Really interesting research from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. Their team have added uniform sized gold nanoparticles to the surface of nano-sized disks made of bismutite.


The result is a photocatalyst that uses more of the solar spectrum than just UV and increases the efficiency of the photocalytic reaction.


The research takes us a step closer to the holy grail of photocatalysts: being able to scale up the technology to economically treat drinking water contamination.


Read more on PhysOrg

Image from article
Astronauts’ Urine and Sweat are Almost Entirely Recycled into Drinking Water
NASA researchers have developed a new system to purify and recycle water on the International Space Station. The new system recovers 98% of wastewater on the space station – a 3-4% increase over previous systems. 
The system first distils the wastewater and then processes the remaining urine brine – a substance not worth thinking about. 
Image from article
New Nanomaterial Can Harvest Hydrogen from Water Using Light

Research from the University of Hong Kong is claiming a breakthrough in the development of a new nanomaterial that can produce hydrogen from water without the need for electricity.


Although at an early stage, the technology uses sunlight to achieve photocatalysis and produce hydrogen from water.


Read more at Interesting Engineering

Image from paper
Low-Cost, 3D-Printed Water Pollution Sensor
A team of researchers from universities in Scotland, Portugal and Germany have developed a new low-cost, 3D-printed sensor which could help detect the presence of very low concentrations of pesticides in water samples.
The material is a mixture of polypropylene and multi-walled carbon nanotubes produced using fused filament fabrication, a common type of 3D printing.
Liveability and health
Image from article
Predatory Bacteria Provide Hope for Chlorine-Free Drinking Water

Some really interesting research from Lund University in Sweden, where researchers tested what would happen if chlorine was omitted from drinking water.


The result? An increase in bacteria, of course, but after a while something surprising happened: a harmless predatory bacteria grew in numbers and ate most of the other bacteria.


Read more at PhysOrg

Working with the community

Canberra’s Plan for Green Waste Recycling

Icon Water is spending $300 million over the next five years on the Lower Molonglo Water Quality Control Centre — the capital’s largest sewage treatment plant.
As part of the upgrade to the centre, Icon Water plans to build a new bio-solids treatment facility, which would turn Canberra’s waste into biochar, a high-grade product demanded by agriculture as a replacement for traditional phosphate fertilisers.
Image by Bing Image Generator
3M Commits $10.3 billion (US) to PFAS Claims by Public Water Suppliers

3M has entered into a broad class resolution to support PFAS remediation for public water suppliers is the US that detect PFAS at any level or may do so in the future.


Under the terms of the settlement, 3M has agreed to contribute up to a present value of $10.3 billion, payable over 13 years, that will benefit US-based public water suppliers.


Read more at WaterOnline

Some interesting things
Image from article
Have We Pumped So Much Groundwater That We’ve Nudged the Earth’s Spin?
Research led by at Seoul National University has found that, among climate-related causes, the redistribution of groundwater has the largest impact on the drift of the rotational pole.
This is really interesting. The work modelled changes in polar drift but couldn’t explain the observations until redistribution of groundwater was added. 
Image from paper
A New Adsorbent for Removing Radioactive Caesium Ions From Nuclear Wastewater

Researchers from Pusan National University, Korea, have developed an adsorbent material that removes radioactive caesium from nuclear wastewater.


In their breakthrough work the researchers have presented potassium calcium thiostannate (KCaSnS), a new layered calcium (Ca2+)-doped chalcogenide ion exchanger.


The real innovation in this research is that the adsorbent uses the highly acidic wastewater to enhance the adsorption process.


Read more at PhysOrg

Image from paper
Flow of Water on a Carbon Surface is Governed by Quantum Friction

Research led by the Max Plank Institute for Polymer Research of Mainz (Germany) have published research that found water can interact directly with the electrons of carbon.


This research demonstrates recent theoretical work that proposed that at the water-carbon interface, the liquid’s molecules and the solid’s electrons push and pull on each other, slowing down the liquid flow:


Put on your science hat and get immersed in the details at PhysOrg

CECE 2023 Conference
(Circular Economy for Climate and Environment)
26-27 September 2023
Aerial Function Centre, University of Technology Sydney 
Extended abstract submission deadline: 2 July 2023
The Circular Economy For Climate and Environment Conference will be held in Sydney in September 2023. Held over two days, the conference will explore recent advances in technologies and industrial approaches with a focus on Nutrient recovery and reuse for sustainable futures.

Research Data Australia

Find, access, and re-use data from over one hundred Australian research organisations

Australian Government – GrantConnect
Forecast and current Australian Government grant opportunities

Amazing Trove of Water Industry Research!

UK Water Industry Research have made their trove of research available without charge.


Click here to go to the UKWIR library


Click here to start your journey